The perfect trans-seasonal apertif: MARY DOWEY is enjoying SHERRY‘s resurgence this month …
Sherry has been coming back into fashion at such a halting pace for so long that you’d be forgiven for doubting its resurgence altogether. But what’s this I see on Twitter? A photograph of an array of sherry bottles posted by a Dublin retailer. 64 Wine in Glasthule now offers 24 different sherries, from an every day fino to a limited release palo cortado at over €90 a bottle. “Interest in sherry has been growing slowly but surely over the past three years,” says owner Gerard Maguire.
In Dublin’s city centre, Ally Alpine of Wines on the Green, with an impressive 50 sherries from outstanding producers on the shelves, confirms that sales are climbing. “They just offer such value and such fabulous drinking.” The range at Mitchell & Son, long-established sherry stalwarts, is wider than it was in this drink’s heyday half a century ago (even if the quantities sold can’t match the gallons once guzzled by university dons and what remained of the gentry). So it’s time to reconsider one of the most overlooked, underrated treasures of the wine world.
And no better season than spring, since fino in particular – the most popular sherry style – perfectly bridges the gap between winter and summer drinking. Tangy and refreshing at first taste, it has just enough smooth, almond-toned richness to feel comforting.
A quick bit of background. Centred mainly around the Andalucían town of Jerez, sherry’s deep-rooted history stretches back beyond Pepys and Shakespeare; beyond Columbus too. The key to fino’s unique taste is flor, a veil of yeast that forms on the surface of the young wine. Through the solera system of blending, young wine is used to top up casks of progressively older wine until, after several years, the oldest is considered ready to drink. It’s a slow, complicated process which makes your typical, modestly priced bottle an even more astonishing bargain.
Fino is of course a terrific apertif, especially with green olives or salted almonds. One of the things I love about it is that you can keep a bottle in the fridge and pour yourself a little nip before lunch or dinner at times when it might seem extravagant to open a bottle of wine. The other thing I love is the wise advice that, for optimal enjoyment, your opened bottle needs to be consumed within a week.
But sherry also goes brilliantly with food more substantial than nibbles. Tapas are an obvious start. “We often suggest it with bar bites,” says Erik Robson of Ely Wine Bars where seven sherries are on offer by the glass or bottle. What about main courses? Fino is as delicious with a plate of cold meats (please include good Spanish ham) as it is with a traditional fish and chips.
See how you get on with the suggestions below. It may then be time to progress up the flavour and price ladder to fashionable fino en rama, produced with the help of an ultra-thick layer of flor.
Tio Pepe Palomino Fino Extra Dry, Gonzalez Byass
Let familiarity not breed contempt. For a few extra euro, finely tuned Tio Pepe is a much better buy than any supermarket own-brand. A supremely reliable starting point – and fridge standby. Widely available, full bottle about €16.
Lustau La Ina Fino
Taken over by the highly reputable Lustau bodega in 2008, La Ina is on a roll again – citrussy, savoury and invigorating. From www.mitchellandson.com and Mitchell & Son IFSC, Glasthule and Avoca; Martins, Dublin 3; McCabes, Mount Merrion; Wine Centre, Kilkenny, full bottle €16.
Fernando De Castilla Fino
From a small bodega revitalised by Norwegian sherry nut Jan Pettersen, this is super-smooth and intensely flavoured. From www.searsons.com & Searsons, Monkstown; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Donnybrook Fair, Dublin 4; Listons, Dublin 8; Woodberrys, Galway; Bradleys, Cork, full bottle about €23.
This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this don’t miss our next issue, out Thursday April 6.
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