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Dessert Wine Win: Vote for Pedro... Ximenez

Note from the author: There are 1,368 varieties covered in Wine Grapes by MW Jancis Robinson, MW Julia Harding, and Dr. Jose Vouillamoz. Let's try them all.

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I'll be honest with you. I didn't know anyone who loved Pedro Ximenez. Poor Pedro Ximenez. Even Jancis, Julia, and Jose, the trio of Masters of Wine who authored the Wine Grapes book are dismal in their description: "intensely sweet fortified wines akin to essence of alcoholic raisins, often known as PX."

Essence of alcoholic raisins.

Why, if that doesn't strike your fancy...

The grape is grown in Andalucía in southern Spain, particularly in sherry-country, where "most of the top Jerez producers make a varietal PX," explains Wine Grapes, noting that the grape was likely named for a famous local vintner.

My Pedro Ximenez from Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo pours out like treacle. It's thick, viscous, glass-coating and nearly the same golden-rimmed cola-color as grade B maple syrup. It smells a bit like a sugary root beer, resinous and herbal over flavors of candied walnuts, vanilla beans, and allspice berries. It is almost unbearably sweet, without a discernable trace of acid... much as you'd expect drinking pure syrup would be, with a very raisinated character that reminds me of afternoons on the floor watching Mister Rogers with my mini snack packs of Sun-Maid "ray-oos" (I couldn't say raisins but was obsessed with them). These days, however, that signature sundried scent sends me the other way.

Lucky for our friend Pedro, however, once upon a time someone clever dreamed up a special sundae: PX poured all over vanilla ice cream. If you spend any time researching the grape, you'll see ardent recommendations for this boozy treat.

I pull out a fancy glass, scoop it full of vanilla bean gelato and drizzle the PX generously over the top. For good measure, and because I have more of a savory than a sweet tooth, I throw on fresh local walnuts... and a pinch of flaky Maldon salt...

Now THAT does strike my fancy. Over the sweet, soft creaminess of the ice cream, the PX finds a fantastic, sarsaparilla-touched, surprisingly tangy and faintly nutty edge. The crunch of the walnuts, the spike of salt in every other bite and the slightly soupy float-like texture keep my spoon diving back in for more until, before I know it, I'm licking the rim of the glass clean. Looks like I found someone who does, in fact, love a good Pedro Ximenez every now and then.

Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez
The Grape: Pedro Ximenez
The Region: Jerez, Spain
The Importer: Winebow
Retail Price: $25

About the Author: Stevie Stacionis is a wine writer and Certified Sommelier based in San Francisco. She's currently drinking her way through the 1,368 varieties included in Wine Grapes. Follow her on Twitter @StevieStacionis and check out her snobbery-free wine videos at A Drinks With Friends TV.

Tasting sample provided for review consideration.

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