If I say “sherry” and what comes to mind is the song “Sherry Baby” by The Four Seasons and Frankie Valli …
or maybe all you know about the liquid form is cheap sherry wine for cooking, well, it’s time for you to discover that sherry is not only a thing, but a beautiful thing. Sherry may be an acquired taste, but Sherry is definitely worth getting to know!
And now’s the time because this the final day of International Sherry Week! And with fall’s cooler temperatures, we’re getting into prime sherry season! In fact, the first time I wrote about Sherry on this blog was back in January of 2010 for a Wine Blogging Wednesday (remember Wine Blogging Wednesday? I do!) prompt about what wine goes with SNOW! I’d been introduced to Sherry at the European Wine Bloggers conference just a few months before, and I could definitely imagine sitting and sipping around the fire drinking a Gonzalez Byass Oloroso!
Oloroso means ‘scented’ in Spanish. Like all sherries, it’s aged oxidatively but for a longer time than a fino or amontillado, making it a darker and richer wine with alcohol levels between 18-20%, more alcoholic. Made with 75% Palomino and 25% Pedro X, in the glass, I described the one from Gonzalez Byass as colored like flat cherry cola becoming more tawny colored and pretty–orange pink sunset colors shifting as I swirled the glass and the dark amber liquid caught the light and reminding me of a golden tiger eye.
Sherry comes in a variety of styles, ranging from the sweeter olorosos as described above to dry, light versions such as finos from the Palomino grape. At my first tasting at the European Wine Bloggers Conference, I experienced two more:
- Manzanilla s straw colored (yellow) variety of fino Sherry, auestere but with a finish that lasted for months I swear
- Amontillado a little darker, sweeter, less sharp than Manzanilla, easier to savor at first; it is aged under flor then exposed to oxygen
You can read more about the process of making sherry here, but in a nutshell, what makes sherry so distinctive as a wine is the way that it’s aged: each year a portion is taken out, and over the years, the wine is transferred from one barrel to another, combining older sherry with newer. Each year the sherry acquires a different name and different qualities depending also upon its exposure to air which oxidizes it or by its flor (yeast).
In 2016, the Wine Pairing Weekend crew took on Sherry pairings. There I wrote about a sherry that had been in my grandfather’s cellar for many many years. After my mother died, I lost access to the cellar, but before I did, I did this photo shoot above. It was the perfect time to open that bottle of sherry. (I should have rescued the rest of the wine at the time; I think my sister threw it all out…sigh).
Read more about my grandfather’s cellar and a few other sherry stories in part one here and part two as well as sherry pairings.
To celebrate International Sherry Week, Sue and I opened up two from Gonzalez Byass which is located in Jerez, Spain, home to Sherry (the dark purple area in the southern part of Spain; map form wikipedia).
Gonzalez Byass Vina AB Amontillado – 16.5% alcohol – $24.99
Color: Yellow, pale light, buttercup
Nose: Butterscotch, vanilla, sage, bee pollen, hay or straw, there is a richness, hay that has been freshly bailed
Palate: Earthen, hay and straw
Pairing: Great with the spiced nuts, what a great sipper while in front of the fire reading a great book and snacking with a snack of spiced nuts.
The nose and the finish is elegant and complex.
I made a pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting but sherry yearns for something more savory with a bit of sweetness. Not to say the spices did not go well, the lingering of the spices in the cake went well with the wine, but the sweetness did not enhance it.
What works? Spiced nuts which you can find at Trader Joes and just about anywhere these days; we had some fancy ones from Oregon that I saw at several wineries there. I’d also try poached pears or plums.
Gonzalez Byass Leonor Palo Cortado – 20% – $24.99
Color: Super gold, midas gold, the kings gold or butterscotch
Nose: Honey, caramel, toffee, vanilla, butterscotch, ponderosa pine, pine pitch, pine nuts
Palate: Like the nose coming to fruition: what you are smelling is what you are tasting
Pairing: This wine also went great with the spiced nuts. We felt that this too was not like a dessert wine. It wants savory foods with a bit of spice to enhance it. We took off the frosting of our pumpkin spiced cake and were much happier without the frosting, but it still wasn’t the absolute best. These wines want a lovely savory spice with just a hint of sweet to set it off.
At the end of the evening Sue and I decided that Sherry doesn’t really need a dessert. It is a dessert all on its own. A lovely end of the meal.
A rule of thumb is that the dessert cannot be sweeter than the wine. Neither one of us felt that this would be our go wine to accompany a dessert.
A few days after Sue and I tasted the sherry, I made a blackberry sauce to pair with merlot and flat iron steak and then pork loin and decided to use a dash sherry in it. WOW. What an incredible smell! And it added a delicious, rich complexity that really enhanced the berries. I would definitely do that again!
Over the past few nights, I have revisited the sherry, sipping a little here and there slightly chilled in a white wine glass. There’s something about the passage of time that is reflected in the glass– it’s a very calming beverage and while the alcohol is high for wine, it is not as high as other beverages or cocktails.
If you are a sherry person, both of these wines are wonderful. If you are not a sherry person, the Amontillado is difficult to get to so you might want to start with the Palo Cortado as it is a bit smoother and easier to consume if you have never experienced sherry before.
We both wanted our cake to be better with our dessert, but we do not always make the mark on the first try.
After reviewing the Wine Pairing Weekend offerings from a few years ago, I’m excited to try some of these pairings! Check them out and see if you’re inspired to add sherry to your table!
- David at Cooking Chat shares DzGrilled Salmon with Mango Salsadz
- Martin at ENOFYLZ Wine Blog shares DzAn Exploration of Sherry; In the Glass And At The Table
- Christy at Confessions of a Culinary Diva shares DzAjoblanco & Amontillado
- Jade at Tasting Pour shares DzFino and Fennel
- Nancy at Pull that Cork shares DzOloroso Pairings for #winePW: What Worked and What Didn’t
- Lauren Walsh at The Swirling Dervish shares DzThe Possibilities of Manzanilla Pasada
- Jeff at FoodWineClick shares DzA Sherry Pairing Mnemonicdz