We're back from summer break. And although it may be wise to stay away from excess calories for a while (we don't know how you spend your holidays, but you can usually find us in restaurants and local delicatessen shops), we couldn't resist this unusual gem when we saw it.
PX (or Pedro Ximénez in full) isn't a partularly fashionable drink, but we are hooked to it. It was a pleasant surprise, therefore, to find one of the best wines in this category in our local African & Eastern shop.
Pedro Ximénez is a white grape variety, grown in several parts of the world, but home to southern Spain, where it is mostly found in the DO Montilla-Moriles. Although the grape is also used to make dry white wines, it is most famed for its sweet, fortified wines. After harvest, the grapes are dried in the sun for several days, in order to concentrate the sugar. Next, they are pressed, and after a partial fermentation, alcohol is added, leaving the wine with plenty natural sugars and an alcohol level of 15-17%. Finally the wine is transferred to oak casks, where it undergoes oxidative ageing. The longer it ages, the more concentrated the flavour will be. It is not unusual for PX wines to age for 20 years or more. The result is so mouth-filling and intense, that a single glass is enough to leave you satisfied. Thanks to the oxidative nature of the wine, and the high sugar level, it is no problem to keep an open bottle of PX for weeks or even months, so you don't have to feel guilty for not finishing the bottle in one go. But do remember to keep the bottle in the fridge.
One of Montilla-Moriles' most famed producers is Bodegas Toro Albalá. Their Don PX Gran Reserva is highly praised by the international wine press, year after year. This wine is made from one particular vintage (many of the wines in the region are made with the solera system - more on that later), and the current vintage for sale at African & Eastern is 1979.
If you look at the wine, you wonder how it could ever have been made from white grapes. It most resembles the colour of motor oil: dark brown, turning to black and very viscous. The smell of concentrated raisins, combined with the fresness of mint and (dried) citrus is spellbinding. This freshness is important, because it makes sure that the taste isn't overly sweet or cloying. It is - in fact - drinking remarkably easy, with intense tastes of molasses, raisin, chocolate and a refreshing acidic finish. Great stuff.
Over the years, we have tried numerous vintages of this wine. And although the 1979 is a very good example, it isn't as complex as earlier releases, such as 1975, 1972 and 1971. Fortunately, we found one bottle of the 1971 in between the other bottles. No idea if there is more stock, but we recommend checking it out. It will give you a bit more fruit on the palate, with notably figs and prunes, and a slightly better balance.
And the price? It may surprise you that you can find such a great, 30-year old wine for as little as 11.500 OMR per half bottle. As long as these wonderful wines don't hit the marks with the big public, prices will remain ridiculously low. As a result, you can even find a relative bargain here in Oman, where wine shopping normally is a pain in the wallet.
It may take a bit longer before we trained off all those holiday pounds, but we couldn't possibly stop drinking PX. It just tastes too good.