An ode to sherry (part one)

Much of my life is completely normal. Spinster Aunt of two. Self confessed shoe addict. Arachnophobe. What makes me really special is my unshakable love of sherry. Yes. I’m a sherry fanatic. There. I said it. I’m not at all sure how it started. Recently I have been asking myself, ‘Where did it all go right?’ Drinking sherry is the most fabulous pastime. I won’t have a word said against it.

You can ignore its innate qualities (oodles of history and culture, fantastic flavour, super versatility, outrageous affordability…). You cannot get it wrong. Sherry = effortless pleasure. I really mean it. One never jokes about such things. When life is a constant stream of chaos and questions (Is a hat OTT for a trip to the corner shop?) the last thing you need is endless complications in your drinks cabinet. Relax, My Darlings, and slip into a small (or large) Sherry.

The Capsule Approach to Sherry

Begin immediately. You’ll need three bottles to get you started: a white; a brown; and a sweet. Most places fabulous enough to sell sherry will be equipped to cover all bases, so just the one trip and you’ve nailed it.

Start off with a fino or a manzanilla. These are the almost colourless ones that you serve chilled, pre-dinner, with a nibble or two. Don’t worry about fixing up anything fancy. Cheesy footballs and onion rings work perfectly well. These styles of sherry are the most delicate and have been aged under a blanket of yeast called flor, which protects the wine from oxygen. As a result, fino and manzanila will begin to oxidize once opened. Fear not. Exactly the same thing happens to apples when you bite them, but thankfully this process takes a lot longer. Best to consume your open fino/manzanilla within three weeks of opening, however. Freshness is the key and the frightfully helpful folk in Jerez have taken much of the pressure off by producing these styles in handy handbag size bottles. Super.

Moving over to the brown stuff, there are many to choose from but the relevant terms here are amontillado and oloroso. I consider these best served with or after dinner, but don’t restrict yourself to these times if fino wasn’t your thing. As the colour suggests, these wines have been exposed to air and the oxidation both produces a wonderful nutty perfume and leaves the sherry free from the restrictions of fino. Take as long as you like with these wines. There’ll be lots to chose from but Seco/Dry Dulce /Sweet will be on the label somewhere. Don’t panic, though, it’s ALL delicious. Good matches include game, North African and Indian cuisine, and cheeseboards, while a sweet oloroso goes down a storm with chocolate. You’re really running with it now. Go you! You will be rewarded with a glimpse of The Joy of PX. Pedro Ximenez, or PX, is the grape variety used to make this unctuous raisiny naughtiness.

Whilst I have chums who are quite the devil for it I find the richness of Pedro Ximenez rather too much as a drink. I get around this by lavishing it over scoops of pristine vanilla ice cream. Heaven. Next time you’re looking to slip into something more comfortable, I urge you to try it. Pick the size and price tag that suit you and away you go. If dreams came true, I could take you all with me to the festival in Jerez, home of sherry. Sorry kids. No can do. Instead I will bring the sherry party to Cambridge. Hoorah! Beginners’ tastings to masterclasses, traditional tapas, sherry cocktails, giant paella, and the ancient art of sherry wanging.

So your capsule sherry cabinet (cough, your fridge) looks like this

Fino/manzanilla: The white one. Dry. Serve super chilled at lunch or pre-dinner to excite and revive tired tastebuds. Amontillado/oloroso: The brown one. Fragrant and nutty. Serve with North African, Indian, cheese or chocolate. PX: The super sweet one. Pour it on ice cream. Pour it on yourself.