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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

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.

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Andy Lynes said...

Talking of almonds, here's a recipe from Menus from an Orchard Table by Canadian chef Heidi Noble which might go nicely with your sherry (I wouldn't know as I really can't abide the stuff and I've tried the posh ones too. Nice with a beer though I reckon).

Fry a cup of peeled almonds in a tablespoon of olive oil until brown. Turn off the heat, then sprinkle over 2 teaspoons of tamari. Season with coarse sea salt an allow to cool.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008 11:34:00 am  
Anonymous Lard said...

What's not to like about Sherry?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008 12:39:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

I agree, but there a lot of people in the same camp as Andy.

Perhaps, if Andy has the time, he can fill us in on what he finds about Sherry that doesn't agree with him

Simon

Wednesday, January 09, 2008 12:51:00 pm  
Anonymous Andy Lynes said...

Its the raisiny character that I can't come to terms with for some reason. I can't put it down to anything in particular, but I have the same reaction to all the fortified wines I've tried, including Port. My failing I know!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008 1:37:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

That's not a failing, Andy. A lot of peole associate sherry with that "raisiny" taste and I can see why those sherries made with PX or the more oxidised of the Palomino ones like Oloroso may not suit.

However, Fino and Manzanilla have none of this. They are bone dry crisp wines that can be drunk almost like you would a Sauv Blanc.

Try one from Sainsbury's etc for a few quid and you will be astonished how different they are

Simon

Wednesday, January 09, 2008 1:46:00 pm  
Anonymous Andy Lynes said...

I'm pretty sure I've had Manzanilla and didn't get on with it, but I will give it another try and let you know my thoughts.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008 2:01:00 pm  
Blogger Mikespike said...

Great article. I'm a colleague of Andrew Sinclair. Just to point out that Palo Cortado is not a variety of grapes but a sherry type, that, at the beginning of its ageing, is appointed to Oloroso, but at the end it develops in a different way due absolutely to natural agents.

Thursday, January 10, 2008 1:15:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Thanks Mike

My mistake. Is the Apostoles made from PX?

Simon

Thursday, January 10, 2008 7:05:00 am  
Anonymous Frank Bravo said...

Finalmente, somebody else raises his voice for the good old sherry and even mentions Manzanilla. You're bloody right: Sherry as a fortified wine is unfortunately too often filed under "spirits". Outside Andalucia nobody seems to realize that Manzanilla and Fino are great table wines, maybe except for some 80 year olds who can remember the combination with mockturtle soup from the good old times. Especially Manzanilla with it's salty note is a perfect companion for mariscos.

Check out another aficionados lament: http://www.pistoynopisto.com/index.php/mi_particular_oda_al_vino_de_jerez (spanish).

I'm afraid in today's global wine market, "image" and "branding" are more important than quality. And Sherry is definitely not "hip" nowadays. Personally I don't mind one of my favourite wines being perceived as schoolmarmish by people who think Chardonnay is a wine growing area in California. However the misery you're lamenting is all the same here in Germany. "Tapas" are de rigeur all around (and mostly horrible), a lot of people are again mistaking a grape for a region when trying to find Tempranillo on the map, but most people don't even associate Sherry with Spain.

I've been served a ridiculous tiny glass of luke-warm Oloroso when I ordered "dry Sherry" in what claims to be one of Hamburg's best "Tapas-Bars". Shame on them!

By the way: Don't allow these greedy bastards from "Lang und Kurz" to fool you. Nobody eats curry-wurst with Sauerkaut in Germany. "Broetchen" (roll/bun) or chips are the common side orders.

One last remark: The Wurst-stalls in Vienna deserve to be tested. Quite different from the Berlin variety.

Best

Frank Bravo from Frankfurt, Germany

Saturday, January 12, 2008 11:25:00 pm  

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