Profile: Emilio Lustau

[ Jerez – Spain ]

Reviews, Tasting Notes & Sherry Cocktail Recipes

[ Story: ]

The name Emilio Lustau has not only become synonymous with highest quality sherry – it has completely transcended the traditional sherry market and has established a entirely new category of sophisticated drinking. The name ‘Lustau’ does not conjure up images of musty, sticky brown liquids in a previous generation’s glassware. ‘Lustau’ rather, is about super-fresh tapas and cutting-edge food and wine pairing. It is about complexity and harmony, elegance and balance, intensity and persistence. This is 21st century wine.

Lustau vineyards cover some 220 hectares, composed of the two vineyards – Montegilillo and Benito. They also have longstanding contracts with the most quality-conscious independent grape growers. Renowned American wine critic Robert Parker called the Emilio Lustau line “simply staggering in quality,” and added “Sherries such as these remain among the last great unknown wine bargains of the world. They must be tasted to be believed!”

[ Winemaking: ]

Vinification is in a modern, state-of-the-art winery. The grapes are quickly pressed, using sophisticated pneumatic presses. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel, with temperatures controlled to produce fresh, clean aromatic wines. The musts are fermented completely dry before fortification with grape spirit. Unlike most Sherry producers, Lustau ensures that all their wines spend at least some time under ‘flor’ (a naturally-occuring film of yeast which protects the sherry from oxygen) – this gives added complexity, while maintaining a youthful delicacy.

In Jerez, the most delicate soleras that remain under flor are bottled as Fino, or aged until the flor dies and the wine becomes Amontillado. The Olorosos lose their flor quickly, and undergo lengthy oxidative aging, giving them richness in colour and flavour, with complex nutty aromas. Palo Cortado is a rare style, falling in between an Amontillado and an Oloroso.

The Lustau examples are special because the soleras were established so long ago, and contain a high proportion of old wine. Lustau also has access to the cream of the very old and very fine stocks held by the Almacenistas, with whom Lustau (originally Almacenistas themselves) have maintained excellent relations. No other Sherry house can draw upon such fine, mature stocks.

Recently, Lustau have revived some of the traditional, sweeter styles of Sherry. East India is an Oloroso naturally sweetened with super-ripe Pedro Ximinez grapes, and then aged in hot conditions similar to those used for Madeira production. This recreates the taste that sherries used to take on after a long voyage across the tropics.