A very Sherry Christmas

Published 16.12.2016   by SUSY ATKINS   @SusyAtkins
As part of our continuing guest blog series, we hear from Susy Atkins, one the UK's leading wine writers and broadcasters, about enjoying Sherry throughout the festive season.

Christmas is the time of year when I make my drinks work the hardest. I demand a lot of them - they need to feel special, celebratory, very different from the hum-drum and everyday. They must be versatile with food too - not just going with one dish (turkey) but making brilliant partners for all kinds of festive fare. I want to them to go down well with a crowd at a party and also become the perfect sip to savour when two of us slump by the fireside at the end of the night. And I want intense flavours and gorgeous rich aromas at winter time, nothing weedy or scant.

Too much to ask? Not when we’re talking about sherry.

The impressive versatility of Spain’s great fortified wines is being championed as never before, with a wide range of fans, including an estimated half a million sherry drinking ‘millennials’ (aged 25-35).

Susy Atkins in the studio for a day of radio interviews (London, December, 2016)
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Susy Atkins on-air talking about Sherry myths (London, December, 2016)
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Susy Aktins filming her two-minute guide to Sherry (London, December, 2016)
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The sheer variety of sherries is dazzling - I don’t think there is one moment over Christmas when you can’t find a sherry to match the occasion or the dish. I certainly got an enthusiastic response when I spent a busy day doing radio interviews about sherry for Christmas recently. Over 24 radio stations called in to talk about the subject, many with on-air tastings of sherry across the airways. We discussed all aspects of the drink but perhaps the most inspiring was the way in which sherry is now being embraced as a ‘gastronomic’ wine - one which is extremely food-friendly. (The Spanish have always known this, but perhaps we Brits have been slower on the uptake.) It’s certainly one of the most relevant subjects at Christmas. So I wanted to distil the food and sherry matching tips that I gave out over the radio day into a few quick tips. Here, then, is the low-down on how to pair sherry up with your favourite food over the festive season. 

Cheers all - have a very sherry Christmas!

Susy Atkin's guide to enjoying Sherry at Christmas

* Fino and manzanilla sherries - the pale, dry styles that you must serve chilled make simply superb palate-wakening aperitifs. Fresh, lemony with a slightly salty, green-olive bite, they pair up well with dainty canapés, and with salted, toasted nuts or plain crisps, olives and tapenade. I always keep a bottle on the go in the fridge over Christmas for a refreshing drop, and find these bone-dry sherries also segue through nicely to the dinner table, partnering a first course of fish or seafood, including mild smoked salmon.

* Amontillado sherry - dry amontillado is the sherry I have with cold meats, charcuterie, jamon, also chicken, turkey and pork. I especially like its nutty, fresh, orangey-tinged character with a Boxing Day spread of cold meats and salads. Its intense flavours means it can even stand up to pickles and chutneys.

* Dry oloroso - for me this is the one for the festive cheeseboard, together with a selection of nuts and dried fruit. The dark mahogany hue and rich raisin and walnut flavours are just spot on for savouring as to pick your way slowly through the cheeses, yet the dry finish of the sherry works so well with savoury food.

* PX - the very sweet, dark, sumptuously sticky Pedro Ximenez sherries, tasting of raisins, spices and black molasses, are glorious with Christmas pudding, mince pies and other hot desserts like treacle tart or steamed puddings. PX also triumphs with salty blue cheese and if you’re feeling lazy, just pour a shot over fine vanilla ice cream. Keep a bottle on the go all through the Christmas feasting season - it should last well for a week or two once opened.

To read more in this series of guest blogs, click here.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of El Consejo Regulador.
Susy Atkins @SusyAtkins
Susy began her career as a young wine writer in the early 1990s at WINE magazine. She left in 1994 to spend five weeks in South Australia during the harvest, working as a 'cellar hand' at wineries in the Barossa Valley. On her return, she began working for the Consumers' Assocation, editing Which? Wine Monthly, which evolved into wine reports for the main Which? magazine. She became co-editor of the Which? Wine Guide in 1997 and has since worked on seven editions of the guide. Susy now writes a regular weekly column for the Sunday Telegraph stella magazine and is the drinks editor of delicious. magazine. Her books include Wine Wisdom, How To Choose Wine, Wine Made Easy and the best-selling, fun pocket-book Girls' Guide to Wine. She has won both the Glenfiddich Food & Drink award and the Prix du Champagne Lanson wine writing award for her books. Susy is familiar to many wine & food lovers as a regular wine expert and presenter on BBC1's flag-ship cookery show Saturday Kitchen, which attracts 2 - 3 million viewers each week. Before that, she was a resident wine expert on Channel 4's Richard & Judy. She has also appeared as a guest on TV's Market Kitchen, UK Food channel programmes such as Great Food Live, and broadcast numerous times on BBC Radio 4 for programmes such as Excess Baggage, Woman's Hour and The Food Programme. She regularly gives wine tastings across the UK;
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