Andre Tamers, André Tamers, De Maison Selections, Importer, Spain, Basque, Sherry, Natural Wine, Jerez, Where to eat in Spain, What Sherry to Drink, Sherry Pairing, Fino, Amontillado, Manzanilla, Oloroso, PX, Moscatel, Txakoli, Txakolina, Recommendations, Where to eat Spanish Food in New York

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André Tamers - De Maison Selections - Wine importer

Sherry Q & A With Wine Importer André Tamers

Q. Tell us about your point of view on wine and how that reflects itself in your portfolio?

A. I moved to Spain from New York back in the early nineties to take a sabbatical and study art. My wife and I ended up living in Barcelona for three years. While in Spain, I had tasted a number of things that I thought were pretty interesting. When I came back, I started De Maison Selections and started bringing these interesting things in and that was in 1996. Today, the portfolio represents 27 estates, which are all family owned.

What we wanted to do since the beginning was represent these producers that were family-owned estates that I thought were unique to the area of production and were doing things a little bit out of the ordinary. We work as a national importer. We buy the wines; we store them stateside. Everything is transported refrigerated, 365 days a year and everything is stored refrigerated. We are freaks about quality. We don’t cut any corners. So that’s what we’ve been doing for 15 years.

Q. What’s the next undiscovered gem?

A. People think I am crazy, but I think it’s sherry.

Q. How would you explain sherry?

A. It’s kind of strange, but I would sort of say it’s like a dirty martini. It’s that really nice briny quality that people look for when they’re having a martini and they don’t want something sweet, but something with a more earthy character.

In sherry, the premise is not the vineyards, but the bodega. The importance is the flor of the bodega. Basically, the bodega as the site itself, as opposed to the site being the vineyards. They are all really small producers who have limited production -- the average case production is about 3,000 cases and there are a lot that produce 500 t0 700 cases. So, there’s a lot of stuff that we don’t have that much of.

Q. Why is sherry so exciting?

A. Sherry is the umami of the wine world. It’s the reason people cook with sherry. It adds salinity.

People say that all sherry tastes kind of nutty. Manzanilla is fresh, appley and chamomile-like. It has salinity and the nuttiness because it’s old.

If you let your guard down and realize that it’s one of the most versatile food wines, and also a really great aperitif, you’ll realize that you just want to have a glass of sherry all the time. I am really talking about fino and manzanilla. What is so exciting is when you have this stuff with food.

If you put a little bit of oloroso sherry in meatballs in a meatball stew, it doesn’t taste like oloroso, it tastes like something different. It’s the next level of it.

Trying Sherry

Q. What would you recommend as a great first time sherry for someone?

A. I would say that a fino or manzanilla would be the best first sherry. But don’t have it by itself, you need to have it with some olives and almonds and specifically Marcona almonds. See how the sherry tastes on its own and with nuts or olives.

Buying Sherry

Q. Best way to learn about sherry?

A. I would use a combination of two approaches:

1) As opposed to just walking into a store blind somewhere, develop a relationship with somebody who has a passion for sherry and let them guide you through it, because it is such a minefield and so complex. Find someone with knowledge, like Chris Barnes at Chambers Street Wines or Kerin Auth at Tinto Fino.

2) Go to a bar like Blue Ribbon Wine Bar, where they are always pouring sherry by the glass and the guys behind the bar are pretty well versed in sherry. More and more we are going to find sommeliers who are attuned to the fact that this is a fresh product and that’s why they are selling it to you.

Sherry Recommendations

Q. What are some of your favorite fino and manzanilla sherries?

A. Argüeso San León Manzanilla Clásica. It’s one of my favorites and a delicious manzanilla. It’s light and fresh in style.

Hidalgo La Gitana. I am a huge fan and I like the inherent fresh vinous nature of the wine. It sees less aging time and has more of a fresh quality to it. I like it for its freshness and its proximity to the ocean.

La Cigarrera Manzanilla Sanlucar de Barrameda. It’s an offshoot from the Hidalgo,  since they separated 250 years ago. They are located a few steps away, but in an area where the flor, instead of being sort of fresh on floral notes, it has more ashy tones, because they are in the heart of what is called the sub-zone of Manzanilla Barrio Bajo.

The way Sanlucar de Barrameda works is that you have the ocean and you start going back and all these wineries are on the bottom level, but then all of a sudden there’s a mountain that rises right behind it and our winery is dug into the mountains. So, it creates a much different type of manzanilla, much warmer, because the mountain acts like a sail and it captures and pushes down this crazy humidity which creates a very, very intense flor, less chamomile-like and more earthy and ashy-like.

