Among wine enthusiasts, there are plenty of devotees to the gorgeous, savoury wines of Jerez, and there's a fair chance that once the penny has dropped, a lot more will eventually be seduced by Andalucia's world famous, ultra complex, visceral flavour bombs, once those same people have become bored of simpler, more easily appreciated, but ultimately less satisfying, wines from other regions. Like blue cheese, they are hard to appreciate the first time one stumbles across them, but in time become indispensable from one's wine diet. I mean how many people truly liked Roquefort or Stilton on their first taste? Peoples palates develop over time, and eventually crave something more savoury, tangy, edgy and, frankly, funky than when they were young.
Sherry is the cheeseboard of the wine world.
So, we all know that no gourmet Spanish spread or tapas banquet tastes quite as special without it, but what other foods can be enhanced and brought to life by sherry? In my opinion, the list is long and varied, and I thought I would share some of my favourite matches with you...
The driest, sourdoughiest Fino sherries, try them ice cold with virtually any soup, from a light consommé to a rich butternut squash velouté. Normal wines often seem weird matched with soup. Liquid on liquid. But Fino acts more like a seasoning than a drink. It can take over a little, but if you like sherry as much as I do, that's never a problem.
With the lightest freshest style, Manzanilla, the list is huge. If you don't know the trick of adding a tablespoon or two to your Bloody Mary, where have you been hiding? My friend even invented the 'Dirty Mary', where the splash of sherry is added but you forgo the vodka. You almost don't miss it. Also Manzanilla, especially the older 'pasada' style, is a fantastic alternative to sake. Those umami mushroom undertones can sometimes throw up magical pairings that even the best rice wines can't match. For example, try an aged Manzanilla with a Japanese Shoryu Bun stuffed with wagyu beef and shiitake mushrooms. Amazing.
Amontillado's deeper but equally zippy, bright flavours lend themselves brilliantly to barbecued sardines and mackerel, or if you want to pimp your barbecued spatchcock or rotisserie chicken, liberally splash it all over five minutes before the end of cooking. With the sweeter cured ham cuts like Iberico shoulder, I prefer this style of sherry.
Palo Cortado is just amazing with anything oniony, from Alsatian Flamme Kuche to French onion soup, or anything with onion or shallot gravy. Seared tuna or other steaky fish is winning too.
Now, Oloroso. I think that this is an essential ingredient in my kitchen cupboard. Pour a half glass into a beef or venison stew, or an albondigas tomato sauce, and you elevate the normal to the exceptional. Drink the oloroso along side too. To ring the changes, add it to your Bloody Mary instead of Manzanilla. Gorgeous.
PX is a sauce for vanilla ice cream, plain and simple. I pour it in my café affogato or over a loved one.
Above all have fun. Sherry tastes of a hundred things, so will go with a hundred things. I had salted caramel popcorn with a palo cortado last week...
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of El Consejo Regulador.
13 July 2016