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SHERRY can be SUPRISING and SUPREME ‘UNCTIOUS as well - it is UNIQUE

Do you still think of Sherry as very ‘then’, and the drink that went out of fashion in the ’90’s? Please pardon me, but ‘How Wrong you Are’. 

Seriously folks whilst it may seem arrogant of me to tell you, BUT your opinion is wrong. Sherry is a unique drink that many have tried to copy but never quite succeeded. They have never captured that height of elegance or sophistication, that unique flavour or finesse. Oh yes, many have tried and good ‘look- a-likes’ they have been but really never hit the mark! 

The Sherry Region in Andalucía, in southern Spain has been making wine since time immemorial, way back to 1000BC and its history has been chequered to say the least. It was famous in the 19th Century but it was between 1944 and 1980 it was at its height. Its fall from grace was inevitable but there is a definite growing of interest again. 

Sherry was granted its own DO Region in 1935 with the loose triangle between Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa Maria being its boundaries. In the mid-1990’s the E U forbid the use of the name ‘sherry’ for any other wine sold within its market. 

Its unique style come from the way the wines are matured, a system called a Solera System which is widely copied by others making wines that need a constant and ongoing maturation method. Think of this as a ‘system of fractional blending’ where there are a number of barrels [known as Butts] and a portion of wine is taken from the oldest barrel which is then filled from the barrel before it and so on until you are filling the last one with wine from the current year. They will only withdraw a maximum of 33% per year and so the style of the wine is kept constant as each mixes with the other as it matures. 

Three grape varieties are allowed, Palomino, Muscat of Alexandria and the famous Pedro Ximénez [known as ’PX for simplicity]. The grapes are harvested when the required sugar content has been reached – usually early September – and the primary wines made in the classical and typical way. 

From here it is that Sherry starts its unique journey. The basic wines are classified by the skill of the winemaker who will decide if they are going to be ‘Fino or Oloroso and they are then fortified with a simple brandy. From a base of 11 or 12% Fino will be increased to 15.5% whereas Oloroso will be taken up to at least 18%. Fino will be taken to a suitable Bodega such as Sanlucar or Jerez, and in a short time a yeast known as FLOR will grow over its surface. This keeps out the oxygen and stops the wine oxidising but those without flor will naturally age and take on that nutty biscuity taste with a gentle golden colour. However fino must stay bright and fresh and in some cases is lighter and lower in alcohol and becomes what we know as Manzanilla. A delightfully dry, fresh, aromatic wine that compliments Tapas to perfection. 

However I must tell you about a real favourite, PX can be called ‘Christmas Pudding in a Glass’ as it is almost black and smells of dates, raisins, candid peel, nuts and oh, so much more. Its texture is thick and will line your glass with a dark layer that will ‘entrap’ you in its unctuous enticement. Here is a quite fab way to serve PX

Take a handful for each person of really good raisins and put into an earthenware dish.
Pour enough PX to almost cover them and cover the dish but not with cling film. Leave overnight if possible. 

Take very good Vanilla ice-Cream, serve for each person then spoon the raisins over the top with a little ‘juice’.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Heaven and all so very easy!! 

There is much more to tell but go on, buy some and try for yourself. But do remember to drink responsibly.
Best wishes All – Andrew [andrewh@georgehill.co.uk

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