Emilio Hidalgo Fino also really good; it’s an excellent fino.

Tio Pepe Fino is really good. What’s incredible is you look at a really big brand like Tio Pepe and the volume that these guys produce -- it’s on a monster scale. That wine is still delicious and really drinkable.

Outside of sherry, in Montilla-Moriles, the line of Alvear is produced. It’s really surprising how good those wines can be. They are sherry-like, but they are another undiscovered region. I was really deeply impressed by the fino and their whole line. And they are very inexpensive and delicious.

[See details.]

Q. What about the Equipo Navazos La Bota sherries?

A. They are extraordinary botas (barrels) -- they are picking the best botas, so it’s a very interesting and rarified approach. The guys that are doing La Bota are at the top of their game; this is not amateur hour. They are selecting extraordinary barrels which are very, very special. The manzanilla pasada is one of the best manzanilla pasadas I’ve ever had in my life. I think it is great for awareness and just showing what the potential is of these products.

My only note of caution is when we are talking about fino, manzanilla, and manzanilla pasada [a manzanilla aged longer than usual, approximately 7 years]. I have tasted these upon release and then again a year and a half later, when they are still in the marketplace and they are not as interesting, they have fallen off. Maybe, they should bottle them in half bottles.

[See details.]

De Maison Selection’s Sherries

Q. Tell us about the sherries you import.

A. We only buy from old almacenistas (sherry wholesalers or storekeepers). That is what is exciting are the almacenistas, they used to sell their stock to this elite ruling class and that market has disappeared. The only thing they had to save themselves was to look for export markets, which is where we have come in and sort of scooped up 5 sherry houses. There is all this discovery process that is coming to light now because of the economic upheaval that is going on down there -- they’re in recession of majestic proportions.

We have two in El Puerto de Santa Maria (Gutierrez Colosia, Bodegas Grant), one in Jerez de la Frontera (El Maestro Sierra), one in Sanlucar de Barrameda (La Cigarrera), and one in Chipiona (Bodegas Cesar Florido).

In Chipiona, we discovered a new village that nobody ever talked about, which is incredibly fascinating. If the idea that sherry’s terroir is in the ocean, that the terroir is the bodega, then the closest winery we’ve ever been to on the Atlantic Ocean is the winery in the village called Chipiona. No one has ever heard of Chipiona, except in sherry and everybody knows Chipiona, because that is where all the moscatel is made.

I’d read about these old moscatel vines and I found this guy [Bodegas Cesar Florido]. We went to taste moscatel and ended up tasting one of the most brilliant finos I’ve ever had in my life, as we were sitting in his winery, which is 25 yards from the ocean.

Q. Is there a danger of more sherry houses disappearing?

A. Absolutely... there are very, very few independent wineries left in sherry. For example, in Chipiona, there used be over eighty wineries and there are now two left, including a co-op.

In El Puerto Santa Maria, we are working with a winery called Gutierrez Colosia, because we thought it was the last winery that was independently owned. But we found another one, called Bodegas Grant. There are now two independents in that town. Then after that it’s the usual, Lustau’s and Domecq.

We are in a period where everything is disappearing. The soils were turned into flowers and sunflowers, because there is no demand for sherry. So, the best soils are what are left. But as these farmers started converting vines to flowers, with the latest crisis, they’ve all gone out of business because flowers are a luxury. There are all these warehouses that used to have wine, then had flowers, and now have nothing. It’s economic devastation down there.

That is part of what we enjoy doing is keeping things like this alive and making sure they don’t go away.

Sherry & Food Pairing

A meal based around sherry:

Aperitif / Appetizer

The El Maestro Sierra Fino, a big style of fino, or the Argüeso San León Manzanilla Clásica paired with little fried sardines.

Oysters on the half shell and fino together are one of those undiscovered little pleasures that are just an amazing combination.

With a beautiful jamon, you should be drinking fino, not a Rioja. Even jamon producers themselves have switched over and have Rioja with their ham. It’s just crazy, but that’s sherry.


Caramelized pork belly paired with an oloroso works brilliantly. It’s very interesting, because you think of meat and you think of red wine. But actually it’s just the opposite, because the sugar in the caramel will destroy wine. But something like an oloroso is a perfect complement to that kind of dish.

I would pick the Gutierrez Colosia Sangre y Trabajadero Oloroso (“Blood and the Worker”). It’s a little lighter style, because it’s close to the ocean. The label is 250 years old. It’s a nice dry oloroso.

A really old amontillado with foie gras is a fantastic combination too. The Bodegas Hidalgo Amontillado Napoleon is particularly delicious with foie gras.


