The Joys Of Pedro Ximénez
- By Somm360
- 02 Jun 2021
- 5 MIN
- Level 101
Pedro Ximénez (pronounced peh-dro hee-MEN-eth) is both a grape variety from Montilla-Moriles and a naturally sweet style of Sherry from the Jerez-Xérès-Sherry region in the province of Cádiz in southwestern Spain.
Although small plantings may be found elsewhere in Andalucía (as well as in Portugal (where it is known as Perrum), Australia (where it is called, simply, Pedro), and South America(where it goes by the Pedro Jiménez moniker), the vast majority of Pedro Ximénez vines are exclusive to the Montilla-Moriles region; the majority of the production from this area is sold to the winemakers in Jerez. The grape should not be confused with the Pedro Giménez variety found all over Argentina for still wine production.
A thin-skinned, mid-to-late ripening variety, Pedro Ximénez is rather difficult in the vineyard as although being vigorous and productive, it is especially prone to disease (especially Botrytis bunch rot, esca, downy mildew, eutypa dieback, as well as termite infection), hence many plantings are relatively low yielding.
Despite an often muddled origin story (a close relation of both the German Elbling and Riesling varieties, anyone?), modern ampelographic studies have shown that the grape is native to the Andalucía region, and has been grown there since the beginning of the 17th century.
As a style of Sherry, Pedro Ximénez is often referred to as “the world’s sweetest wine”, and with as much as 500 g/l of residual sugar, this claim is easy to understand. Apart from being aged in Criaderas and Solera systems, this is where the similarities between naturally sweet Sherries (like Pedro Ximénez) and other Sherries end.
The overly-ripe grapes are withered in the sun, in a process referred to as “asoleo”, in order to create a must with an exceptionally high concentration of sugar. It is important to understand that almost all of the alcohol in these wines comes from the two stages of fortification, the first (up to 10°) for stabilization, and the the second (up to the traditional 17 - 18°) just before ageing; this ageing is exclusively oxidative and lasts for a minimum of two years.
The resultant wines are deep, dark, and ebony coloured with very pronounced “tearing” in the glass. Expect wildy complex and pronounced aromatics of dried fruits (raisins, figs, dates) as well as honeycomb, conserves, candied fruit, roasted coffee beans, dark chocolate, raw cocoa, and black liquorice. They are one of the very few wines that sit well with a coffee!
Although some of the most sought-after Pedro Ximénez can come with a hefty price tag, with a little effort one can also find top quality PX wines at extremely affordable prices, even those from seriously old Soleras, and occasionally the odd older vintage bottling.
Wines To Seek Out: Lustau “Murillo”, Barbadillo “Reliquia”, Toro Albalá “Don PX Convento” (Vintage), González Byass “NV Optimum Rare Signatum”