Saturday, September 7, 2013
Sherry - Not Just for Weddings And Funerals
Sherry originated in Spain, and the name is an Anglicized corruption of Jerez, the town in Spain which is the center for the sherry industry. Made from white grapes, it is stored in oak casks and fermented, producing a wine of around 15 - 22% proof, with distinctive characteristics.
Spanish sherry must by law be made in the "Sherry triangle", and production of sherry is closely controlled, and is usually made from just one of three white grapes - Palomino, Pedro Ximinez or less frequently, Moscatel. Sherry from countries other than Spain is generally an inferior product, fit mainly for cooking, if that. It's advisable then to buy only Spanish sherry in order to understand this magical drink.
The character of sherry can range from bone dry, to rich and sweet. The dryer the sherry, the less time it will keep once opened. A dry sherry should really be drunk on the day it's opened, so if you can, buy half bottles, as sherry is a sipping,not a quaffing drink. Sweet sherries are longer lived, the sherry acting as a preservative, but all sherry is best drunk as soon as possible after it's opened - and you shouldn't need much encouragement.
Sherry is often served at weddings and funerals, as it seems to find favor even with people who "don't really drink". Despite its maiden aunt image,sherry is in fact a subtle and rather heady drink, and deserves to be rediscovered by today's serious food and drink lovers. (As a side note, look for whiskies which have been matured in old sherry casks, these are particularly splendid with great depth and character.)
Dry sherry should be drunk as an aperitif, and it is particularly delightful with Spanish food. In the summer, a Fino or Mazanilla can be drunk poured over ice, accompanied by olives and a tapas selection of Spanish cheese, dried meats and salamis, for a light and sophisticated meal. You can even serve sherry with soda and ice as a long summer drink, or in place of more customary white wine with a fish dish such as paella. This is far from conventional, but as with all food and wine combination ideas, someone once had to try it and see if it worked - and this one works for me!
The heavier, sweeter sherries such as Oloroso and Cream are delicious served with rich cake, and are traditionally offered in England with Christmas cake. A bowl of Californian walnuts in the shell, a decent cheese and a full bodied Cream sherry are an indulgent winter nibbling treat. Sweet sherry also works with other deserts, even some of the less exotic chocolate creations.
If you enjoy sherry, then invest in the correct copa glasses, a long tulip shape which enclosed the aromas and preserves the correct temperature - room temperature for all but dry sherry is my preference.
Perhaps my favorite way to drink sherry is to find a bone dry sherry, served very cold, and accompany it with a sweetish garlic chicken liver pate, crusty bread and some caramelized onions. Heaven!