If you still think of sherry as that sickly Bristol Cream that your gran used to roll out once a year at Christmas, think again!
Sherry has for centuries been one of Spain’s great success stories, and for good reason; it’s the perfect match for tapas. The succession of smaller, individual dishes that provide different flavours, smells, textures, temperatures and tastes avoids the palate getting jaded, and Sherry’s complexity and huge range of styles make it the ideal partner.
Forget the idea that modern chefs invented fancy tasting menus with matching wines, this has been going on in every city, town and village in Spain for generations.
But it’s such a complex subject that that’s why we’ve entitled this ‘Part 1’. We’re going to start with the drier styles, Fino & Manzanilla, the latter of which is the driest of Spain’s sherries. It’s made right on the coast in the small town of Sanlucar de Barrameda which gives it an almost salty flavour. It should be served freshly opened and well chilled.
It will go with any kind of tapa – roasted almonds, olives, slices of chorizo, wedges of tortilla and any kind of crisply fried fish as well as the more ambitious tapas such as tuna tartar and grilled chicken with romesco sauce.
The appley taste of Manzanilla also pairs well with sardines, shrimp, oysters, scallops, clams, and other shellfish and it offers a refreshing counterpoint for cheeses, especially Spain’s aged ewe’s milk cheeses. See our recommendations below.
Fino, from inland Jerez, is also bone-dry and a bit weightier, gutsier and more alcoholic, but is still a good match with most of the same foods and a fine substitute for sake with Japanese food. Simply served with salty anchovies, nuts or tempura vegetables (verduras fritas), it’s divine.
So here’s a few we recommend, all of which are reasonably well available in the larger supermarkets, wine stores or online:
MANZANILLA: La Goya, La Guita, Hidalgo’s La Gitana and the superb Lustau Almacenista
FINO: Domecq’s La Ina, Tio Pepe, Osborne’s Fino Quinta and for top-notch Valdespino’s single vineyard Inocente.
So have fun experimenting with tapas and Sherry and we’ll be back soon with more styles and tapas matches.