Five Best Food Matches for Palo Cortado Sherry
Palo Cortado is a rare and revered sherry style.
The Spanish have a proud culture of game both for sport and – a natural progression – consumption. The country’s red legged partridge, or perdiz, is particularly celebrated. While many wine lovers would automatically reach for mature Burgundy at this point, in Spain they often lean more naturally towards sherry as a fine match for gamey meat and its typically autumnal accompaniments.
Arroz con perdiz is a classic, easily prepared out in the field, where the warming robustness of sherry is more welcome than any daintily decanted Côte d’Or. While most chefs would view sherry as an essential component of the dish itself, they would also concede that Palo Cortado is too fine for cooking. Deploy Amontillado in the pan and save the delightfully lingering complexity of Palo Cortado to enjoy with this noble bird.
Palo Cortado is not some hasty, mindless aperitif. This is an essentially meditative wine that calls for the relaxed pleasures of the cheeseboard. Hard, mature cheeses play best here, complementing this serious sherry with their nuttier, more intense flavour. Manchego is an obvious Spanish classic match, but the salty crystals of aged cheddar or Parmesan would both be excellent alternatives. And it’s hard to think of a cheese with more wine-friendly credentials than a beautifully mature Comté.
3. Beef rendang
Dark sherries can prove an excellent match for meaty stews, but if you fancy something more exotic then remember that these sherry styles also lend themselves beautifully to slow-cooked, deeply flavoured meat dishes from other cuisines. Malaysia’s majestic beef rendang is a prime example, its intensely beefy flavour overlaid with a fabulous array of coconut, cinnamon, galangal, ginger and lemongrass. It seems a shame to serve such a celebratory dish with beer, yet a waste to let the exuberant rendang trample all over your delicate fine wines.
Enter Palo Cortado, whose rich, glycerol texture softly embraces the spice without diminishing flavour. Few unfortified wines can show such robustness without descending into rusticity, but the extra alcoholic heft that Palo Cortado combines with real elegant nuance enables this sherry to happily play off the bold flavours of rendang without either side overwhelming the other.
4. Pork scratchings
Every sherry needs a quick snack match and even the aristocratic Palo ortado is no exception. Pork scratchings rarely feature in any country’s fine dining scene, but their irresistibly more-ish quality has earned these humble pork rind bites a popular place in snacking culture around the world, complete with a charming array of names: crackling, chicharrón, scrunchions, grattons, skwarki, knabbelspek. Just ordering them is a verbal pleasure.
But even more rewarding is their flavour: intensely fatty, salty, crunchy and deeply piggy in all senses of the word. Each of those characteristics plays to the many strengths of sherry, especially Palo Cortado. On top of coping serenely with the textural and flavour assault of these porcine morsels, the sherry adds a nutty top note that perfects a mouthful you never previously imagined could be improved upon.
It’s not just pale sherries that can be seafood friendly. Tuna is a particularly dark, meaty fish that can easily be matched with red wines but consider a darker sherry too. They certainly do in Andalucia, where each spring thousands of bluefin tuna pass by on their way to the Mediterranean.
For the last 2,000 years local fishermen here have set out their almadraba traps to catch these mighty fish. Back on shore, this seasonal treat is marked by an outbreak of tuna festivals, featuring a feast of different tuna dishes paired, naturally, with the local sherries. Atún encebollado, a hearty stew of tuna and onions, is a classic Cadiz dish that lends itself beautifully to the warmth of Palo Cortado. But this sherry style would also shine with more simply seared slices of tuna, still gleaming pink on the inside.
Consider sprinkling the fish with a few toasted sesame seeds to accentuate the nuttiness of the Palo Cortado. The other inspired Andalucian tuna creation is mojama, salted and dried loin that offers a fishy alternative to the region’s famous jamón. When its intense, saline flavour meets the complex depths of Palo Cortado, your taste buds dance with this heavenly taste of south-west Spain.
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