The Sherry Conundrum

POSTED ON 22/03/2014

Is sherry growing in popularity or is the much-vaunted sherry revolution a myth? This was the subject of a lively debate on Twitter recently after one journalist tweeted he was appearing on radio to talk about the growing popularity of sherry and another (ok, me) reluctantly questioned the assumption.

Antonio FloresAntonio Flores

On the face of it, the stats are depressing. Sherry sales fell by nine per cent in the UK last year and by eight per cent worldwide. Those of us who trumpet the virtues of the refreshingly dry styles beloved of the Spanish have to face the fact that here in the UK, the vicar’s legacy of pale cream, medium and cream sherries outstrip sales of fino and manzanilla by six to one. No wonder we’re ambivalent about one of the world’s great-value drinks.

There’s encouragement though for those of us whose mouths start watering at the prospect of a lipsmackingly dry fino or manzanilla. Responding to the Twitter debate, both Waitrose and The Wine Society tweeted that their sherry sales were up over the past year. What’s more, the proliferation of Spanish tapas bars in London and throughout the UK is encouraging the drinking of sherry’s most refreshing styles with a broad range of tapas.

The more forward looking bodegas of Jerez have responded to the decline by innovating with a modern twist based on traditional recipes. En rama, for instance, a dry style bottled from cask without filtration to retain vitality and freshness, has caught on big time. At the forefront of this innovation, the prestigious firm of González Byass which launched its new Palmas fino range here two years ago, has expanded its new sherry range.

The 1978The 1978

Most recently, González Byass released an extraordinary, limited edition range of rare vintage sherries. My near-namesake, Antonio Flores, came to London last month to introduce six extraordinary vintage sherries from 1994 – 1967, on sale at Selfridges, and at the Connaught by the glass. The 1994 Palo Cortado, £155, was the youngest, a wonderfully violet-like fragrant sherry with an intense toffee richness turning to dried apricot and orange before finishing nuttily dry. The start turn was the great 1978 Palo Cortado, £199, an unbelievably complex sherry of haunting fragrance, violets and spices mingling with a lissome caramel nuttiness.

Obviously at prices like this, these fabulous wines are rare treats for the well-to-do aficionado. If you want to see how undervalued sherry actually is though, try drinking the iodine and refreshingly bone dry Sánchez Romate Bella Luna Fino, around £5.95, half, Great Western Wine, Bottle Apostle, Whalley Wine; the smoky, richly sweet-savoury, dry Fernando de Castilla en rama, around £9.99, half, Woodwinters, D.Byrne, Noel Young Wines, Corks of Cotham; or the toffeed and dried apricot-rich, mineral dry Pedro’s Almacenista Selection Palo Cortado, £14.99, Majestic.

Selfridges' Dawn DaviesSelfridges' Dawn Davies

Something For the Weekend 22 March 2014

Night In

2012 Sogrape Casa Ferreirinha Planalto, Douro

A bright, floral Portuguese dry white blend with lively Spring-in-its step appley fruit that’s so appetisingly refreshing with zesty dry bite, it makes your mouth water as you raise glass to lip. £7.99, buy 2 bottles = £6.39, Majestic.

Dinner Party

2012 Louis Latour Macon Viré-Clessé.

Honeyed ripeness on this stylish white Burgundy from the Mâconnais turns to a restrained peaches and cream richness with more honey on the finish, making it the perfect foil for pan-fried salmon. £14.57 - £15.66, Spirited Wines shops; Windermere Wine.

Splash Out

Taittinger Brut Réserve Champagne NV

One-third chardonnay from earlier vintages brings richness and complexity to an engagingly delicate style whose floral aromas and elegant rich apple-sweet fruit dissolve into a fine-textured mousse with crisp, lively dry tang. £26.99- £27.95, down from £36.99, Waitrose, Jeroboams.

Something for The WeekendSomething for The Weekend


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