Enamoured with en rama: the seasonal sherry synonymous with summer

Unfiltered sherry: it's exciting, it's delicious and then it's history. David Kermode extols the charms of a traditional product with an ephemeral nature

Words by David Kermode

bodega corridor
'En rama' means sherry straight from the cask, unfined and unfiltered

This is my favourite time of year. The days have drawn out, the sun is shining but there’s still a crunchy chill to the night air, verdant shaded glades entice us with the last of the precious wild garlic, while in-season asparagus is now so plentiful that we can enjoy it every night without blowing our food budgets. Even the wine world makes its own seasonal offering because now is the moment for en rama sherry.

Just as the Japanese go mad for cherry blossom each spring, forgetting their world famous etiquette as they literally clamber over each other to get the pinkest selfie, I head into early summer blossoming for sherry, the excitement reaching a frenzy as the latest releases hit the shelf of my fridge door, where they don’t stay for long.

Of course, the calendar has long dictated our enjoyment of wine, be it a ‘vintage of the century’, a ‘classic vintage’, or the various euphemisms for ‘sub-optimal-but-hell-we-need-to-sell-it’ vintage. But there’s something different about the en rama season because there’s a true sense of the unknown. I have been enjoying it for a decade or more and can honestly say that it is different every year… not better, not worse, just new.

Around 50 years ago, wineries began to adopt intense filtering and clarification processes, but before that all sherries were once released en rama

So what’s all the fuss about? In a nutshell, I think it panders to our desire for heritage, character and authenticity. En rama translates from Spanish as ‘of the branch’ but it basically means ‘raw’: straight from the cask, unfined and unfiltered. Limited edition, it’s said that it is the closest we can get to tasting a biologically-aged sherry straight from the cask. I have done just that, on a number of occasions, and I can attest that en rama bottlings are the real deal.

Just as a new generation of winemakers embrace techniques used by their forefathers, the bodegas have gone back to basics with en rama. All sherries were once released this way but around 50 years ago, wineries began to adopt intense filtering and clarification processes to improve consistency and extend the shelf life of the product.

That started to change again at the turn of the millennium, when Barbadillo released its first Manzanilla En Rama. Other producers slowly followed suit, sensing an opportunity to reboot a category that was in sharp decline at the time. Much has been written – sometimes more in hope – about its rebirth and, though en rama is a mere drop in the fortified ocean in terms of production, it is truly the best ambassador that sherry could wish for.

The lack of intervention means the risks to en rama sherry from instability are far higher

Bottled every April, when the layer of flor (the furry grey carpet of yeast reminiscent of a 1970’s bathmat) that sits atop the wine in each cask is at its thickest, the resulting sherry – be it Manzanilla or Fino – has incredible intensity and depth of flavour, with the level of yeastiness varying each year.

Usually slightly cloudy, the lack of intervention means the risks from instability are far higher, with the possibility that the biological process could run riot before the bottle gets to the consumer. Fear of this ‘en rama drama’ has traditionally made producers nervous and it is why we are urged to consume such sherries within a few months of bottling. That said, I tasted a series of ‘back vintages’ at a Tio Pepe Fino En Rama launch a few years ago and, without exception, they had aged with aplomb, though each was strikingly different.

Just as a memorable meal relies on clever portion control, so the sorcery of our seasonal produce perversely depends upon its imminent disappearance. Sure, you can buy asparagus all year round but it’s not the same when it comes from Peru and it’s Christmas. As for wild garlic, forget it: when it’s gone, it’s gone and it is all the better for it. The same is also true for en rama sherry: it’s exciting, it’s delicious and then it is history – but fear not for it will return, different once again.


  • Tio Pepe Fino En Rama (£15.50, The Wine Society) Rightly regarded as one of finest Fino en rama examples, this is blended from 98 different butts from across three cellars, each contributing to the character of the final blend, which offers an enticing character of sourdough starter, toasted hazelnut, fennel seed, green apple and wet chalk. It’s dangerously drinkable, so put a padlock on the fridge door.
  • Champagne Ayala La Perle 2013 (£140, released later this month) 100% Grand Cru fruit from the Côte de Blancs and the Montagne de Reims, blending 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, with eight years of lees ageing under cork, there’s beautiful fresh citrus, verbena and ripe russet apple, with a plush nutty undertow that gently sweeps across the senses and a long mineral-focused finish. It represents extraordinary value for a Champagne of this quality.
  • Chateau des Demoiselles Côtes de Provence 2022 (£25, Partridges) It’s time to enjoy Provence’s gift to the world and here’s a beautiful example from the Esclans Valley, blending Grenache, Cinsault and the troublesome-but-delicious Tibouren, an ancient variety indigenous to the region that offers a herbal refinement. Elegant, perfectly balanced, with red berries, mandarin and peach, a gastronomic wine for summer dining.
David Kermode 2021
By David Kermode

David Kermode is a journalist and broadcaster with two decades of experience across TV, radio and print media, and a lifelong love of wine and spirits. Don’t miss his weekly podcast, The Drinking Hour.