We haven’t come across many Seattleites who are really into sherry. We agree that it tends towards the esoteric, but you don’t have to turn into a sherry nut to have a general idea of what sherry’s all about and you certainly don’t have to know a darn thing about it to enjoy sipping a little glass of it, whether that be before your meal as a little dry aperitif or after your meal with dessert.
On November 20, we hosted a tasting with the San Francisco Wine Exchange’s local sherry expert, Brian Patterson (he’s also their Northwest Division Manager) and he gave me a very helpful little overview of sherry which was done in such a charming way that it a) stuck with me and b) I was itching to try the stuff with the pairings he suggested. Thus, I decided that you might feel the same way:
All sherry starts out dry and then it’s fortified, with all resulting types of sherry falling into one of two categories: fino (lighter, drier sherries) & olorosos (which are a varying range of dry to extremely sweet sherries). There is a third category of very sweet Sherries that are produced from the Pedro Ximenez grape that has been allowed to dry into raisins. Our tasting featured 1 oloroso and 2 Pedro Ximenez’s:
Gonzalez Byass NV Dry Oloroso Alfonso ($21 | Case $16.80) was dry and nutty, a more versatile oloroso in that it could easily be paired with savory, autumnal flavors. Brian said that traditional pairings would be sliced ham, manchego with quince, lots of little fried tapas such as a ham & cheese croquette or boquerones … “the Spanish are master fryers”. Brian suggested that another nice NW pairing would be a mushroom dish such as braised barley with chanterelles, smoked salmon as well as various cured meats, and game dishes such as venison, pheasant, wild boar and foie gras. Serve this sherry room temperature.
Gonzalez Byass NV Pedro Ximenez Nectar ($21 | Case $16.80) was 100% PX and was young (aged 7 years in barrels). It has simple, sweet flavors of maple, dates & earth and would be a delicious dessert accompaniment to an uncomplicated, simple dish such as vanilla ice cream, short bread or flan.
Gonzalez Byass NV VORS Noe ($51 | Case $40.80) Brian explained that sherry is non-vintage because it’s aged in a solera, which is a process whereby the sherry is moved through the newest to the oldest barrels in a collection, potentially gaining contact (the longer it’s aged) with remnants of sherry as old as the estate. The VORS designation indicates that a sherry has been aged a minimum of 30 years. This beautiful drink is a lovely, slow sipper, where layers of chocolate, nuts, coffee, molasses, prunes and more unfold as you enjoy.
We’re considering having Brian back next year to do a sherry class in our back room, so please let us know if you’d be interested in joining.