Sherry and Manzanilla come the far southwest corner of Spain. Closer to Africa than to Madrid, the Jerez region is Spain’s oldest winegrowing region. The names Jerez and Sherry can be traced to ‘Sherish’ the name for the Phoenician city three thousand years ago. The winemaking of today still draws on the tradition and antiquity of the area to create a wine that is truly unique and incredibly food friendly.
Contrary to what many believe, the wines of this region are not sweet. While Sherry can be made with the passito and hence very sweet Pedro Ximinez grape, the vast majority of Sherry and Manzanilla is bone dry. One of the unique things about Sherry is that while there are numerous dry Sherry styles, they are all made from the same grape – Palomino. Something magical happens to Palomino in the Sherry Triangle – the combination of the Albariza soils, blistering heat and fractional aging in solera allow Palomino to express itself in ways unimaginable in any other region.
At the most basic there are two styles of Sherry. Biologically aged or oxidatively aged. With biological aging the wine is protected from oxidation by a cover of special yeasts called Flor. This Flor interacts with the wine as it ages giving it characteristic aromas and flavours. Those wines aged without Flor come into contact with oxygen and develop characteristics of aroma and flavour based on the oxygen influence.
Manzanilla – dry, fresh and delicate on palate. Citrus, chamomile, brine and salinity like a sea breeze. Must be aged in the town of Sanlucar de Barrameda.
Fino - dry and delicate, almonds, nuttiness and wild herbs.
All Manzanilla is fino, but not all fino is Manzanilla
Amontillado –This is aged biologically until the Flor dies and then it is aged oxidatively. Darker in colour with nuttier aromatics and flavour profile. Hazlenut, herbs and tobacco.
Oloroso – Warm with powerful wood and walnut aromatics and on palate. This is a full-flavoured and structured wine that is rounded and full-bodied.
Palo Cortado – A wine of great complexity. Combines the delicate elements of Amontillado with the body and palate of an Oloroso. Palo Cortado appears in only small amounts and is a classification based on its unique style and flavour.
The five dry wines of Sherry are especially suited to food, particularly food that can be difficult to pair with wine. Vegetables such as asparagus and artichokes, as well as vinegar-based foods can be difficult to pair successfully. Fino and Manzanilla are particularly well-suited as the flor aging process eliminates most of the acetic acid and etheyl acetate content, so it can stand up to vinegar and vinegar based food which have acetic acid and etheyl acetate in large quantities! The vinegar and umani characteristics often found in Japanese food are also ideally matched with Fino and Manzanilla.
With a slightly greater body and development Amontillados are well matched with richer and denser fish such as swordfish, tuna and langoustines. The complex flavours of amontillado also match well to curry and other multi-layered spice blends. Amontillado has the ability to complement the many flavours without overpowering any one component.
Oloroso is a very different tablemate. While the flor-aged sherries have no glycerin, and are quite light on the palate Oloroso is full-bodied with the structure to stand up to much heartier food! Game meats, stew, beef, mushrooms, complex sauces and mature cheeses all pair perfectly with Oloroso.
Artichoke Soup with Fino:
1 lemon, cut into four
2 litres of chicken stock
100ml fino sherry
100 ml olive oil
Clean the artichokes and use only the hearts. In a pan heat the oil and fry the chopped leeks and diced potatoes for a few minutes. Add the stock, lemon, artichoke and simmer until tender. Remove lemon and pass through a sieve, season with salt and pepper, add the cream and Fino sherry and reheat gently. Serve with Fino or Manzanilla.
Tandoori Prawns with Amontillado:
1 tbsp. ginger puree
1 tbsp. garlic puree
1 tbsp. lemon juice
4 tbsp. natural yogurt
1 kg prawns
1 tsp. of turmeric
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garam masala
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
Place the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, turmeric, chili, garam masala and mix well. Add the peeled prawns and marinate for one hour in the fridge.
Soak the bamboo skewers for 30 minutes.
Thread the prawns on the bamboo skewers and grill until pink, turning once, about two minutes per side. Serve with lemon wedge and Amontillado.
Wild Mushrooms & Oloroso:
1 onion finely chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200 g of wild mushrooms
4 tablespoons of Fino sherry
1 tbsp. of soy sauce
Heat the oil in a pan. Add onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook a further 5 minutes. Add sherry and soy sauce and simmer for 2 minutes. Serve with bread and a glass of Oloroso.