Pedro Ximenez tasting--advice sought
I've had this notion of hosting a vertical tasting of Pedro Ximenez and the idea keeps rattling and rattling around. I'm having trouble with two things: should it follow a meal or be done on its own? That's number one, and my sense is that, given the nature of the stuff, for its own sake makes more sense. I think it would just be too much to try following a full-scale meal. Second issue then arises: what to accompany? I've participated in countless wine tastings, but this isn't the same thing. Fruits and nuts and cheeses logically suggest themselves, and I suppose that all three should be available, but this kind of tasting is new to me and I am seeking all advice, experienced or otherwise.
Given the intensity of PX's, I almost think that they are simply best by themselves. They are so overpowering that almost anyhting will be dominated by it..........
If you're talking about the ultra-sweet PXes, the most important accompaniment is lots of cool water. When organizing tastings with food, I usually do a straight tasting first -- only the wines, bread and water -- and then refresh the glasses and serve the food, letting participants improvise the pairings. At a recent sherry tasting, we tasted eight dry sherries first by themselves, then with tapas. There followed a solo sweet PX, Gonzalez Byass's Noe, tasted first by itself, then drizzled over a little vanilla ice cream. The Gonzalez Byass website recommends "dried fruits, cookies, plain chocolate and vanilla ice cream" as food pairings for the Noe.
'Tis a frightening thought . . . 8, 10, 12 glasses of Pedro Ximenez lined up in front of people for tasting . . . I'm about to fall into a diabetic coma just thinking about it! ;^).
Generally speaking, the Sherry tastings I've attended -- both for work and pleasure -- have along the lines of what carswell described above . . . several dry sherries of various types -- Manzanilla, Fino, Puerto de Fino, Manzanilla Pasada, Fino Amontillado, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso -- and ages, followed by perhaps a Cream-, Brown- or India Sherry, a Muscatel and a PX.
How many PX's are you planning on trying side-by-side?
Doing a tasting is different than serving dessert. While I wholeheartly agree with the serving suggestions off the Gonzalez Byass website as relayed by carswell (a top-quality vanilla ice cream is great with PX!), if you are doing a side-by-side tasting, I'd opt for something totally different. You want something to cut through the sweetness, completely cleanse the palate and thus prepare for the next sip of a different PX. Sparkling water -- perhaps even one with a bit of lemon squeezed into it. You're going to need to completely cut through the wine if you want the next one to not taste like the first . . .
At the moment, the thought is perhaps 4 PXs (all Toro Albala: 1945, 1959, 1966, and 1971; I'll add the 1981 if I can find it). Yes, a daunting thought on lots of levels. (And part of me even wonders if it's a good idea....) My initial thoughts have taken me in a number of different directions, from a selection of blue cheeses to fruit (or fruit-based, such as an orange flan)...to nuts (for the salt, ditto the cheese). If it's a tasting, though, instead of a meal, I'm afraid not to serve something more than simply a sparkling water, though I like that idea as well.
There are really 2 optimal taste matchups...
1) Sweet/Vanilla... Look for a vanilla ice cream, a vanilla & nut ice cream, a cheesecake w/ hint of vanilla, a creme brulee, a simple flan as suggested, etc....
2) Rich blue cheese, roquefort is a great match...
These flavor combinations are so sensational that I'd definitely recommend doing the tasting with them.
Have a palate cleanser on hand as recommended.
Having done several Port tasting events, I feel that the best way to conduct your evening is to find food items, that will compliment the PX's. I would not do some of the "alternate" formulations, unless maybe at the very end. I would agree with the sparkling water, but I would nix the lemon - personal preference there. You want to do a side-by-side-by-side. Have plenty of plain bread to "cleanse" the palate.