Mmmm Sherry: banish all notions of a sweet, warming drink that only comes out at Christmas. It’s 80 degrees outside as I write – perfect for a glass of chilled Manzanilla, a bowl of almonds, a few olives and a lounge about under a tree somewhere.
Sherry is gaining in popularity here and the last few years have seen the opening of a number of specialist sherry bars and an increased focus on these wonderful wines in restaurants. Although this much underrated beverage will never get back to the export volumes of its late 1970s heyday – 200 million bottles were exported in 1979 – this is no bad thing. Then, the world was awash with poor quality sherry and the industry faced crisis. Not so now: the picture is much rosier, the quality much higher and the industry much more confident.
To call itself sherry it must be grown and aged in the “sherry triangle”: an appellation in Cádiz province in Andalucia, bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the rivers Guadalquivir and Guadelete, and the towns of Sanlúcar de Barameda, El Puerto de Santa María and Jerez de la Frontera. It is made by a unique process – the Solera method – which involves aging and continually refreshing the older barrels in the system with younger wines to produce a consistent product from one year to the next.
Sherry represents fantastic value for money – some wines have an average age in excess of 30 years – there are not many 30+ year old wines that you can buy for £30.
Styles range from the palest bone dry, fresh, herby, almond, and saline Fino and Manzanilla, through spicy, nutty, dried fruit and caramel Palo Cortado, Amontillado and Oloroso to unctuous, figgy, chocolatey Pedro Ximénez .
Lustau Manzanilla Papirusa 37.5cl £8.70
Pale straw colour, with a hint of the sea breeze on the nose and the palate. It is the perfect dry aperitif and an ideal match for fish and seafood almonds and aged manchego.
Dry and nutty, rich and spicy. A great sherry for nuts and other nibbles.
Dry and aromatic with walnut, spices and orange peel notes and a wonderfully long spicy nutty finish. A very old sherry of limited production. It comes in a very attractive tin too…
A sweeter style: complex flavours of raisins, nuts, crystallized orange and candied peel. Ideal with rich cakes and blue cheeses.
Prohibition Wines, 34 Fortis Green Road, London N10 3HN – 020 8444 4804