SHERRY O, SHERRY O BABY
Sherry is, arguably, the most misunderstood drink of all.
For many people, it conjours up images of Harvey’s Bristol Cream which their nan kept on the sideboard and only ever reached for at Christmas or if the vicar came around for tea.
Nowadays, on the rare occasions you do see it on a restaurant menu, it is served at the incorrect temperature and charged for as if it is a spirit not a wine.
For DH, however, sherry has become part of the fabric of our life. Not least because of our obsession with all things Spanish, but also because, within the range of wines that make up the sherry family, you can find something to compliment just about every food from fresh seafood to dark puddings. Sherry is one of those drinks that works all the year round from a crisp, dry Fino in Spring, to a salty Manzanilla in Summer and rich, dark PX’s in Winter. It is, to put it simply, fantastic stuff and, while perfect for Spanish food, it works well with just about anything else we cook too.
So, a few weeks ago, when I was having lunch with my new chum Andrew from Gonzalez Byass and he mentioned that he had never eaten at Hawksmoor, my eyes lit up and I suggested a deal. DH would help him pop his Hawksmoor cherry if he promised to bring along a few bottles from the range to let us try them with a food that many would consider as far to the other end of the spectrum as possible.
Sucker bought into it and, yesterday, turned up at London’s finest steak restaurant, laden down with bottles, to await DH’s arrival, which came a few minutes later as we spluttered in from the rain sodden streets.
Well, I am not going to say too much about the meal. It was of course, top notch with meaty ribs followed by three excellent cuts of rump, rib eye and sirloin joined by triple cooked chips. But, the sherries were a revelation.
Getting progressively darker, the wines we tried worked incredibly well with the food. Tio Pepe fino is probably the best known outside the “Bristol Cream” circles and there is a reason, it is a very well made wine. Bone dry and, surprisingly, perfect with the ribs.
Following that, Oloroso, Amontillado, and a gorgeous Apostoles which is made from Palo Cortado grapes rather than Palomino. Sweet, but not overly so, it is just a beautifully well balanced wine that would be interesting to sip with spicier food.
Finally, most interesting of all, one of the most rare dessert wines of the lot, A Noe PX which is given a tiny release every year. It is intense stuff as the taste of roasted almonds and cream comes through the initial sweetness. Andrew suggested it with Vanilla ice cream and recommends, as they do in Spain, pouring it over the top.
At the end of our meal we set the guys at Hawksmoor a challenge to come up with cocktails based on two of the sherries. Myles, one of the great mixers there, took away the Apostoles and the Noe and came back a few moments later with two Manhattans where the sherry had been used in place of sweet vermouth.
To our surprise, the worked incredibly well with the sherry taste coming through the hit of bourbon. I could get rather too used to these.
In his role of developing the image of Sherry, Andrew was heading off to Café Spice Namaste to help plan an Indian supper, where sherries would be the accompanying wines throughout the meal. Now, that’s one I would love to attend if I was not going to be on the road.
So, yes, this is a little ‘puff” piece about sherry but, I hope it makes anyone who reads it want to go out and buy and try some. Sherry is incredibly under priced right now and Sainsbury’s, Tesco and even M&S sell very decent examples for about £6 a bottle. It is a steal, particularly when you compare it to the anti freeze wine you could buy for the same price.
If you have never tried it, go and buy a bottle, warm through some almonds in the oven, sprinkle with a little salt and serve with a chilled glass of crisp, dry as a bone, Fino. You will never think of sherry in quite the same way again. I promise.