Enjoy this lovely reflection on Sherry by Angela Crowley; a graduate from Level 2.
I’m delighted to share a piece for the new Hinsdale Wine Academy blog! My husband and I recently finished level 2 and had a blast. We really miss our weekly meetings with great wine and conversations. Lorenzo asked me to share a bit about one of my favorite drinks, sherry.
Is sherry just for cooking and little old ladies? If you have lived your life believing that to be the case, hopefully, I can convince you otherwise. One of my favorite restaurants in the world was a tapas place in New Zealand that is, sadly, now closed. The first time I was there, I tried a glass of sherry and was hooked. I had been reading a book series at the time about a lady who enjoyed some now and then, so I wanted to see what it was all about. The dry, smoky, floral and almond flavors went perfectly with the ambience of the restaurant, the cheese board and smoked almonds. So, for me, it’s like many wines can be, reminding you of a time and place you can never really replicate. Over the years, I have come to love and appreciate all types of sherry and the complex way it is made. So last month during our trip to Spain, I had to go and check out the process for myself.
All Sherry is aged in an area in the Andalusia region of Spain called the sherry triangle, which is formed by the cities of Jerez, Sanlucar de Barrameda, and Puerto de Santa Maria. Andalusia is the home of flamenco and bullfighting, with beautiful white-washed cities throughout. Some of the highlights of our trip to this area included visiting Seville and Granada, where we toured the beautiful Alhambra. Obviously, a drink from this region of the world must be full of character. For our sherry tour, we drove to the Sherry Triangle, and stopped at Jerez, which isn’t much of a town at first glance. In fact, we were told not to leave our luggage in the car during the tour! Our time was limited, so we could only do one tour. We chose to visit Bodega Tradicion, which is a relatively new sherry bodega, however it is run by a family that has been involved with sherry production for generations, and had access to extremely old sherry barrels, which is critical. The inside of the bodega was beautiful, and my pictures do not do it justice. There was something magical about all the barrels, which are always dark black, stacked up containing sherry from decades. The barrels are quite old, and therefore can occasionally break down. The black color of the barrels allows small leaks to be easily identified and then are fixed using equally old barrel pieces kept for this purpose. Sherry is grown in a solera system in which barrels are stacked on top of each other and over time, up to 1/3 of the liquid inside each is mixed in with the liquid in the barrel below it. This ensures that the final bottles contain sherry that is decades if not over a hundred years old.
During our tour, I learned that sherry should not only be saved for appetizers or desserts. There is a sherry to pair with any part of a meal and it should be served in regular wine glasses, not the small ones that are often used for dessert wine. Just be careful of the alcohol content (around 15-22%)! From the lighter Fino to the heavier Oloroso and the sweet Pedro Ximenez, sherry covers a wide range of flavors and experiences, each worth a try. My favorite tends to be Amontillado and now also a less common one I tried for the first time in Jerez called Palo Cortado...the Palo Cortado made at the bodega we visited averages 32 years of age! One of the things that gives sherry a unique flavor is the flor, which is a thick layer of yeast that covers some types of sherry in the barrels, preventing oxidation as it grows. I was very disappointed that our tour did not include an opportunity to check out the flor inside any of the barrels. I guess it’s a good reason to make another trip someday! So, if you haven't yet tried sherry, I certainly think it’s worth trying...and if you have and it wasn't your cup of tea, try a different kind!
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Lorenzo, the wine guy
Friends, food, and wine...I'm happy there.