Sherry: The Other Wine for the Holidays

That wonderful group The Secret Sherry Society keeps me informed about the wide world of sherry, and most of this column emanates from their dispatches. In truth, you cannot go wrong with bringing a bottle of sherry as either a holiday gift, or having one handy to share in upcoming months.

“Sherry is full of vitality and complex flavors. It brings our favorite foods to life and reminds us why people have been drinking wine for hundreds of years. It may be an historic wine, but in the United States, Sherry is new again. Sherry can be described in one word: versatility. There is a Sherry for every mood and every occasion,” says the Society.

Sherry is a fortified wine, which means that it has been fortified with spirits – specifically brandy. The best examples of Sherry can be delicious, complex, exciting and refreshing. Most of us have never tasted a great Sherry because in many restaurants and bars it is often left open too long or unrefrigerated on a shelf. But, wait until you try fresh Sherry from a newly opened bottle.

In sherry, location matters. The Secret Sherry Society notes that it’s only Sherry if it’s from Jerez, Spain.

With the wide spectrum of Sherry styles, there’s sure to be a Sherry that fits every mood and personality. Which Sherry are you or your friends? Take the Society quiz below to find out.

Are you a smart, dry-witted, urban sophisticate who enjoys dry white wines? Your Sherry personality might be Fino or Manzanilla. Fino is pale, dry and delicate, great with seafood and soups or can be enjoyed alone as an aperitif. Manzanilla is made in a seaside town called Sanlucar de Barrameda. The result is a dry Sherry that has a unique, almost briny flavor.

Pairings for Fino and Manzanilla: appetizers, canapés, spring rolls, dumplings, Serrano ham, tapas, chorizo, goat or sheep’s milk cheese, ceviche, sushi, sashimi, oysters, calamari, marinated or smoked fish, shellfish (i.e. shrimp or lobster).

Are you the type who enjoys a hike through the woods on a crisp fall day? Your Sherry personality might be Amontillado. Amontillado is amber in color, dry and robust in taste, possessing a slightly nutty smell. Great as an aperitif, with poultry, meat or after dinner.

Pairings for Amontillado: Everything you would pair with a Fino would also work with an Amontillado, but also consider light meat soups like consommé, rich seafoods like scallops, sardines or herring, grilled fish, poultry, game birds, meat terrines, and ripe, pungent cheeses.

Do you enjoy adventure and mystery? Do your friends describe you as bold and worldly? Your Sherry personality might be Oloroso. Oloroso is dark, full and exotic. They are nutty and fragrant in character.

Pairings for Oloroso: cheeses, foie gras, game meat, red meats, smoked meats, rich foods, and after dinner with cheese, nuts, savory desserts and dried fruits.

Do you have a love of travel and adventure, but prefer a plaid shirt over formal wear? Palo Cortado might be your Sherry personality. Palo Cortado is a rare style of Sherry with the nose of an amontillado and the flavor of an Oloroso.

Pairings for Palo Cortado: rich foods, cheeses, game meat, smoked meat, pork chops, and after dinner with cheese, nuts, savory desserts and dried fruits.

Do you eat your dinner for the main purpose of getting to dessert? You could have a Moscatel or
Pedro Ximénez Sherry personality.

Moscatel is a sweet, soft dessert-style wine. Pairings for Moscatel: foie gras, chocolate, cheese, sip as dessert.

Pedro Ximénez is a rich, dark, raisin-sweet dessert-style wine. Pairings for Pedro Ximenez: foie gras, cheese, sip as dessert, pour over ice cream.

Whatever your preferences, treat yourself and those on your gift list to wine’s best kept secret and discover the deliciousness and versatility of Sherry wines.

(Many thanks to the Secret Sherry Society for these and other interesting tidbits on sherry)

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© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of
The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in December 2010.

Book in Process: " Mountain Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills".

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