Be like your nan... drink more sherry!
OK, so I've got your attention - but I have to clarify. Don't be exactly like your nan - at least, not if she's got the same approach to sherry as my grandmother. I'm referring to those dull, dusty bottles, opened a few years ago and left languishing in the drinks cabinet ever since, containing wine heavily sweetened to disguise the overt lack of flavour. It's definitely best to give those a miss.
It's safe to say that sherry's identity crisis is the result of the entry-level, big-brand monopoly of the category, which has criminally overshadowed the breadth and versatility of the region's wines. I do, however, stand by the mantra 'drink more sherry', as espoused by wine writers and industry professionals around the world.
One of the fundamental misconceptions is that sherry should be consumed on its own, either pre-or-post-meal. And honestly, if you are drinking cheap, semi-sweet offerings, then that probably is the best way to consume them. Because, while I do have a sweet tooth, I find that sherry truly comes alive in the absence of sugar. Quality dry sherries, of which there are several different styles, are a different ball game altogether. Having visited a number of Bodegas in Jerez, without fail every single winemaker stated to me that, "sherry is a food wine," and samples would be accompanied by a range of nibbles that highlighted the wines' most endearing qualities.
So, what to eat with dry sherry? The following tips come directly from sherry's Consejo Regulador, making food pairing a doddle.
If it swims... Manzanilla or Fino
Fino and Manzanilla are the lightest styles of sherry, both in terms of alcohol and delicacy of aromas and flavours. Light fish and seafood dishes are an absolute treat when paired with the lean, salty tang of a Manzanilla or Fino. But if you're not a fan of fish, a bowl of olives or selection of mild cheeses such as feta or Manchego work brilliantly.
If it flies... Amontillado or Palo Cortado
Chicken, duck and pheasant are all fantastic partners to Amontillado and Palo Cortado styles. Here, the extra weight and hint of savoury nuttiness in these wines works wonders when partnered with herbed, roasted light meats. There are plenty of vegetarian options too, as these sherry styles are fantastic with mushrooms, asparagus, and artichokes.
It if runs... Oloroso
The richest and most full-bodied of the dry sherry styles, Oloroso is chock-full of dried fruit, nut and woody notes. This weighty style calls for robust flavours, allowing for roasted red meats such as beef, venison or lamb, as well as stews and casseroles. Again, if meat isn't your thing, then mature cheeses such as cave-aged Cheddar, Gruyere or Comte are an absolute dream combination.
It's true that dry sherry is not going to be for everyone, but with a bit of perseverance and the right food to accompany it, there may well be a sherry revolution yet. Until then, I'm off to my nan's (for a cup of tea).