Not Your Grandmother's Sherry
Of the three most famous fortified wines, Port (from Porto), Maderia (From Maderia), and Sherry (from Jerez), Sherry is perhaps the most maligned. It is not Sherry’s fault. Really it is not. Perhaps it is because when most people think of Sherry their thoughts immediately turn to grandmothers drinking their sickeningly sweet and cloying Harvey’s Bristol Cream or maybe they think of that colorful and forgetful character from Fawlty Towers, old man Major. Major is not unlike the grandmother figure I just described save the fact that he needs a dram of dry Fino Sherry every day before he could sit down to his dinner. But, regardless of if you imagine a grandma sipping at Cream Sherry or a stiff retired chap pining for his Fino, the image is clear, it is one of an older individual, not a youthful person full of the zest and vigor of life. This is rather a shame in my eyes as Sherry has so much to offer, to everyone. With the rise in wine consumption and more and more individuals buying quality bourbons and craft spirits (which is at an all-time high), it is a real travesty that such a historic and quality quaff is left to the wayside. Someone should change that…
Well someone is, or more precisely, many someones. This week we celebrate the 5th International Sherry Week and we seek to change some of the trends and mindsets surrounding this wonderful wine from southern Spain. OWS&B is not alone in championing Sherry this week, we are joining 2700 other restaurants and bars around the world this week as we feature Sherry and all it has to offer, which is more than you might think.
My own initial experience with Sherry was, well, how should I put this, less than ideal. I was still rather new to wine and not sure what I was doing when trying Sherry. Thus I sampled a Manzanilla Sherry which was so petrol fueled that it seemed to me it would have been capable of running a big block engine for days on end. Not the best start to my Sherry journey. However, not being one to quit so easily I set out to try my hand again, this time looking for a specific style of Sherry and not at random but with purpose. This time I was at University and it was Autumn, in October and close to All Hallows Eve. As I was majoring in a Liberal Arts degree (History) this meant I needed an Amontillado to pair with my annual reading of Poe’s short stories. Now, if you are one our email list for OWS&B you will know that each week I supply a musical pairing to go with both the “cellar selection” and the “steal of the week.” Well in this blog I am suggesting a reading pairing: Amontillado Sherry and Edgar Allen Poe’s short, yet thrilling tale, “The Cask of Amontillado.” Even Luchesi could find enjoyment in this pairing.
Anyway, back to my search for a quality quaff to go with the seasonal imbibing of Baltimore’s favorite author. I tried more than a few stores and finally I located a bottle with the corresponding name/style to the story. While not the highest of quality for a Sherry, it was a marked improvement over my initial experience.
“…I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts." – Montresor
I knew from just this change in quality from the Manzanilla to the Amontillado that there must be a even greater option, a more refined, and complex Sherry for such cool fall nights. Thus, ever since that fateful evening, I have kept my eyes peeled and my palate at the ready, in order to find a gem: a Sherry of such immense quality, a real step above. Well, I am happy to report, after over a decade of looking and trying out new and different bottles, I have finally located what is clearly, in my mind at least, one of the best Sherries coming out of Spain, Bodegas Tradicion. Their Amontillado has been oak aged for three decades (yeah, this does not hurt the quality). This bottle elevates whatever you pair it with: post dinner conversation with old friends – Check, Poe – Check, Dessert – Check, Pilfering your kid’s Halloween Candy – CHECK!
So I invite you to raise a glass to this often maligned wine. Join us as we celebrate Sherry. We have some of these fine bottles open so you too can have your eyes opened and minds changed. After all, these are not your Grandmother's Sherries!