My earliest recollection of Sherry was as a boy reading Edgar Allen Poe’s, “The Cask of Amontillado.” I immediately leaped to my feet and ran into my parents’ bedroom to ask what in fact was Sherry? After my mother’sbrief explanation, I accompanied her to the living room where from behind the bar, she produced a bottle, poured herself a glass, and began explaining the virtues of this style of wine. Mom not only let me savor the bouquet, she allowed me just the tiniest sip to wet my tongue and peak my curiosity.
I also fondly recall Sean Connery in a memorable scene in the Bond film, “Diamonds are Forever.” Bond is enjoying a glass of Sherry with Sir Donald.
“Pity about your liver, sir,” Bond directed his attention to M. “This is an unusually fine solera, ’51 I believe.”
“There is no year for Sherry, 007, M scoffed him.
“I was referring to the original vintage on which Sherry is based, sir,” Bond paused for effect. “ 1851, unmistakable.”
“Precisely,” Sir Donald called for their attention and for the briefing to begin.
By now you have no doubt surmised that I am in Spain.I am also joined by friend and fellow sommelier, Esmerelda Diaz. We are in the lovely town of Jerez in the Andalusian region of southern Spain. Jerez, along with Puerto de Santa Maria, and Sanlucar de Barrameda make up Spain’s renown “Sherry Triangle.” Lastly, the word “Sherry” is an Anglicization of Xeres (Jerez). Previously, Sherry was known as “Sack,” from the Spanish “saca,” meaning “extraction” from the Solera.
Produced almost exclusively from the white grape, Palomino Fino, Sherry is a fortified wine. Basically there are two types of Sherry, Fino and Oloroso. Fino is very dry with a lighter body. While Oloroso is also dry, however, it is richer in both flavor and body.Fino has an alcohol content of 15% while Oloroso’s alcohol content is a bit higher at 18%. Spaniards are also quite fond of the solera method of making Sherry. A solera is literally a set of barrels. The final beverage is a fractional blending of wines at different ages, hence, the reason no vintage for Sherry. Make no mistake a premium solera uses only the finest grapes to produce their memorable wines.
“Salud, Gregorio,” Esmerelda nodded that she was ready to begin.
Our table had been set in an appetizing array of “Tapas,” Spanish appetizers. There were olives, various cheeses, mussels, clams, and my particular favorite, chopitas. These battered baby squid are grilled to perfection.
“Actually, I’m relatively new to Sherry, I paused in reflection. “A couple of years ago, a friend of mine back in Pasadena, Al Meymarian, stressed the importance of the pleasure one can place on this interesting beverage.”
“There are so many styles of Sherry,” Esmerelda smiled softly. “ Shall we share a few of the sweeter styles with our readers?”
Our first selection, Hidalgo Almeda Cream Sherry is a sweet and elegant wine that is quite popular with the Spaniards. It is deep amber in color with an enticing bouquet of caramel and nuts and flavors to match. The finish is somewhat long and enjoyable. The alcohol content is on this light-bodied Sherry is 16% with a most affordable price tag of only $20.
“Vinacola Hidalgo was founded in 1792 and boasts that it is still own by the same family,” Esmerelda was quick to add.
“Six generations to be exact,” I added.
Next we sampled another fine dessert wine, Alvear Pedro Ximenez 1927. Dark amber in color, and with aromas of crème brulee, marmalade, and maple syrup, this wine is neither overly sweet tasting nor heavy. The alcohol is 16% with a price tag of $25.
Our last selection, Sandeman Armada Oloroso Cream is indeed a very fine Sherry. It has been aged for more than seven years and the final product is a very rich solera. It is dark mahogany in color with gold highlights. The nuttinesson the nose and palate make for the character of most Oloroso. This is a full-bodied and well balanced wine. The finish is smooth with a most enjoyable and velvety aftertaste. The alcohol content is 17.5% with a price tag of only $20.
“This is one that I would most definitely serve with your favorite cakes or sweet desserts,” Esmerelda playfully rubbed my arm.