Sherry - Spanish sunshine in a glass! Richard Esling June 15
Out of fashion for a while, sherry has seen a great upturn in popularity, with an unexpectedly large rise in sales during lockdown.
It makes a very interesting addition to your range of summer drinks. There remains a popular misconception that sherry is only good as an aperitif, an idea perpetuated perhaps by Downton Abbey, or P G Wodehouse, with Aunt Agatha sipping a glass whilst giving Bertie Wooster a roasting for his latest exploits.
But sherry is a true wine, albeit a little stronger due to its fortification. The range of styles is extensive, ranging from bone dry to stickily sweet, with everything in between. Opportunities for food matching are thus vast, and although great as an aperitif, try drinking it like the Andalusians in Southern Spain, as an accompaniment to summery dishes. Although stronger in alcohol than most wines, a glass of sherry should be substantially smaller than normal wine, the flavours and power making up for the difference in volume.
All sherry comes from the area in Southern Spain around the town of Jerez, from whence its name derives. This is a baking hot region in summer, which contributes to the particularity of the wines, packed full of Spanish sun.
The two driest styles of sherry are Fino and Manzanilla. Served well chilled, both make fine aperitifs, but also match extremely well with tapas of all kinds, particularly fishy ones, and gazpacho. A relatively new style of Fino is called ‘en rama’, which is unfiltered and unclarified, and normally bottled in the spring when the flor growth is at its thickest. ‘En Rama’ is a term used by the bodega to denote a fino in its raw, delicate state and is as near as possible to drinking it directly from the cask.
The leading Fino brand of Tio Pepe from Gonzalez Byass, has produced its twelfth limited release ‘En Rama’ in 2021 and is elegant, aromatic and precise. Notes of apples and toasted almonds, with very aromatic, yeasty flor nose and a deeper golden colour than most finos. To be drunk within a year of bottling to maintain the fresh character. £15.50 from The Wine Society or £15.99 mix six from Majestic.
Another outstanding dry sherry is Hidalgo Manzanilla Pastrana Pasada. Bone dry, it has a salty twang from ageing near the sea at Sanlucar de Barrameda, Pasada denoting an older style, giving greater depth and complexity. Intense nose, with flavours of almonds and orange peel and a long, satisfying finish, showing its great quality. Pair with a fish pie, seafood pasta, smoked mackerel and other flavoursome dishes. £12.95 from the Wine Society or £12.99 mix six price from Majestic or Waitrose.
A much fuller style of dry sherry is Don Zoilo 12-year-old Dry Amontillado from Williams and Humbert. Established in 1877, the company is one of the ‘greats’ amongst sherry producers, alongside Gonzalez Byass. Apart from its range of high-quality sherries, it is also famed for owning the largest wine cellar in Europe at 180,000 square metres. Packed full of nutty, orange zest flavours, it is long and mellow, with hints of dried fruits. Delicious with cold meats, such as Iberico ham, garlic prawns or chicken with lemon and olives. £16 from The Wine Society.
Last but not least is my favourite style of dry sherry - Palo Cortado. Gonzalez Byass Leonor Palo Cortado is aged for 12 years and is like dry Christmas cake in a glass! Dried fruits, apricots, sultanas and nuts, with a light amber colour and long finish. Tremendous with mature cheeses and enough flavour to pair with slow roast lamb or pork fillet. £15.95 from The Whisky Exchange.