Wine Courses Corporate Wine Events About Private Wine Events Blog!

Back to archive

29th May 2014

Sherry - Think again! World Sherry Day 2014

You may have missed that it was World Sherry Day last Monday. I celebrated by opening a bottle of the never less than brilliant Hidalgo Manzanilla La Gitana.

For lots of people the word 'Sherry', an English corruption of the Spanish 'Jerez', which itself was a corruption of the Moorish word 'Xeres', means a sticky brown liquid that emerged seemingly reluctantly from the same bottle in the drinks cabinet year after year to even more reluctant recipients. Understandably, even the people who vaguely liked the stuff grew to regard it with disdain and a sense of anachronism. Sales fell away. But Sherry, although laden with heritage, is not like this at all. It is, first and foremost, a wine, and needs to be treated as such. Serve chilled (almost invariably although it is a matter of taste) from a fresh, recently opened bottle.

All Sherry is made dry, some Sherries are subsequently sweetened, right at the end of the process. This is generally to serve the export markets (principally the UK and USA). In Spain itself, and especially in Andalucia where Sherry comes from, pretty much all the Sherry sold is dry, and a lot of it is 'Fino'. These are light, elegant, crisp, pale wines. They can be served from an open bottle (kept in the fridge) for up to a week, but no longer than this. They have the same alcohol level as most wines from Australia or other sunny places. The flavours are not of the fruit - the grape that makes Sherry, Palomino, is fairly insipid in its own right - but of the process. For Fino Sherries, this is involves a layer of yeast (called 'flor') that grows on the wine's surface, protects it from oxidation, feeds on the glycerol in the wine (thus lowering the calorie content!) and flavours it with a gentle character of almond skin, apple peel and chamomile. In fact, the word Manzanilla, which indicates a Fino from the coast, is from the Spanish for chamomile. The wines are bone dry, and there is, simply, no better wine to accompany saltiness in food, from olives to boquerones, and from wonderful glistening jamón ibérico to octopus salad. Andalucia was where tapas first originated in fact.

Other Sherries, such as Amontillado and Oloroso, are fortified to an alcoholic strength that prevents the flor growing, and also eliminates the risk of bacterial spoilage (vinegar mainly), and so the wines are aged open to the air, which oxidizes them and allows them to develop nutty flavours to accompany their range of tawny to nut-brown hues. These are the Sherries that may subsequently be sweetened (with a dried grape raisin wine), but are nevertheless at their most sublime when left dry. No wine is a better accompaniment for soup than Sherry (the whole liquid-with-liquid thing is very difficult to match) from a Fino with gazpacho to a deep Oloroso with a rich oxtail stew-like soup, this is one of the world's greatest food and wine matches. Sherries that have the extra fortification and are already oxidized can be left in an open bottle for a few weeks, but will go stale after that, so that bottle of Something Cream that Great Aunt Maud pulls from the cupboard every year needs to be consigned to a detested pot-plant as soon as you possibly can. Apart from (and maybe including) the pot-plant, everyone's a winner in that scenario.

If any of the above has made you want to go and revisit Sherry, then e-mail me for advice, and do not worry that you may have missed World Sherry Day, because the entirely separate International Sherry Week starts next week! Salud!


Add comment
Your name
Your email (optional, will not be published)