Wine: It's time to give sherry another try with food

International Sherry Week is just gone for another year and given how much wonderfully complex sherry I consumed, I’m going to try to convince you once again to explore this great drink as a food wine.

Wine: It's time to give sherry another try with food

A highlight of the week was an evening spent in the company of the hugely knowledgable sherry educator Paddy Murphy (Twitter: @VineInspiration).

We did a bit of a restaurant crawl trying food and sherry matches from salt cod with Lustau Fino (Ely Wine Bar) to autumn consommé with burnt onions and pumpkin with 40 year old ‘Quo Vadis’ Solera Amontillado from Delgado Zuleta (in Luna restaurant).

The Quo Vadis is available in Black Pig Wines, Donnybrook, (€60) and is unusual as the Solera began in the 1970s with new oak (normally sherry is aged in old oak).

The new oak gives an interesting tannic structure to the wine, making it taste drier and emphasising the almond character that worked well with the autumn flavours in the consommé.

Perhaps the best match on the night was Peter Clifford’s (Stanleys) pairing of chicken liver parfait (apple and walnut garnish) with the aromatic and complex Equipo Navazos Bota 34 Palo Cortado.

The dry nutty sherry cut through the fat and the walnut and apple touches sparked of the fruits in the wine, it was as if the food and drink became one.

Equipo Navazos was founded by amateur sherry fanatics at Grenada University.

They seek extraordinary single barrels or groups of barrels and bottle them as they are, unfiltered, to ensure maximum flavour.

I’ve cheated a little this week with the prices as some of the wine recommendations under €15 are in half bottles.

However, sometimes a half-bottle of sherry is all that is required given its higher alcohol content and intensity of flavour.

Sweet sherry can cope with any dessert and dry Fino matches like any white wine while dry Amontillado can take on everything from venison to veggie burgers.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Lustau Fino “Jarana”, Jerez, Spain, 375ml — €12.99

Stockists: Bradleys Cork, O’Briens, McCambridges, Cases, Wine Centre Kilkenny, Mitchells — mitchellandson.com

Originally founded in 1896 by a court clerk and later taken over by his son-in-law Emilio Lustau, this brand has been a benchmark for quality for a number of years.

This Fino is rich and aromatic with distinct brioche and chamomile aromas, a supple rich texture and a salt-tinged dry finish.

Lustau Los Arcos Amontillado, Jerez, Spain, 375ml — €13.49

Stockists: Bradleys Cork, O’Briens, McCambridges, Cases, Wine Centre Kilkenny, Mitchells — www.mitchellandson.com 

Amontillado is an aged fino so it was interesting to compare these two wines from the same house. The Amontillado has lost much of the fino pungency and become nutty, aromatic and savoury but a little dry fino salty character remains on the finish. Try with some mushroom risotto.

Hidalgo Fino, Jerez, Spain, 750ml — €13.99-14.99

Stockists: Vintry, Corkscrew, Drinkstore.ie, Celtic Whiskey Shop www.celticwhiskeyshop.com

A family owned winery (founded 1874) and probably the best value fino on the market.

Bright aromas of brioche, preserved lemons and almonds, bone-dry complex palate with lingering citrus hints on the finish. Try with some fried crispy whitebait.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

La Gitana Manzanilla, Sanlúcar, Spain —€16.99

Stockists: Independents, Terroirs, Cheers Bray, On The Grapevine Dalkey, Wine Case Clare

Manzanilla comes from the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and has a different character to Fino from Jerez.

Some find it saltier and others find more fragrance, and certainly this leaves many a fino in the shade thanks to its mix of salty freshness and textural richness, despite the dry character.

Equipo Navazos La Bota Amontillado 37, Sanlúcar, Spain — €53.99

Stockist: Celtic Whiskey Shop www.celticwhiskeyshop.ie

Yes, this is expensive, but to be honest I’d pay twice this price for such amazing quality.

A tiny sip will linger on the palate for 15 minutes such is the complexity.

Sourced from Bodega Hijos de Rainera Pérez Marín — huge aromas of nuts and dried fruit, lingering complex constantly evolving flavours, has to be tasted to be believed.

Try with rich game birds.

Lustau East India Solera, Jerez, Spain — €29.99

Stockists: Vintry, Corkscrew, Drinkstore.ie, Celtic Whiskey Shop www.celticwhiskeyshop.com

Mention Sherry and most Irish people think (negatively) of sweet cream sherry.

However, if you take a fine PX Sherry from dried grapes and blend with a complex dry Oloroso, you get a rich, complex sweet wine that retains its acidity as here — nutty sweet figs, viscous complex raisins and dates. Try with Tiramisu.

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