A taste of Spain

A taste of Spain

SHERRY is curiously inexpensive, food-friendly, extremely undervalued and the go-to wine to set off the dancing at the region’s spring fairs – and it hails from the alabaster moonscape of glaring whiteness along Spain’s south-western Andalucian coast.

Numerous gallons gently mature in American oak casks using the traditional solera method – an ageing and maturation technique involving progressively topping up more mature barrels (‘butts’) with younger wines of the same kind from the preceding stage, or criadera. A fortified wine, sherry is made and matured in above ground cellars in three major towns in the province of Cádiz: Jerez de la Frontera – from which it takes its name – and the two sherry ports of El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, which form the corners of the marco de Jerez, or the ‘Sherry Triangle’, near the crossing of the seas.

So, have a sherry Christmas with these:

1) Decadent super-sticky sherry for Christmas pudding or mince pies

Co-op Irresistible PX Sherry from Lustau (£6, Co-op, 37.5cl)

One of the planet’s richest and sweetest wines, Pedro Ximénez is made from raisined grapes of the same name that are dried in the sun after picking to concentrate the flavour. PX, as it is also known, has a glutinously thick, satiny and unctuous texture and a penetrating, rich flavour. Loaded with intense, ultra-sweet, dark chocolate, molten toffee, roasted coffee, molasses and prune notes, this dark and wondrous plum, liquidised raisin, liquorice and fig-soaked elixir is the ultimate sweetie. Your palate will perform somersaults such is its splendour in the glass. While a perfect coupling for mince pies or Christmas pud, it’s also divine with chocolate desserts, blue cheese and poured over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And look at the price! Alc 17%


2) Pungent, prancing, lower acid, bone-dry sherry – grab a bag of
salted almonds!

The Society’s Fino from Sánchez Romate

(£6.95, The Wine Society, 75cl)

Fino sherries, made from early ripening, relatively low-acid/high-yielding/large Palomino grapes in water-retentive, predominantly limestone-rich, chalky,
milky-white ‘albariza’ soils, are pale-golden, delicate, palate-reviving and bone dry. With a pungent bouquet redolent of green apples, freshly baked sourdough crust, yeast and salted almonds, this arabesque of a Fino tingles with life and spins on the palate with effortless charm. The archetypical aperitif, it’s just the ticket for seafood, shellfish, smoked salmon, sashimi, olives and fish and chips. Epic value given that this is 75cl! Alc 15%


3) Rich, nutty and complex dry sherry to drink before and throughout the meal

González Byass Viña AB, Amontillado Seco

(£14.33-£14.75, Master of Malt/Whisky Exchange/Oddbins, 75cl)

Amontillado is a Fino that has been allowed to mature and oxidize after the beneficial flor yeast has ‘died’ (or been intentionally killed off by simply refortifying it), developing a more rounded, nutty flavour, fuller-body and a chestnut brown colour. Buttered brazils, roasted hazelnuts, dried stone fruits, burnt toast and almond skin fuse here and finish on a lingering dry note. A fantastic aperitif, oxidatively-aged for eight years and superbly long on the palate, AB is effectively a 12-year-old Tío Pepe, González Byass’s world best-selling sherry. Sweet-salty Jamón Ibérico, gravadlax, braised rabbit, tandoori chicken, tagines, nuts or asparagus, anyone? Fear not if you don’t finish the bottle because it will hold well for a couple of months. A short spell in the fridge will heighten its fresh, tangy talents. Alc 16.5%


Viner’s Pick: Five Dry Sherries

  • Hidalgo-La Gitana Pastrana Pasada Manzanilla NV, Alc 15%
  • Fernando de Castilla Antique Fino NV, Alc 17% (fortified a second time on bottling)
  • El Maestro Sierra Amontillado 1830 VORS (Very Old Rare Sherry), Alc 19%
  • Bodegas Tradición 30-Year-Old Palo Cortado VORS NV, Alc 19.5%
  • Díez-Mérito Victoria Regina Oloroso VORS, Alc 20%


Serving Temperatures
& Life after Opening

  • Fino is best chilled between 7-9°C. Serve the PX slightly chilled, at around 10-12°C. Oloroso, Amontillado & Palo Cortado can be served at a temperature of around 11-13°C
  • Use standard long-stemmed wine glasses, not ungenerous little ones (PX would suit a small/port glass)
  • An open bottle of Fino will last between just two and three days before it starts to fade and lose its vibrancy. Amontillado is best consumed within two weeks, whereas Oloroso and Palo Cortado will stay fresh for two months. If properly stoppered, PX can last a year or more.

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