Anyone for sherry?
Cold, dry manzanilla is the ideal aperitif when the weather hots up
Sanlúcar de Barrameda is a particularly bright spot on the Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light) along south-west Spain’s Atlantic seaboard. On a recent visit the wide mouth of the Guadalquivir river was the most exquisite blue, the sand hot and white. And my drink matched it all for intensity and sharply angled flavours –a copita ( small glass) of the local fortified wine: cold, lemon-tangy, salty-fresh manzanilla sherry.
Manzanilla is a lot like fino, the other (better known) bone-dry, pale sherry made inland in Jerez. But by the sea the natural yeasts that form on the sherry in the barrel vary, giving a slightly lighter, more crisp and saline note. Cold manzanilla makes a brilliant match for seafood, salted nuts and thinly sliced premium jamón.
I fled the heat by retreating to the huge, dark Barbadillo bodega cellars, tasting their flagship manzanilla, called Solear, directly from the cask with winemaker Montse Molina. She ages it there for six years before bottling; the aromas of appley white wine and yeasty bread dough fill the cool cellar, damp wall to damp wall.
Manzanilla is the perfect hot-weather aperitif, waking up a jaded palate like little else. It’s wonderful to see sherries like these gradually coming back into fashion. But chill it well and don’t keep it long once opened – two or three days maximum or it will lose its zest. Half bottles make a lot of sense.