Sharing Sherry; A Somm's Standpoint
How did you first find Sherry, or how did Sherry first find you?
It was the ubiquitous bottle of warm Harveys at my Nan's house, which came out at Christmas and for Sunday lunches. She enjoyed the original Harveys milk, which I found sweet, but intriguing when I tried it. Later, whilst working at a Bistro in Southport, there was always a cold bottle of Tio Pepe in the fridge with the white wine. Again on my first try it I found it unusual but very palatable. Sherry grows on you. The more you taste the more you learn.
How does Sherry inspire you when pairing it with food?
Sherry is so diverse in style, it gives you the opportunity to pair with dishes that other wines don’t go with, you can experiment by pairing sweet with savory and vice versa, which gives exciting ways to balance the dish. It’s quite a thrill to pair and discover a new combination, it makes you want to find foods to pair it with.
What are the greatest food & Sherry pairings you’ve discovered?
Herwick mutton chops with Fernando de Castilla Antique Oloroso, whilst cooking at home. The meat is really mature, I like to trim the fat on the chops and serve it with a light meat juice sauce, the Oloroso has the texture, acidity and dryness to cut through the richness of the dish. It compliments the meaty fatty flavours, whilst also giving precision. I feel the Oloroso has what I would descibe as a slightly charred edge flavour, which matches to the meat beautifully when finished on the grill.
What is the most surprising Sherry match you’ve come across?
Manzanilla with cottage pie, a pairing that came about by chance. Whilst preparing dinner with a glass of Manzanilla in hand, I tried it with the pie, it worked well with the minced longhorn beef flavours, both gamey and intense, as well as with the creamy potatoes, gravy and carrots. It was great to see how even a bottle of supermarket sherry had the ability to work with the sweetness of sauce, providing an acidity that cut through the dish nicely.
Where fine dining is concerned, working at Manchester House, the most surprising match we have created was Lancashire blue cheese ice cream, served as a savoury course, paired with Valdespino Oloroso Solera 1842. Sauternes was underwhelming as a pairing, but the hint of Pedro Ximenez in the Oloroso blend added a special touch. The result was a creamy bitterness, which sticks to your mouth, absolutely fantastic. It is also wonderful to pair with produce from our region, showcasing how such an international product can work exceptionally with local cuisine.
What makes Sherry special for a Somm?
So many things; its diversity, history, origin, the connection with England, that it's one of the oldest wines available, that all the styles that come from the same grape. It’s amazing once you understand the solera system, it’s unlike any other wine. The continual development, moving and blending, is both exciting and inspiring.
How would you convince somebody new to the drink, to try Sherry?
Serve it as part of a tasting menu, people tend to approach them with a more open mind. Start with a manzanilla or a fino, which are most approachable, get people to try the pairings and ask them what they think. Sometimes I don’t tell them what it is to see their unprompted reaction. If you explain in a genuine way why you have paired it with a dish, people are willing to understand and enjoy over dinner.