If, when you think of sherry, you think of your grandmother sipping on Bristol Cream from a tiny glass at Christmastime, you need to update your information. Sherry is an incredibly versatile wine, ranging from bone-dry to sticky-sweet, with a full pantry of flavours to entice the palate – nuts, lemon peel, raisins, caramel… Furthermore, if you didn’t know this already – sherry is achingly cool these days. If you’re a sherry novice or a sherry aficionado, this week is your week – for the 4th November to the 10th November is International Sherry Week.
For the next few days, London will be brimming with sherry events where you can’t fail to get your fill of this enigmatic Spanish nectar. Whilst researching this week of global sherry merriment, a revelation has unravelled before my very eyes and that is… sherry and food.
Why do we think of sherry as an aperitif or a digestif only, when it offers such a variety of flavour and experience for the palate? It can taste briny or earthy or salty or rich – and it can even possess that unique umami sensation, which pairs so well with difficult-to-match foods.
I’ve picked two sherry experiences this week that are fantastic for exploring the possibilites of sherry with food. I urge you to go out and try them for yourself!
The Tapas Room, Tooting Broadway: Tasting Flight of Single Vineyards
When it comes to sherry, The Tapas Room know their stuff. They’ve got a great by the glass selection on their menu and, if you’re a real connoisseur, there is some off-the-shelf stuff you might become privy to, if you ask nicely. They’ve got a real hold on the fundamentals of sherry and food pairing, and a quick tour of sherries and homemade dips will help you understand the basics. The sweet, biscuity nuttiness of an unfiltered raw fino pairs harmoniously with pea purée, which could form the base of a dish featuring sweet scallops or mussels. A 12 year Bertola Amontillado has notes of hazelnuts, toffee and dried fruits with a streamlined backbone of acidity, which brightens the spice in a curried cauliflower dish. We also taste the Colosia Oloroso, which is rich, nutty and woody – the residual sugar left in the wine compliments a delicately seasoned chickpea purée.
The diversity of sherry shines through even more when experiencing a tasting flight of three sherries from the same producer, Bodegas La Callejuela, all 2015 vintage, all single barrel and all single vineyard. The Manzanilla Callejuela is bright, citrusy and nutty – ideal as an aperitif with a bowl of almonds. The Manzanilla from the chalky soils of Añina is crisp and Champagne-like – there’s even a layer of dried apricots – which would pair perfectly with sweet seafood, like prawns or scallops. Finally, the Manzanilla Macharnudo is said to be the Grand Cru of sherries: it’s full-bodied, textural and earthy – it would bring out the best in a mushroom or aubergine-based dish, or anything with lashings of black truffle. To finish the experience, treat yourself to a small glass of Pedro Ximenez – the sun-drenched raisins in this super-sherry would be heavenly with a traditional Spanish orange and almond cake.
The Tapas Room https://www.thetapasroom.co.uk
Brindisa, Soho: La Gitana Pairing Menu
There is a little guidebook to sherry and food pairing that you can carry around with you wherever you go, and you’ll only need to make a minimal amount of space for it inside your brain. Here it is: Anything that swims = Fino and Manzanilla; anything that walks = Amontillado; anything that flies = Oloroso. Of course, we’re talking animals and styles of sherry. How great is that? You can thank me later.
Bodegas Hildago La Gitana is one of the most renowned producers of sherry in the world and their flagship ‘Manzanilla La Gitana’ is the the most popular Manzanilla globally. However, Bodegas Hildago have several sherries in their range and Fermìn Hidalgo shows us how sherry can take centre stage throughout a meal from beginning to end at renowned tapas restaurant, Brindisa. A glass of Las 30 Del Cuadrado 2017, an unfortified wine made from the Palomino grape and fermented in old Manzanilla casks, is an ideal palate-cleanser before the food arrives – it’s dry, clean and fresh, with a salty flor tang. Brindisa’s selection of appetisers – pan de coca con tomate, croquetas de jamon Iberico, croquetas de gambas – are heartily washed down with La Gitana Manzanilla and La Gitana En Rama Manzanilla. The incredible acidity of the sherries preps the palate for the next delicious bite and the food is made even more appealing and moreish. A selection of charcuterie, sardines, goats cheese, patatas bravas and big, juicy gambas are paired with Pasada Pastrana Manzanilla and Amontillado Seco Napoleón. I find that the savouriness and umami in the sherries compliments the food so well, and every sip seems like its cleansing and priming the mouth, rather than coating it like some wines do, making the food taste more vibrant and flavoursome. I love the rich Oloroso Seco Faraón with Brindisa’s gorgeous cheeseboard, followed by a sumptuously syrupy coffee-toffee Pedro Ximénez Triana and some excellent vanilla ice cream. Really, the PX is the bow that ties up the whole feast – I don’t know how I’ll ever finish a Spanish meal without it. When you know, you know – so get yourself to Brindisa to find out.
Bodegas Hildago La Gitana https://lagitana.es