Sherry Wine News

Sherry Pairings: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter

Introducing Victoria James who brings us the second in a series of guest blogs by some of America's leading wine writers. There is a Sherry for every dish in every season, and here she outlines some choice selections from each.

Like Champagne, Sherry is part of an elite club in the wine world.  A process-driven wine, it embodies centuries of tradition and precise technique.  For many, the concept of Sherry remains mystical as it struggles to find a place on the American table. But like Champagne, it is a wine that does not require complete understanding for maximum enjoyment.

With the changing of the seasons, wine-pairing can present a challenge but few categories are as versatile as Sherry. These fortified wines range from the absolute driest in the world to the very sweetest, and everything in between. There truly is a Sherry for every season, dish, and flavor.

As soon as Spring greens arrive at market, the challenge to pair with the vegetal and heirloom flavors begins. The problem with dishes involving ramps, nettles, garlic mustard, asparagus and other green friends is that they are notoriously hard to sync with wine. They can make most red and white wines taste horrible. Try instead, a salty and bone-dry Manzanilla like La Cigarrera. This is Fino Sherry aged in the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Here, the flor (a film of natural local yeasts that produce acetaldehydes) is active for a longer period than it is in Jerez.  Usually, this style is lighter and leaner since the Flor is alive for longer and has more time to eat all that glycerol and residual sugar.

By the time the Summer heat hits, all you want in your glass is something with refreshing acidity that can sing with your beach and picnic foods. The city of Jerez is itself less than 20km from the sea. All year long they pair Fino Sherry with cuttlefish, prawns, anchovies and flounder. Fresh seafood and Fino is a no-brainer. For a more traditional Andalucian taste, try baby squid fried in olive-oil or a plate of fresh olives with a Fino like Valdespino’s Inocente. The acidity will cut through these fatty dishes and clean up the palate.

Less well-known pairings can also be delicious. Geoff Kruth, Master Sommelier and COO of The Guild of Sommeliers notes, “Many diners have discovered how good Fino is with salty snacks: hard cheese, olives, cured or fried fish—but they have yet to discover the affinity of dry Oloroso and meat. Try it with the classic Jamón or even braised meats like beef cheeks or oxtail.”

When richer dishes come into season in the Fall and Winter, grab an Oloroso or Amontillado. An Oloroso usually comes from the second pressing of grapes and tends towards a heavier/darker style. With a bit more body, these are well-equipped to stand up to stews as well as roasted and smoked meats. Dios Baco’s Baco de Élite Oloroso is a great example of this style to seek out.

An Amontillado is a Fino or Manzanilla further aged in a manner that allows oxygen to be more present. This leads to a darker color and flavor. These wines are made dry and, as of 2012, can no longer be legally sweetened for export. Try Hidalgo’s La Gitana Napoleon Amontillado with your next cut of meat and you will be surprised by the elegance and balance the wine brings to the dish.

At the end of the day, it is best to keep things simple. For pairing Sherry with food, Alex Alan, Wine Director of Freek’s Mill and Hotel Delmano likes to quote an old Jerezano classic that is easy to remember: If it swims - Fino; If it flies - Amontillado; If it runs - Oloroso.

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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.
Victoria James
Piora Wine Director Victoria James has worked in restaurants since she was just thirteen. While bartending during college, she took her first wine course and was instantly hooked. In 2011, she worked harvest for Michael Terien in Sonoma and then continued her studies with the American Sommelier Association in Viticulture and Vinification, as well as Blind Tasting.
 She became certified as a Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2012 when she was just twenty one. Victoria became a cellar hand and bartender at downtown Manhattan’s Harry's Cafe and Steak where she helped inventory proprietor Harry Poulakakos’ legendary wine collection. She was then offered a sommelier position at Charlie Palmer's Michelin-starred Aureole in New York. After a year at Aureole, she took a sommelier position with Michael White’s Altamarea Group, first at Ristorante Morini and then at his flagship Marea, which holds two Michelin stars and three stars from The New York Times. While at Marea, she was named one of Zagat's prestigious "30 under 30" list for New York City. A keen competitor, she has also won the Ruinart Sommelier competition, Best Sommelier of the Languedoc Roussillon competition, and the Chilean Wine Challenge. Victoria joined the Piora team in the fall of 2015. She oversees the Michelin-starred wine list featuring 400 labels from small producers in Italy, France and the United States with a special focus on Champagne and Switzerland. Here she has been named Forbes '10 innovators under 30 shaking up the NY food scene' as well as 'New York's Youngest Sommelier' by The Back Label magazine.
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Victoria James @Geturgrapeon
15 June 2016
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