Wines of Worth: Sherry + Food

WINES OF WORTH: SHERRY + FOOD

 

I was thinking about this week’s topic, as I so often do, over a late night drink. In my glass? Palo Cortado Sherry. On my plate? Salty Grana Padano. On my face? Giant smile of content.

So here we have it – a sherry and food pairing primer. Now – I love sherry. I’ve written about this wine (yes – it’s a wine) numerous times and head’s up – I’ll write on it some more. But I’ve never written in detail about pairing sherry with food.  Most people are terrified by sherry – mortified by fortified wines in general (yes – it’s fortified). Needlessly, obviously, but it helps to know how to serve this ancient and intense wine. Numerous styles and a wide range of flavours can trip people up. I’ve put together a few simple guidelines below for enjoying sherries on your daily table. Since it is the holidays, there are sure to be a few extra bottles on the entertaining circuit – be prepared. Or better yet, be adventurous and bring one to your next party – along with these pairing suggestions.

 

FINO

Bone dry and light, with sharp delicate aromas of almond, fresh bread and wild herbs. Fino is produced without the presence of oxygen, blanketed by a protective layer of yeast called flor.

PAIRING: This is the salty Spanish ideal for every pinxtos, or tapa, it is widely appreciated with the quintessentially Andalusian cured meats and Iberico pork products, and fares very well with fish and shellfish. I love a chilled glass of fino with fresh cracked walnuts.

 

MANZANILLA

Similar to Fino, but is produced exclusively in the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and picks up distinctive saline and saltiness from the marine environment.

PAIRING: Seaside Manzanilla is the ideal partner for fish and shellfish – sardines in particular. As is the case with Fino, it also makes an excellent mate for cured meats.

 

AMONTILLADO and PALO CORTADO

Amontillado is the ambidextrous one in the bunch – a highly distinctive and earthy wine combining the anaerobic effects of flor (as in Fino and Manzanilla), with a later oxidative style (like Oloroso). Palo Cortado is similar, but has less time under flor making for a fuller bodied wine.

PAIRING: Due to its multifaceted aging process, these wines can multitask extremely well with numerous dishes. Poultry is devine (especially quail), or try with smoked fish, aged sharp cheeses or tuna. Their earthiness also particularly likens them to mushroom and nut dishes, like mushroom risotto or chestnut soup.

 

OLOROSO

Dry, structured wine made in the presence of oxygen and prime for maturing – the longer the aging period, the darker in hue and greater in complexity it becomes (oloroso means scented). Characteristic dried fruit, tobacco leaves, leather and toasted hazelnuts.

PAIRING: Break out the scented olorosos with the main course: thick pork chops are heavenly, though will suit any game meat. For afters, pair with mature cheese.

 

PALE CREAM

Sweetened finos. Slightly biscuity, with a lighter body and medium sweet palate.

PAIRING: These are beauty as an aperitif or with brunch, chilled right down. Try with fresh tropical fruit (hello mango) or delight with foie gras.

 

CREAM

These are sweetened amontillados or olorosos (as of April 12, 2012, Rich Oloroso, Sweet Oloroso and Oloroso Dulce were formally banned by the Andalusia government, and forced to re-label as Cream Sherry).  Rich, full bodied, round, smooth and caramel sweet. You may have heard of Harveys Bristol Cream?

PAIRING: Of course you can pair with pastries, cakes and fresh fruit flan, but why not go crazy and pair with glazed ham. For starters, try chilled with soft, creamy cheeses and nuts. The cool kids are serving this on the rocks with a slice of orange.

 

PEDRO XIMENEZ

PX, as it’s affectionately called, can lay claim to being one of the wines (some swear THE only) to pair with ice cream. This unique wine is made from sundried grapes, resulting in a concentrated, luxuriantly rich and velvety specialty with dark caramel, dried figs and sultry spices. Very sweet.

PAIRING: The ice cream thing actually works – especially if you go REAL vanilla bean flecked, with fresh cracked black pepper, and drizzle PX over the top. You can also break out the most potent blue cheeses or dark chocolate here – the bitterness can temper some of the intense sweetness of the wine.

 

And if you remember nothing else, keep in mind these wise wine pairing words imparted to me by fellow Sherry enthusiast Kurtis Kolt:

If it swims drink Fino

If it flies drink Amontillado

If it runs drink Oloroso

 

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade. In addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for WineAlign, ...

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