Is There Ever an Occasion Where Sherry Isn’t the Answer?

Amontillado Sherry with Tapas.

© Shutterstock

Amontillado Sherry with tapas.

Amontillado Sherry with Tapas.

© Shutterstock

This is not a facetious question. You may embrace some misguidedly modernist idea that Sherry is best left to gather dust in the cupboard, a relic of 1970s kitsch. You are not alone, but you are missing a mouth-watering chunk of wine’s unique pleasure spectrum.

The full gamut

Just as the word “beer” spans a stylistic leap from pale, thirst-quenching pilsner to dark, creamy stout, so does the Sherry category squeeze in pale, bone dry Manzanilla alongside deep gold, nutty Amontillado and the tooth-tinglingly sweet, dark delights of Pedro Ximenez. It’s a range that caters for every conceivable dish or indeed weather. Still cynical? Let’s test a few scenarios.

Picnic all-rounder

It’s a hot summer’s day with a picnic spread of fresh oysters, salty olives, garlic-fried langoustines, chilled gazpacho, fatty slivers of cured ham and perhaps some artichoke in a citrussy vinaigrette. What wine could possibly contend with so many assertive flavours? Try opening a chilled bottle of Manzanilla.

Not only does its salty freshness stand up beautifully to food that would defeat most other wines, it will also cleanse the palate as you meander happily from dish to dish. Just glance across at what your savvy neighbours are drinking next time you embark on a nocturnal tapas crawl through the bars of southern Spain.

Seafood winner

This is also a drink that travels well, especially to places where seafood is prized. Try swapping sake for Sherry on your next sushi blow out. Meanwhile, Manzanilla, Fino and even Amontillado can all make perfect partners for the many smoked fish specialities of Scandinavian cuisine.

On a practical note, Sherry is one of very few wines to survive the indignity of being served in plastic or metal beakers on those al fresco dining occasions when delicate glassware is not a sensible option.

Darker days, darker drinks

But summer doesn’t last forever. Especially for those who live at cooler latitudes, it is often the darker, oxidative Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso sherries that lend themselves best to both cuisine and climate. A winter’s evening sip of Amontillado with a handful of nuts – all Sherry cries out for some form of food, however simple – is a quietly civilised way to start the evening. Or try a glass with your bowl of warming soup. Even better, splash some into the soup as well.

On the game

These darker sherries are also the perfect companion for foragers and hunters, both as a warming tot in the hipflask and – hopefully – with the contents of your bag. Mushrooms on toast with amontillado is surely one of life’s simplest, more satisfying pleasures.

Mature red Burgundy may be the classic match with game, but give your wallet a rest and try Palo Cortado with roast partridge or braised rabbit, stepping up to a richer Oloroso to match the meatier venison or wild boar.

The nutty character of these Sherries is spot on with cheese too, especially mature, hard examples: think cheddar, Manchego, proper Gouda, Parmesan or that most wine friendly of all dairy products, Comté.

Sweet dreams

Dry sherries may be the most gastronomic, but don’t write off the sweet styles. On a drizzly day, sweet Cream Sherry with a slice of cake can lift teatime spirits. If producing dainty desserts isn’t your forte, then save time and stress by drizzling PX on good quality vanilla ice cream for a simple but stylish end to the meal.

Sharp-eyed pedants may note that we haven’t covered breakfast. Well if you spend the day before trying even half the matches suggested here then the next morning may well call for a reviving Bloody Mary, made with a dash of Fino of course.