Ray Isle, leading US wine critic from Food & Wine and Travel & Leisure magazines was in Jerez at the end of September to help award-winning González Byass Master Blender, Antonio Flores, select the 2022 edition of the Tío Pepe Fino Las Palmas Collection.
Each year González Byass invites an eminent wine professional to help select the year’s Tio Pepe Las Palmas Collection. The Uno, Dos, Tres and Cuatro Palmas wines have become respected and revered around the world for their outstanding quality and unique showcasing of the subtle and delicate process of the biological aging of Tío Pepe Fino.
Ray Isle is one of the wine world’s foremost writers and speakers. He has been writing about wine, spirits, and cocktails for over 20 years, regularly appears on national television and in other media, and speaks at wine and food events around the globe. He is the Executive Wine Editor at Food & Wine, and the Wine & Spirits Editor for Travel + Leisure. He writes Food & Wine’s monthly “Bottle Service” column, and contributes regular print and online features about wine, spirits, and wine-related travel to both brands. His articles have also appeared in Departures, The Washington Post, Time, and more. Ray has been nominated three times for the James Beard Award in Beverage Writing and is a three-time winner of the IACP Award for Narrative Beverage Writing. His book The World in a Wineglass will be published in November, 2023, by Scribner Books.
Master Blender Antonio Flores, IWC Fortified Winemaker of the Year and twice winner of the coveted Len Evans Trophy, was joined by Olly Smith in 2021 to select the new edition. Smith is amongst a list of international critics who have been invited to assist Antonio Flores with the annual Tio Pepe Las Palmas selections. Past critics included Jancis Robinson MW, Sarah Jane Evans MW, Anthony Rose, Natasha Hughes MW and Jamie Goode from the UK, Michael Schachner from the USA, and Pedro Ballesteros MW and Ferran Centelles from Spain.
Joined by Gonzalez Byass Vice Chairman, Pedro Rebuelta, Carlos González Gordon, fifth generation family member and Silva Flores, Assistant Blender the three Sherry experts tasted through over 100 wines to find the best casks to make up the 2022 Tio Pepe Fino Palmas Collection.
Commenting on the experience, Isle said, “The Tio Pepe Las Palmas Collection comprises some of the best Sherries to be found. Having looked forward to their annual release in many years past, I was thrilled to be asked to participate in this year’s selection. One of the remarkable things about Sherry is that, because of the nature of the action of the flor on the wine and because of the distinctive aging process, each barrel truly is its own universe. We tasted over 100 barrels to come up with the final selection—a trip through many different vinous universes, and a fascinating one to be sure. Hours of tasting and discussion went into the final selection, so I am both excited and proud to taste them now that they are bottled.”
Regarding the wines selected, Antonio Flores explained “The selection of 2022 Tio Pepe Las Palmas Finos has been clearly influenced by this year’s extreme weather conditions – extremely dry and hot. The torrid summer created adverse conditions in the cellar for the flor, but once again it had demonstrated the adaptability of this fine layer of yeast that protects our wines. It was an honor to taste with Ray Isle, such an accomplished journalist and taster, whose passion for Sherry shone through. He tasted over 100 casks with us throughout the day, ending up with just 7! Ever enthusiastic he left his mark on the selections which were then re-sampled in the tasting room with our Vice President, Pedro Rebuelta.”
He continued, “The casks selected for the Una and Dos Palmas are a clear example of where the biological aging of two Finos can go in terms – the expression of our Jerez terroir, the vine and the winery. The cask that was classified for Tres Palmas is simply sublime, showcasing the fine line between biological and oxidative aging. The Cuatro Palmas Amontillado shows the aging capacity of Palomino Fino – elegant, noble, imposing, and profound.”