Sherry Wine News

The magic of Sherry!

We join UK sommelier supremo Gerard Basset to discover what he's been learning about Sherry this autumn and why every sommelier, aspiring to to be the best, should do the same.

Within the space of three weeks I had the privilege to be involved in four brilliant events around the delicious wines of the Jerez region.

Firstly, I attended the Great Sherry Tasting in London with some superb master classes.  Then I flew to Jerez, by kind invitation of Gonzalez-Byass to take part in the selection of the sensational Palmas range alongside the very talented winemaker Antonio Flores and, from the family, the charming Pedro González.  I followed that by taking part in three days studying on the Sherry Educator Course, which was so informative and impeccably organised thanks to both César Saldaňa and Beltrán Domecq. Finally a few days later and back in London, I was one of the judges at the Copa Jerez competition organised by Angeline Bayly who is the director of ‘Sherry Wines’ in the UK. 

This intense and much enjoyable focus, centred around Sherry, reminded me not only how exceptional these fortified wines are, but also how occasionally they don’t always receive the recognition they deserve, starting in their home country.  When en route to Jerez I found myself at Madrid Airport around lunch time with a few hours to kill waiting for my corresponding flight to Jerez.  Strolling inside the airport I saw what looked like a fairly new bar/restaurant specialising in tapas.  Already in the mood and in anticipation of my Jerez trip I ordered a small selection of tapas and a glass of Fino. The barmen were certainly friendly but they could only give me a blank look as they did not have a clue what a Fino was and I could not see any Sherry of any sort advertised on their short bar/wine list either - what a missed opportunity! 

Wine education is extremely important.  It gives sommeliers or retailers the ability to suggest wines with great confidence to their customers, as well as to transmit, with real emotion, their passion for the wines they are selling.

In addition, they often become wine ambassadors for life and it is not difficult to become a Sherry Ambassador as there is so much to talk about and enjoy from Sherry

‘Sherry Wines/Vinos de Jerez’ the body in charge of the promotion and education for the wines of the region, has done a great job on that aspect with all sorts of initiatives such as tastings, seminars, master classes, courses and competitions and the results are certainly there to be seen.  Indeed, more and more restaurateurs and sommeliers have become great advocates of these stunning wines in the last few years.  In fact, at the recent Grand Sherry Tasting, I even saw a few sommeliers who are working in Europe, having made the trip to London solely to learn more about Sherry.  These great promotional/educational activities, coupled with interesting initiatives (En Rama, Pago and Anada, becoming more talked about) from many of the Sherry producers in recent years, have generated renewed interest around Sherry with blogs, Twitter accounts from obviously highly passionate Sherry lovers dedicated only to the wines of Sherry and more articles written in the press about it.  The book by Talia Baiocchi ‘SHERRY A Modern Guide To The Wine World’s Best-Kept Secret’, published in 2015, captures well the revitalized mood in the Jerez region and certainly makes you want to drink more of this fascinating wine.

As we know, Sherry is perfect as an aperitif, especially a Fino or a Manzanilla, but more importantly, it is a wine ideally suited for the table that can compliment so many types of cuisines.  An ideal opportunity to entice restaurant customers to drink Sherry is if they go for a Tasting Menu and take with it the sommelier’s wine selection to match each course of the menu with a different wine.  Sherry comes in such a variety of styles and most are quite diverse from each other thus there is always one Sherry for almost any dish the chef can create. This is an opportunity that my own sommelier team often take in my own restaurant and we receive very positive feedback from guests.

When judging the Copa Jerez in London the seven finalist teams (each made up of a Chef and a Sommelier) had to present a three course menu with each course matched by a Sherry.  There were some amazing and surprising combinations reinforcing the incredible versatility of Sherry.

Here in England we are blessed with a vast array of delicious wines coming from different parts of the world and we can feel truly privileged to be in that situation.  Nevertheless, I also know that Sherry is truly special.  I love the unique character of its wines and that made me realize that I have only one thing left to do and it is to plan my next wine trip to Jerez and return regularly!

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of El Consejo Regulador.
Arguably one of the greatest wine professionals of his generation, Gerard Basset is the Sommelier‘s Sommelier; he is a former World Champion Sommelier and the only person ever to simultaneously hold the Master of Wine, Master Sommelier and MBA Wine honours. Parallel to this has been Gerard’s business success, first with his co-founding the hugely successful Hotel du Vin Group and latterly with his award winning, New Forest boutique wine hotel, Hotel TerraVina. As a business figure, Gerard has been responsible for inspiring and mentoring a generation of young sommeliers, and his innovative approach to training has led many to competition and business success in their own right. In June 2011 Gerard was appointed OBE – Officer of the Order of the British Empire – acknowledging his extraordinary contribution to the British hospitality industry and the crowning glory of a remarkable career that has seen him become one of the most credible, approachable and respected figures of the wine world.
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24 October 2016
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