Time for drinks

PX stands for the best sherry and whisky liqueur.

PX, or the full name Pedro Ximénez, prominently displayed on a bottle of sherry looks like a brand name but it is not.

It is actually the name of the grape-type used in the production process thats is Denominación de Origen controlled in the adjacent Montilla-Moriles and Jerez de la Frontera areas of Andalusia, south-west Spain. So it is a generic term like Beaujolais or Côtes du Rhône on a red wine bottle.

Montilla-Moriles creates the vast majority of PX wines within their own denomination but some are transferred back to bodegas in the Jerez-Xérès-Sherry region for maturation which allows them to be labelled as sherry.

Somewhere on the label, often in the small print, will be the name of the producing winery. This one in the picture was bottled for Marks & Spencer by Lustau Sherry, which also produces a variety of top-quality PX sherries under its own name.

Who was Pedro?

Records of the PX grape go back to the 17th century, but the name itself is a mystery as there are no records of a wine maker called Pedro Ximénez, even though it looks like there should be.

Only three grape types are permitted in the Sherry DOC from the Montilla-Moriles/Jerez region: Palomino, the most widely grown, Moscatel, used for most of the Spanish sweet wines and Pedro Ximénez, generally acclaimed as the ‘king’ of sherry grapes.

PX grapes are harvested in September then left laid out to be dried by the sun for a couple of weeks, reducing the water content and increasing the sugar concentration.

They are then fermented and matured by the Solero system in which the  liquid is passed through a succession of six or seven oak barrels, a half barrel at a time being taken from the last barrel for bottling or more maturing, which is refilled from the barrel before it and so on up the chain, making room for the new wine to be added to the first barrel in the sequence.

The generic status of the PX wine leaves plenty of room for variations for wine specialists or supermarkets’ exclusive offerings like the M&S one. It costs £9 for a 37.5cl bottle at 17 per cent abv.

The Norfolk PX Liqueur

One very interesting variation has been created by the English Whisky Company and their St George’s Distillery of Roudham, Norfolk, with their recently re-launched The Norfolk PX Liqueur.

Most of us know that whisky (Scotch or English) is matured in oak barrels, mostly pre-used bourbon, port or sherry casks which provide a vast range of difference in the bottled whisky, depending on cask type and ageing.

Some of the sherry casks imported by The English Whisky Co arrive full of rich dark sherry, which normally have to be emptied before the whisky can be put in.

But the English Whisky St George’s Distillery has taken a novel reverse route and added some of its own single malt whisky to the sherry in the casks and left it to continue maturing.

The proportion of whisky to sherry is not disclosed. The result is an interesting liqueur fortified wine at about 20 per cent abv, very good as a sweet pudding wine, especially recommended by St George’s with ice cream. It would be a nice extra for a Christmas dinner (sorry, but it is not that far away!).

Source direct from the distillery www.englishwhisky.co.uk listed at £19.90 for a 50cl bottle or www.thewhiskyexchange.com.