To me, there’s no wine that screams or tastes like of ‘a sense of place’ more than sherry does. From the first sip, this fascinating with from the town of Jerez in the region of Andalusia, brings me back to Spain to a vibrant tapas bar of people who are enjoying life, food and good wine.
Some of you might have memories of that old, dusty bottle sitting in the back of your grandmother’s cabinet that was pulled out once a year and was sweet, sticky and unmemorable you just drank because it was offered. There is so much more to sherry and in fact it comes in many different styles, from bone dry (fino and manzanilla) to rich, nutty and complex (amontillado and oloroso) and intensely sweet and concentrated (Pedro Ximenez) with many more styles in between.
Either I was Spanish in a previous life, or I feel such a close connection with Spain because I spent many summers growing up in a our family summer home, coupled with the fact that I have a “cunada” (sister in law) who is Spanish and hence my niece and nephew (who also happens to be my godson) are half Spanish too. While I no longer eat many of the classic dishes which are typically made from animal-based ingredients, I’ve enjoyed making new versions of Tortilla Espanola, paella and croquetas. Other choices are naturally plant-based, such as their tasty salted and roasted marcona almonds and olives you get served at almost every bar and restaurant, as well as gazpacho and pan con tomate, slathered in rich extra-virgin olive oil.
In many ways you could say sherry was my first love, as I remember my father pouring coupes of sherry for my parents’ dinner guests as they arrived on Saturday evenings for an aperitif. They were paired with stuffed olives and roasted almonds, and I felt quite fancy and worldly when I was able to sip along and discover the many flavors that the wine brought forth.
As with food, wine brings back many memories of family, traditions and special occasions. While sherry might not be the most popular beverage today, I still make a point out of drinking it regularly to bring back that sense of sophistication I felt when my father served it at home. I can’t think of anybody else that served this beverage, and thus I felt we were extra special as if we had discovered a ‘secret’ nobody else knew of.
Today, I wish for sherry no longer to be a secret, but to spread the word about how incredibly delicious this wine is. I hope it can gain a popularity status where it’s served on every dinner table and at every party, and where people can really experience the magical layers of flavors and complexity that sherry offers.
My pick for today is Bodegas Gomez Nevado’s Palido Sierra Morena en Rama Seco. This family estate has been practicing winegrowing since the 1700s, but this particular bodega has been in operation since 1870. I chose this bottle because I love lighter, dry sherries and also found it interesting that it is certified organic. In fact, Gomez Nevado was the first Spanish winery to be certified organic in 1988. “Palido” means pale and translates to a fino style. Fino is the lightest, palest and driest style of sherry (apart from manzanilla) and is aged under a layer of yeast which make up a layer of “flor”.
Another reason I like this wine is that it has been bottled ‘en rama’, which means “raw”. This is essentially a sherry in its natural state, bottled right from the cask without undergoing harsh fining and filtration processes. While these processes might remove some flor and impurities, it also removes a whole lot of flavor, something I think is a definite negative in a wine that should maintain as much mystery as possible.
Th Palido Sierra Morena is made from a blend of 60% Airen, 20% Pedro Ximenez and 20% Palomino grown on vines that are an average of 40 years old at a 500-600 meters elevation. It shows bright acidity with a combination of fresh and dried fruit, is light on its feet and provides a nutty, salty and tangy flavor that I love in these types of sherries.
Sherry represents some of the most food-friendly wines out there, along with Champagne and sake. In my food and wine pairing lectures and workshops I teach both off- and online, I always recommend trying sherries with dishes that might otherwise seem tricky to pair with wines.
Try fino sherries with salads, grilled vegetables and fried foods, or like I did – just some simple snacks like roasted almonds and a plate of Mediterranean olives.
Amantillado sherries pair beautifully with a rich and hearty lentil stew with perhaps mushrooms and winter herbs, while Oloroso is the perfect partner to cheesy, creamy sauces. Should you be lucky enough to be in the possession of a Pedro Ximenez sherry, bring out the (vegan) cheese platter and your best dark chocolates – it’s going to be a memorable experience!
It’s always mindblowing to discover a new flavor combination that will bring your meal to new heights. I encourage you to go beyond the traditional choices of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Go for the underdog – it’s so much more fun!