Leave your preconceptions at the door; sherry is this year’s big drink trend. Let us introduce your new fave tipple
We Brits are one of the biggest importers of sherry, yet years of misunderstanding have earned the fortified wine the reputation of “old lady drink”.
However, a new breed of smart bars, restaurants and wine merchants have cultured a revival, exploring the wealth of styles and flavours that the ancient Spanish wine has to offer. Sherry is shedding its outdated image and gaining some serious cred.
Not sure what fortified wine actually is or the diff erence between manzanilla and moscatel? We had a session in sherry with Angeline Bayly of Sherry Wines UK
Sherry is all about ageing. Starting life as a still wine, it’s fortified with a flavourless grape-based alcohol to raise the alcohol content (originally introduced to help wine travel in casks around the world) before being aged in oak barrels from anywhere between two and 30 plus years.
True sherry can only be made by sherry houses in the “sherry triangle”, between three towns in Spain’s Cadiz Provence. All sherries are made from just three grape varieties; palomino grapes are used in dry sherries, pedro ximénez and muscatel grapes in sweet.
To mark out a decent quaff, look for depth of flavour, vivid colours and complex aromas. It’s this vast spectrum of flavours, colours and aromas that make the fortified wine so versatile with food.
Know your sherry types
Young dry sherries – manzanilla, fino – pale in colour, bone-dry, savoury and tangy on the tongue.
Older dry sherries – amontillado, oloroso, palo cortado – amber coloured with umami flavours and smoky, spiced and woody aromas.
Naturally sweet sherries – moscatel, pedro ximénez – almost black in colour with notes of coffee, burnt toffee and liquorice.
With the sherry revolution picking up pace, here are a few of our fave spots flying the flag for fortified wine …
Scarlet Wines, Hayle
There’s always a good selection of sherries to be discovered at this boozy bazaar in north Cornwall, from the floral flavours of Manzanilla Deliciosa to the deliciously indulgent sweet thrills of El Candado PX. Pick up a bottle for the road at the wine shop before pulling up a pew at The Vineyard Table restaurant to sample owner Jon Keast’s latest find at the bar.
Both the Cotham and North Street branches of this Bristol institution harbour an impressive collection of sherries – including aged bottles and the rare en rama styles – but we love the latest addition to the fortified family at Wapping Wharf. Varieties of the ‘wonder drink’, as Corks’ Ian Gatenby puts it, change by the season and are available by the glass.
Small but perfectly formed is the best description of the fortified offering at Padstow’s BinTwo. A seasonally rotating line-up of sherries nestle on the shop’s shelves, while one or two are available by the glass at the cosy coffee shop bar. Can’t wait to get home to crack open your latest find? Enjoy an off-piste menu option for a small corkage fee.
Paco Tapas, Bristol
Move over merlot, sherry takes centre stage when it comes to drinks at this Andalusian-inspired tapas bar. Kick off with a snifter of bone dry fino, marinated olives and salted almonds before working your way through the menu until you reach the caramel hues of pedro ximénez with an intense chocolate mousse served with toast and olive oil.
Sweet collection of sherries by the glass? Check. Stacks of outside seating perfect for lazing in the late afternoon summer sun? Check. Hot buttered rum made with pedro ximénez vanilla butter in winter? Checkety check check.
Browns Hotel, Dartmouth
Matching charcuterie and classic small plates with a sophisticated selection of sherries, the newly refurbished wine bar at Browns Hotel is a slice of southern Spain in yatchy Dartmouth. En rama sherries (bottled without fining or filtration, resulting in heightened floral flavours) are a speciality at the harbourside hotel. Visit in April or May to sample the rare style at its best.
Inspired to upgrade from blagger to boffin? Bristol Wine School hosts quarterly sherry and tapas tastings where guests can gain an insight into the styles, production methods and history behind the drink. Snifters are paired with authentic tapas dishes, each carefully matched to highlight the sherry’s versatility with food.