Sherry shin­ing in a trendy light


Many peo­ple as­so­ciate sherry with ei­ther their grand­moth­ers or watch­ing re­runs of “In­ter­ven­tion,” but sherry is an in­cred­i­bly ver­sa­tile and de­li­cious wine. And, af­ter decades of be­ing out of fash­ion and un­fairly con­sid­ered a sweet wine, it is now trendy and mak­ing a come­back.

Labour-in­ten­sive and com­plex, sherry has been pro­duced for more than 2,000 years in many ways, from bone dry to lus­ciously sweet.

Each pro­duc­tion has an ap­pro­pri­ate set­ting as well, much like any wine.

The sher­ries men­tioned here go through the in­tri­cate blend­ing process known as the sol­era sys­tem. Sherry pro­duc­tion be­gins as any white wine does and then, the year af­ter the har­vest, the wine is for­ti­fied with a mix­ture of pure al­co­hol. This raises the al­co­hol con­tent to 14.5 per cent. The al­co­hol helps sta­bi­lize the wine as well as en­cour­ag­ing growth of flor, which is a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring yeast.

The flor forms a film or layer at the sur­face of the wine and feeds off any of the resid­ual su­gar that had not been pre­vi­ously fer­mented. This nat­u­ral bar­rier acts to pro­tect the wine from ox­i­da­tion. Avoid­ing ox­i­da­tion leaves the wine with a nutty and yeasty tang.

By us­ing the sol­era sys­tem, pro­duc­ers are able to have more con­trol and pro­duce a con­sis­tent prod­uct year af­ter year. To be­gin, casks are di­vided based on the amount of

flor; those rich in flor are used for Fi­nos­tyle sherry while the rest are des­ig­nated for Oloroso sol­era.

To pro­duce the sherry, rows of casks are set up on top of each other, typ­i­cally four to five rows, with the new­est on the top and the old­est on the bot­tom. The rows are re­ferred to as cri­aderas.

Each year, in a process called “frac­tional blend­ing,” two-thirds of the wine from each row will be blended with one-third from the row above. The old­est row is the one sold to con­sumers.

Gen­er­ally, Fi­nos have spent five years in the sol­era sys­tem be­fore their re­lease. To keep the wine fresh and lively, the bar­rels are drained of every­thing and cleaned be­fore the next sol­era be­gins.

Oloroso casks, on the other hand, do not get drained. The “new” sherry is con­stantly be­ing in­flu­enced by the sher­ries that were cre­ated be­fore. This makes it dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine how old an Oloroso is once it has made it to shelves. Typ­i­cally, pro­duc­ers will have a date on the la­bel stat­ing when the sol­era it­self was es­tab­lished. You could be en­joy­ing a prod­uct of 2,000-year-old sherry.

In a nut­shell, Fino sher­ries are meant to be vi­brant and fresh while Oloroso takes on a rich and ma­ture char­ac­ter from all the wines that came be­fore.

Sánchez Ro­mate Fino Sherry (# 542746) $16.95, 750 mL

This has been pro­duced since 1781 and con­tin­ues to fo­cus on qual­ity wines that re­flect the re­gion they come from. Only 6,000 bot­tles of this Fino were pro­duced, so along with be­ing lim­ited, it comes at an in­cred­i­bly rea­son­able price point.

Fino sher­ries typ­i­cally show a hint of cit­rus zest on the nose with an al­mond­nutty savouri­ness on the palate. This sherry has a touch more age to it, so it is fur­ther along in its de­vel­op­ment and will be drink­ing well into 2020.

Still pre­sent­ing with cit­rus notes, it has evolved into more of a can­died cit­rus note as well as golden ap­ples, a lit­tle bit of freshly baked bread on the nose and a hint of salin­ity. Serve chilled by tak­ing it out of the fridge 10 min­utes be­fore serv­ing. En­joy this with an ar­ray of soft cheeses, ce­viché and seafood stews. Per­fect for snacks or while play­ing cards with friends.

Hi­dalgo Faraon Oloroso Sherry (# 471078) $19.25, 500 mL

Hi­dalgo is one of the few re­main­ing fam­ily-owned bode­gas pro­duc­ing sherry with grapes from its own vine­yard. Oloroso trans­lates to “fra­grant” and that is what you can ex­pect with this wine. It pre­sents with an in­tense roasted nut/Brazil nut aroma, with gun­pow­der, tea, bit­ter or­ange and al­mond ac­cents play­ing backup.

Oloroso goes well with nuts – I rec­om­mend Marçona al­monds – and an as­sort­ment of olives. This is also great to in­dulge in with a meal of ro­bust meat dishes, so dust off those Span­ish cook­books or have a Tapas-in­spired night. Serve Oloroso at room tem­per­a­ture to en­sure you don’t lose that beau­ti­ful bou­quet.


Aside from sherry be­ing in­cred­i­bly de­li­cious and pock­et­book-friendly – es­pe­cially af­ter Christ­mas and New Year’s cel­e­bra­tions have made a dent in every­one’s bank ac­counts – it is also won­der­fully ver­sa­tile.

I reg­u­larly use it when I’m deglaz­ing a pan af­ter carameliz­ing veg­eta­bles or af­ter sear­ing off meat. Use a dry or medium-dry sherry and it will add ex­tra body to your stocks and sauces.

You can also amp up your salad game by adding a few splashes to your dress­ings be­fore sea­son­ing. This will mimic salt, as well as el­e­vate your salad with a fresh cit­rus flavour. I rec­om­mend a Fino for your dress­ing pur­poses.

Even dessert and sherry can be friends. If you ever come across a Pe­dro Ximénez sherry, you can use it for dessert sauces by re­duc­ing it slightly to a lovely syrup. Pour it over spiced car­rot cake with wal­nuts and raisins or sim­ply on vanilla ice cream in­stead of choco­late sauce.

And, of course, cock­tails!

En­joy a clas­sic like the “Ado­nis,” in­spired by the 1884 Broad­way show by Wil­liam Gill.


1 ounce Sweet Ver­mouth 2 ounces Fino Sherry

2 dashes of Or­ange Bit­ters

Add sweet ver­mouth, sherry and bit­ters to a mix­ing glass. Pack with ice and stir quickly for ap­prox­i­mately 20 sec­onds. Strain into a coupe glass and gar­nish with or­ange peel.

Ainsley Szvitak is work­ing to­wards be­com­ing a cer­ti­fied som­me­lier. She has worked in hos­pi­tal­ity in Kitch­ener and Water­loo for 14 years.

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