Will sherry's 'comeback' ever actually happen?

Vintage Spanish Poster
 

From rolling around Sir Francis Drake’s hull, to gathering kitchen grease on top of your nan’s fridge, the plight of sherry has had its highs and its lows. Then every January, as reliable as gym membership renewal, it creeps back into the coming year’s drinks trend predictions. 

 

Wine trade folks have been predicting sherry’s renaissance for years. And they’d love for it to be true, because the wine trade LOVES sherry. But no one else really seems to care.

People have tried to make it more approachable by making it into cocktails or mixing it with tonic (guilty, ed.), but then surely that isn’t the point. The reason we love sherry is for its own unique combination of complex, tangy flavours and that salty reminder of its origins on the Andalucian Atlantic coast. Then there’s its creation in the solera system, which means that even a modestly-priced bottle of sherry could contain a proportion of wine as old as 100 years or more. Amazing. Like drinking history.

So why don’t the general wine-drinking public share our enthusiasm for this incredible wine? 

Jamie Avenell, buyer for Spain at Bibendum, admits it took him some time to ‘get’ sherry. “For a long time I wasn’t like most people within the wine trade. I didn’t really have an awful lot of time for sherry,” he confesses, “I’m a convert now, but it took a period of conversion.” And therein lies the problem. “It takes a desire to ‘get’ sherry,” thinks Jamie, “some experimentation of different styles and trying it with the right food, for you to really fall in love with it.” And why would you bother, if you know your favourite Sauvignon Blanc or Picpoul will do the job…?

This being the case, it seems unlikely that sherry will hit the mass market any time soon. But where there is growth and opportunity, is among the already-curious. “The growth in sherry is coming from the premium end,” says Jamie, “because at this end you are dealing with outlets that are equipped to take their customers on this journey of discovery and food matches; where you have consumers who want to ‘get’ it. Or at least to try to.”

All about the food matching

So how can you begin to convert these already-curious wine drinkers? “You won’t convert many new customers to sherry by just offering it by the glass,” thinks Jamie, “it’s all about food. And not just stopping at sherry and tapas. For me, experimenting with sherry and food matches was key to my sherry conversion. By offering interesting food pairings, a new generation of sherry converts can be found."

Understanding Sherry

What puts many people off is how complex sherry appears to be. You need to understand the different styles to know if you’re getting sweet or dry, oxidised or fresh. And then there’s the whole solera thing… So here’s an easy guide to the dry styles of sherry and a link to our infographic on how sherry is made.

Sherry Types

Three sherry producers we love:

La Guita

Founded in 1852 in Sanlucar de Barrameda, La Guita is not only the best-selling Manzanilla in Spain, but the best-selling sherry full stop – and brand new to our expanding range.

Manzanilla is a type of fino that can only be aged in Sanlucar de Barrameda DO, where the area’s cool temperatures and high humidity contribute to a higher yield of flor yeast than either Jerez or El Puerto de Santa María (the other two points of the Sherry Triangle). The thicker cap of flor that these conditions promote gives the wine added protection from the air, resulting in a fresher, more delicate flavour than other varieties of fino. To maximise this freshness, La Guita is bottled on demand (on average five to six times a year) and labelled with a bottling date, so you know you are enjoying it at its very freshest.

The grapes themselves are grown exclusively in Pago de Miraflores, the ‘grand cru’ for Manzanillas. These vineyards are located around the town of Sanlucar and are characterised by Albariza soils, which lend a mineral character to La Guita Manzanilla.

Alvear

The wines of Bodegas Alvear aren’t technically ‘sherry’, although they look and taste a lot like sherry, and are as good as any sherry we have tasted. They are from Montilla, which is a two and a half hour drive north-east of Jerez.

Warmer and further inland, Montilla is Pedro Ximenez country and the grape is used for both dry and sweet wines. The sweet wines are the most famous; thick, sticky, treacle-like wines that coat your lips. Alvear’s Solera 1927 (which contains wine from before the Wall Street Crash) tastes like all your Christmases have arrived at once.

The real surprise, however, is the C.B. Fino which is made under the same flor yeast you find in Jerez. The big difference between the C.B. and a classic fino is due to the warmer climate in Montilla, which means the flor is thinner and its flavour less marked in the finished wine. The climate also means that the wine does not need to be fortified to reach the magic 15% abv. The result is an extraordinary wine; unmistakeably fino but unlike anything else on the market.

La Ina

When the Moors confronted Don Rodrigo’s troops on the Andalucian coast in the 8th Century, they attacked with the war cry - a’hina! And it’s this word that gave its name to the spot where the battle took place: Los Llanos de La Ina.

Fast forward a few centuries to the early 1900s, and a popular past time of the area was to hunt hares on horseback. Thirsty hunters would be served a refreshing local sherry after the hunt, which became known as Fino La Ina.

In 2008 La Ina was acquired by renowned sherry producer Lustau, which set about reviving one of the area’s most iconic brands.

La Ina’s fino is still made in the original solera, founded in 1919, and is aged for five years in American oak casks. It is known for its rich flor characteristics of almonds and yeast along with a refreshing apply tang and long, mineral finish.

Find out more about International Sherry Week

Contact us for more information about our range of sherries or ask your Account Manager to try any of the wines mentioned above.

Date:
30th August 2017


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