Earlier this year, the leading trade magazine The Drinks Business published an excellent article by Darren Smith about what Sherry is up against if it is ever to achieve its wholly-deserved revival. Here is an edited version.
It begins by pointing out that professionals are baffled as to why so few people drink Sherry when it is such a good and food-friendly wine and explains that misunderstanding – or a complete lack of understanding - is the root cause.
1. It’s all Sweet
The phenomenal success of Harveys, especially in the UK, has caused what is known as the “Bristol Cream Effect”. It was the only Sherry most people were exposed to, so they presumed all Sherry was sweet. Excellent though it is, it is only one of many styles, most of which are dry.
2. It’s for Grannies
Yes, some grannies drink it but people of a certain age have much wider tastes than is assumed. Anyway there is nothing wrong with either grannies or sweet Sherry. The Consejo Regulador has long recognised this and has been making concerted efforts to broaden Sherry’s appeal to younger people by promoting the dry styles, Sherry as an excellent food match and in cocktails.
3. It’s Dying Out
Sherry has an immensely long history with the inevitable ups and downs, from Phylloxera in the XIX century to the overproduction of the 1970s, but it is now in great shape and there are all sorts of innovations. True, sales have been sliding, but that slide is slowing mainly because cheap everyday wines are declining while the premium quality– and more profitable – wines are experiencing a renaissance.
4. It’s Very Alcoholic
The public is confused about alcohol levels generally and sometimes think fortified wines are spirits. While the oxidatively aged Sherries are stronger than table wines, the biologically aged wines: Fino and Manzanilla are not. More or less fortification is a necessary part in the production of the various Sherry styles, but they are so packed with flavour that a little goes a long way.
5. It’s Difficult to Pair with Food
“No, a thousand times no!” Sherry is one of the most versatile of all wines with food. There are so many styles that there is a Sherry for any dish from any country. Many of the world’s leading chefs are huge Sherry fans and are offering Sherry as the perfect accompaniment to their menus.
6. Hate One Sherry, Hate Them All
There are so many styles of Sherry, from the bone dry through the dry and intensely aromatic to the sweet and very sweet, that there is bound to be a Sherry for every palate, especially with food. There are also many tastings where one can try all these styles.
7. Opened Sherry Bottles Last for Ever
Sherry may be a fortified wine, but it is still a wine, so opened bottles will not last forever. Finos and Manzanillas need to be consumed – once opened – within a week or two and kept in the fridge. Wines already used to oxidation: Oloroso, Amontillado, Palo Cortado and the sweet wines are happy for a month or two kept somewhere cool, away from the light. Be careful with Sherry on the gantry in pubs.
8. Manzanilla is Salty Because of the Sea Air
While it is romantic to attribute certain flavours in a wine to the soil in which the vine grew or the atmosphere in which the wine aged, Manzanilla’s saltiness is more likely to originate from the action of the flor yeast. In Sanlúcar climatic conditions allow the flor to grow thicker and all year round giving more flavour from this yeast.
9. Sherry is one Denominación de Origen
There are actually three. In 1933 the Denominación de Origen Jerez-Xeres-Sherry was the first to be introduced in Spain. In 1965 another Denominación de Origen was introduced to cover Manzanilla de Sanlúcar, then in 1994 another was introduced to cover Vinagre de Jerez.
10. It is hard to find
In fact, it is not difficult to find. While Tio Pepe and Bristol Cream can be found almost anywhere, many supermarkets and wine merchants are realising the importance of stocking a decent range. Given the excellent value for money that Sherry represents, many consumers who have seen the light are now searching it out.
22 July 2016