Sherry. There, I’ve said it. I know it has an image issue and I’m guessing you’ve probably not tasted it for a while, but please don’t stop reading!
One of my new year resolutions is to fly the sherry flag. Why? Well, it is one of the world’s most unique wine styles. It can be a fantastic match with food and perhaps most telling of all given its image, it must be the world’s best value wine.
However, surely with the rise of interest in Spanish cuisine, in particular Tapas bars, this situation won’t last for long.
Sherry takes it name from the town of Jerez in southern Spain and can only come from this region.
Jerez is a region of extreme temperatures, not ideal for table wine, but the process of making sherry including fortification can lead to wines with real complexity and interest.
Sherry is primarily made from the palomino grape, although sweet dessert sherry is generally made from a grape called Pedro Ximenez or PX.
So here are three sherries to taste and convert you.
But before you try them the first step is to forget about those commercial, sweetened examples you find either on the supermarket shelves or, worse still, in a decanter on someone’s sideboard.
The place to start is Tio Pepe (widely available from £10) which is perhaps the best known of all fino or dry sherries. It never ceases to amaze me how much quality you get in the glass for a tenner considering the amount bottled each year.
Very pale in colour, almost water white, it is wonderfully fresh with savoury, nutty notes on the nose followed by a bone dry palate with citrus and a long gentle finish. Serve this cold like white wine – which in essence it is – and match it with prawns in garlic, seafood-style tapas or how about with some sushi?
Apostoles 30 Year Old Palo Cortado, Gonzalez Byass (Majestic £19.99 or as part of a mixed six bottles £17.99, Ocado, Waitrose Cellar £19) is a quite remarkable wine, which as its name implies has taken 30 years to reach this stage.
Palo cortado is a style of sherry which is a sort of half-way point between a fino and an amontillado sherry. It starts life as a fino but after years in a barrel a little PX is added. This is technically off-dry which has butterscotch and nuttiness on the nose. There is some richness on the palate, almost with a little saltiness, dried fruits and a rich finish. Try this with some pate or cheese, having been lightly chilled in the fridge for half-an-hour.
Lastly Noe 30 Year Old Pedro Ximenez Gonzalez Byass £17.99 (Ocado, Waitrose Cellar £19) is a super-sweet sherry, but don’t let that put you off. There are dates, spices and black treacle. It would have matched Christmas pudding, but failing that pour over good-quality vanilla ice cream – extraordinary and absolute heaven!