Sherry enjoys a welcome resurgence

UNTIL the early ’90s British Sherry, a “made” wine from grape concentrate was one of the largest categories on supermarket wine shelves, with sherries such as Bristol Cream and Croft Original next to them.

They were mostly sweet, simple products that had overtaken the “real” sherry

They are still available but sherry, defined as a fortified wine made from grapes grown in the region around Jerez in Southern Spain is gaining popularity again.

At the Great Sherry Tasting for the wine trade in September this year I was reminded of the distinctive styles and the myriad different sherries available in all categories from dry finos and manzanillas through degrees of sweetness and complexity to the Cream sherries and Pedro Ximenez.

Over the last few years the range of sherry available in supermarkets but particularly independent wine merchants has increased significantly.

For example, in addition to Tio Pepe fino or light dry sherry there will be other aperitif styles such as Manzanillas from Lustau and La Gitana on the shelf and often in the useful half bottle size too – easily stored in the fridge and drunk before showing signs of oxidation as a result of being open too long. They’re great value too at around �6 for a half bottle.

In the last few years many sherry producers have made available limited quantities of delicious En Rama or unfiltered finos too.

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If you prefer a wine that is a little richer with more complexity but find a straight Amontillado too sweet try a Palo Cortado or Amontillado Seco, great with food or on their own to savour.

Palo Cortado is a sherry that was originally destined to become Amontillado but begins to age like an Oloroso with nutty overtones and at this point it will be fortified to halt this process and retain some of the lighter notes. Try the Gonzalez Byass Leonor Palo Cortado or their Vina AB Amontillado Seco.

The darker more nutty flavours of Oloroso sherry develop from oxidative ageing in oak barrels over time and the sweet Cream Sherries are sweetened Olorosos.

At the opposite end of the sherry flavour spectrum are the PX’s such as the Gonzalez Byass Noe and Williams and Humbert Solera Especial Don Guido for which the grapes are dried in the heat of the Spanish sun thereby concentrating their sweetness producing a rich raisiny liquid reminiscent of liquid Christmas pudding!

Sherry has always been an ideal ingredient in and accompaniment to food. This is currently highlighted by the recipe books now available that use sherry in which recipes from notable chefs are often found including Heston Blumenthal, Skye Gyngell, Richard Corrigan and Angela Hartnett.

Finos, Palo Cortados and Amontillados are great in light soups and fish dishes, often used as a marinade or in a “broth” for poaching fruits such as cherries in a recipe I found recently for poached cherries, goat’s cheese salad with parma ham – delicious!

The richer sherries also have a part to play in robust casseroles instead of wine, as a marinade for stewed fruits such as plums or as in the case of PX they can simply be poured onto Christmas pudding.

Don’t be shy, try a sherry, most come in great value half bottles, you’ll be surprised with their quality, diversity and food matching ability.