Oh, Fino, how do we love thee? Let us – with apologies to Shakespeare – list some of the ways.
We’ve previously waxed lyrical on Fino’s versatility and simple deliciousness and we know many of you agree, whether that’s thanks to Spanish travel, the ever-increasing number of (decent) tapas places across the UK or, simply, Brits getting ever more experimental about food…
The truth is that Fino is a drink as rich in heritage as it is in flavour. It’s great solo, as a cocktail ingredient, with a tonic – and, in all cases, is marvellous with all sorts of food.
This seems a good time to answer the obvious question: what is Fino? The simple definition – from the excellent resource that is sherry.wine – is that Fino sherry is a white Spanish wine.
More specifically, Fino – the name translates as “refined” by the way – is a dry white Andalusian wine made from palomino grapes, aged under a layer of yeasts, a process that gives Fino its structure and those flavours that allow it to match so efficiently with so many foods.
When it comes to pairing, there are few wrong answers. To be fair, that should always be the case – while it’s easy to be daunted by the idea of finding the best food pairings for any drink, please remember that it’s your palate, your rules. But there’s little doubt that Fino’s remarkable versatility means that food pairings are easy to find.
Elsewhere, we’ve celebrated the joys of sherry with fish and chips and it remains a good example of Fino’s qualities, its acidity sitting perfectly against fattier, richer dishes. There’s an underlying savoury quality – an umami note – that means Fino matches up against big, complex flavours, such as tapenade, or sashimi, or Jamon Iberico or even tandoori-style spices, tacos, chorizo, dumplings – be they fish, vegetable or pork - or cheese in many forms.
The shared Spanish heritage of Jamon Iberico and Fino may be an obvious starting point but there are few more perfect pairings. The ageing of the Jamon gives it an umami depth like nothing else, and it positively sings alongside a chilled glass of Fino. It’s simple, it’s pure, it’s wonderful. And while we’re keeping it simple and Spanish, may we also suggest a tortilla and a plate of chorizo?!
One of the most searched food terms on the internet is the bao bun. These simple, steamed fluffy buns are a perfect vehicle for rich fillings such as duck or pork belly, or spicy ones, coated in curry or satay sauces – all of which play into Fino territory. As with all of our suggestions, a beautifully chilled glass of Fino will work but, in this instance, we’re quite partial to another Spanish favourite, the rebujito, a Fino mixed with Sprite or 7-Up. That additional sweetness and a little spice is one of the best sherry food pairings imaginable.
For something subtler, “She & T” – sherry and tonic – is always an option. Something about this shouts snacks to us, which is where we’d lean towards nuts, particularly almonds. Refreshing, a gentle bitterness, a hint of saltiness. Divine.
We’d also suggest pairing sherry and tonic with dumplings in all their myriad forms, from gyoza to pierogi, via har gow, siu mai and many other such delights. It’s a drink that keeps the palate fresh and allows such pork, shrimp and vegetable-filled beauties to take centre stage.
For sushi – or, indeed, tempura or sashimi – leave the sake in the fridge and reach for the Fino… and some other ingredients. We think the elegance of such Japanese food deserves a drink of similar thought, care and precision, which is where Fino-based cocktails come in. For something this elegant, we’d suggest a martini, made to your own personal preference but switching out the vermouth – either entirely or partially – for a splash of Fino. Crisp, clean, but an underlying hint of salinity… Oh my.
Riffing on that idea, let’s switch out the sashimi for salmon in a different form. We could stick with Japan, and add a little teriyaki sauce. We could switch countries, add a little garam masala and yoghurt and make it more tandoori in style. Or we could just leave it simple and smoked. However you want your salmon, may we suggest an El Jerez? Essentially bringing a little Spanish flair to the margarita, and softening the citrus a little, it’s a great drink. Just take 30ml of Tequila Blanco, 30ml of Fino, 25ml of grapefruit juice, 15ml of lime, and 10ml of Agave syrup, shake with ice and serve over rocks.
As you can probably imagine, the same drink and shrimp ceviche – or any ceviche for that matter – is also a marriage made in Sherry heaven.
We’ve probably already waxed lyrical about pairing Fino with cheese but for a twist on such things, may we suggest a Pavoni? An award winner designed specifically to match cheese, from Norwegian Odd Strandbakken, take 30ml of Heering cherry brandy liqueur, 30ml Fino, 10 ml each of Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and Angostura di Amaro, with two dashes of Orange Bitters by Angostura, stir over ice, strain and serve in an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass.
If that’s a little too complex for your drinks cabinet, may we also suggest the simplicity of the Ginger Snap? Approximately one part Fino to two parts Ginger Ale, over ice, it’s a great aperitivo and a marvel paired alongside all sorts of cheese. Sweet, nutty, with the gentle spice of the ginger, it will take the traditional way of pairing sherry to Spanish cheeses such as Manchego to a new level, ditto a creamy blue cheese such as Stilton, or even a punchy mature cheddar.
Cheese in its melted form is another of the very best fino wine pairings, so bear the above in mind next time you’re having croquetas, particularly ham and cheese ones. It also works brilliantly with healthier options such as a kale and quinoa salad, a little salinity and sweetness to sit alongside kale’s slight bitterness, the gentle nuttiness of quinoa and Fino pairing effortlessly and that ginger kick to add an extra dimension.
In short, there are very few things that don’t work as food pairings with sherry. Whatever your appetite, whatever your drink pouring or mixing ability, may we strongly suggest keeping a bottle of Fino in the fridge?