I am not a big dessert wine person. There are two forms of dessert wine sherries: PX and Moscatel. The Moscatels are a little more of my go-to sherries. One of the things I like to do is have a little glass of moscatel with coffee in the afternoon.

With moscatel, I don’t think you have to be that specific because most moscatel is made by one guy and it’s Bodegas Cesar Florido found in Chipiona. He makes the moscatel and the wineries buy it in bulk and age it for a couple of years at their winery.

PXs to me are such big products, they are so reduced and syrupy, I have a tough time getting that excited by them. I am not sure how you drink a glass by itself. But a little bit over some panna cotta or ice cream is always a nice idea.

Storing Sherry

Q. How long should sherry be stored?

Sherry has this unique quality that it is immanently drinkable, but it gets so much more exciting when you actually have a fresh sherry.

Sherries Imported by De Maison Selections with “Bottled On” Dates

Finos and manzanillas are all about the freshness. It’s the critical factor about these wines. There is a fairly complex element to them: they only last a year after they have been bottled.

Sherry has vintages, they have dates when they were bottled. We are working to impose a system on sherry that tells people the born-on date. I got the idea from Budweiser. They imposed this idea that beer should be fresh and they were right.

We have been pushing incredibly hard for all our wineries to write in English, “bottled on” with the month and the year, so that people know that it only has a one year shelf life.

Manzanilla is even more delicate than fino. In Julian Jeffs’ book on sherry, he says that sherry has a lifespan of three months. It takes us three months to get the sherry to the consumer. Our goal is to have our sherries at the six months range. It’s complex though with rotating inventories at four or five levels.

Q. How long can you keep an open bottle of sherry?

A. Sherry is fortified, so assuming it’s fresh, you can keep an open bottle of sherry in the fridge for a month.

- It’s perfect to drink within a 1 to 4 day range.

- After 3 days, it gets all glycerol and rich.

- After a week, it’s still really good, but over two to three weeks some of the fruit starts dropping out a little bit.

Restaurant & Bar Recommendations


Q. If you are going out for a glass of sherry in New York, where are you heading?

A. Tia Pol, The Dutch, Terroir, and of course big proponents are Blue Ribbon Wine Bar. They always have flights of sherry. If I am going late night, I am going straight to Blue Ribbon.

[See details.]

Q. Favorite Spanish restaurants in New York?

A. Txikito is really doing a bang up job. Alex [Raij] and Eder [Montero] are on top of their game. That restaurant is what I would wish we would have a lot more of across the United States to help us sell wine. Their wine list is Basque focused. So, you have to go drink Txakoli or Remelluri.

[See details.]

Q. Any favorite places to drink sherry in Spain?

A. There is a place in Chipiona, called Bar Franchi, where we drank sherry and ate fried shark (pescado frito) and it was just fantastic. The dish of sherry, one of the great dishes, is shark in a cornmeal with a little vinegar. Nobody has ever heard of this place. It is particularly special.

Sherry is so under-appreciated in Spain, that it is really, really hard to find. I went last year in the summer to El Bulli and we were in Barcelona looking for sherry and we couldn’t find any fino anywhere. It’s Catalunya, so they are interested in Cava and Priorat and things like that. We go to El Bulli and the first thing that the sommelier says is ‘would you like a glass of sherry?’ In the wine list, there is a full page of sherries. El Bulli was a really big proponent of sherry when they were open.

[See details.]

Q. Where do you eat in Barcelona?

A. The most famous restaurant in Barcelona is Cal Pep, of course, that’s the one that everyone knows, but there’s another guy, who is right across from the big wine store Vila Viniteca, called Agullers. There is a guy who is cooking there, and it’s the most simplest of things, like Cal Pep, and all the guys from Vila Viniteca know about it. It’s particularly brilliant food, just raw material, whatever he’s got like baby squid or whatever. He’s particularly good. It’s a hole in the wall that is open for lunch. The menu’s written on old receipts and stuff like that. It’s whatever the guy brings in that day.

[See details.]

Q. Any particular favorite food markets around the world?

A. When I lived in Barcelona, I shopped at La Boqueria. It’s in a league of its own.

[See details.]

Q. Any favorite wine stores in Barcelona?

A. I just bought a case of sherry from Vila Viniteca. They have all the newest and greatest flavors of the famous wine makers. They also have crazy high-end sherries. All this stuff that I had never seen before: all these crazy palo cortados and amontillados. They are definitely one of the top notch stores in Spain, no doubt.

[See details.]


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Details of André Tamers’ recommendations for where to eat and drink in New York, Barcelona, and Chipiona.


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