What to drink this week

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Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook -

Sherry is shak­ing off its drab im­age and look­ing sharp, en­thuses Harry Eyres

The graphs show­ing sherry sales over the past decade look dis­tinctly droopy. Over­all sales have al­most halved since 2002, with par­tic­u­larly sharp de­clines in the two big­gest ex­port mar­kets, the UK and Hol­land. But this gloomy pic­ture is al­le­vi­ated by an ex­cit­ing re­nais­sance at the high­est qual­ity lev­els. Free from the dowdy im­age gen­er­ated by heavy, sweet­ened brands, sherry is fi­nally emerg­ing as one of the world’s great­est and most ver­sa­tile wines.

Why you should be drink­ing it

High qual­ity has al­ways been main­tained by cer­tain large- or medi­um­sized bode­gas such as González Byass (Tío Pepe), Valde­spino (Fino Ino­cente), Bar­badillo and Hi­dalgo La Gi­tana. Now, cer­tain small bode­gas of­fer ex­cep­tion­ally fine, and fine­tuned, ex­am­ples of the dif­fer­ent sherry styles, made in tiny quan­ti­ties.

What to drink

Sherry isn’t re­ally a sin­gle wine, but a fam­ily of wines of widely dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter, rang­ing from the pale and del­i­cately dry man­zanilla to the in­tense, trea­cly sweet Pe­dro Ximénez. This week, I’m high­light­ing some­what fuller-bod­ied ex­am­ples of the dri­est styles, man­zanilla (from the sea­side town of San­lú­car de Bar­rameda) and fino.

Two ex­cel­lent man­zanil­las that show a lit­tle more depth and round­ness than the ul­tra-fresh La Gi­tana are Bar­badillo’s Solear (right, £5.49 per half-bot­tle; www.slurp. co.uk) and Argüeso’s San León (£8.40; www.mas­terof­malt.com). Bar­badillo’s Pas­tora Man­zanilla Pasada En Rama (£6.99; www. tau­ruswines.co.uk) is a lit­tle longer-aged, with a deep straw colour and pun­gent flor char­ac­ter. An ex­cep­tional fino, av­er­ag­ing nearly 10 years of age, with lovely full­ness and a long fine fin­ish, is Fer­nando de Castilla’s An­tique Fino (£15.95 per halflitre; www.slurp.co.uk).

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