MAKING A COMEBACK Trendy bars like Copita in Soho, London, are now busily stocking sherry, with 15 different sherries available by the glass there.
It’s difficult to find a wine that’s been unpopular as long as sherry has. The once favoured drink of our grandmothers has since been relegated to the back of the liquor cabinet, now being replaced by craft gins and bottles of uninspiring Pinot Grigio. The wine much defamed, but wondrously complex, derives from a trio of Andalusian towns in South-Western Spain and is beginning to make its long awaited comeback.
One of Sherry’s downfalls is that people tend to consider that its varying styles taste like Harvey’s Bristol Cream - a sugary brown, dull, drink that was (and still is) the tonic to the older generation.
Sherry comes in many styles, from dry to sweet. The driest style and most pale in colour is called Fino. The ubiquitous Tio Pepe, arguably the best known Fino Sherry (around €16 per bottle), is ever present in bars and airport lounges across the world. Finos are made to be served chilled and fresh, but many bars keep them at room temperature, which is the same as keeping bottles of Sauvignon Blanc beside the Scotch whiskys! Anyone for a warm glass of Sauvignon?
Fino sherry, produced using the indigenous Palomino grape, is a perfect aperitif which offers a profile of crispness, yeast, citrus, and freshness, while also pairing exquisitely with shellfish and Spanish tapas.
Oloroso, another style of sherry, is produced by oxidative ageing. This sherry has a brown colour, which develops in the barrel for some time without a protective layer of flor (the film of yeast on top of the wine in the barrel). The resulting wine will be rich, nutty, with aromas of raisin that remains in good condition once opened.
Equipo Navazos ‘La Bota de Oloroso’ sherry is probably the best value wine for money anywhere in the world, at approximately €35.
Quite the opposite of Fino, Pedro Ximinez (PX) and Cream Sherries are at the sweet end of this wide wine spectrum. PX, made from air dried grapes, is like a cream sherry, amazingly sweet, almost akin to liquid Christmas cake. The Valdespino PX Sherry is sublime with a price of around only €20.
While popularity of this once iconic household staple has dwindled over the last few decades, high end bars like Copita in London and Mocking Bird Hill in Washington DC, with countless sherries by the glass, and innovative sherry cocktails, suggest a new renaissance for this complex, golden grape juice. Remember where you read it first!
Philip Dunne is Head Sommelier at Ashford Castle, Cong. Trained by the Court of Master Sommeliers, he is part of the team voted the Best Wine Experience in Ireland 2016 at the Restaurant Association Awards in Ireland.