The Five Best Food Matches for Manzanilla Sherry
Manzanilla matches perfectly with seafood
Manzanilla is the most delicate of sherry styles, but don’t be deceived – it is so often a perfect match for bold flavours that defeat other wines. Here are five perfect manzanilla moments.
It is impossible to record how many people must have had their eyes opened to the delights of manzanilla while tucking into the local clams, langoustines and other seafood specialities at the beachside tables of the legendary Sanlúcar de Barrameda restaurant Casa Bigote. The Spanish town’s cooling sea air is what makes the crucial difference between delicate manzanilla and its fuller bodied Jerez counterpart, fino.
With such an important marine influence, it should come as no surprise that seafood, and in particular shellfish, are a perfect match for this style of sherry. Nothing captures the taste of the sea so purely as raw oysters, and manzanilla has the bracing seaspray character to match. This is also the perfect partner for those deep-fried seafood treats the Spanish do so well, such as Andalucian speciality tortillitas de camarones. These crispy, thin, salty shrimp fritters are spot on with the cold, tangy, saline cut of manzanilla.
Meanwhile for Javier Hidalgo, whose family have been making manzanilla here for generations, “The greatest of all pairings is manzanilla and king prawns.” Serve them fresh with a squeeze of lemon or fry them with garlic; either way look no further down the wine list than manzanilla.
Just as manzanilla is the perfect companion for a tapas crawl, so too do its refreshing, versatile qualities make this an ideal picnic wine. Make sure to keep your bottle nicely chilled in a handy rockpool or stream, but otherwise it’s a wonderfully easy-going picnic companion.
In fact, manzanilla is one of the few wines that won’t sulk when served in plastic or metal cups. What’s more, manzanilla will not only get on famously with just about any picnic food, however eclectic, but will efficiently cleanse your palate between mouthfuls as you flit greedily between smoked salmon sandwiches, quail’s eggs, feta and tomato salad, olives, ham and quiche.
Despite its Spanish heritage, manzanilla’s seafood affinity makes it a useful partner with many other cuisines. That’s especially true of sushi, where any wine match must not only help show off the impeccable freshness of the fish but also withstand the traditional array of powerfully flavoured accompaniments such as salty soy, hot wasabi and peppery daikon.
Once again, manzanilla – especially an unfiltered, more intense en rama style – can be relied upon to rise to the challenge. Its savoury umami tang embraces even the most powerful fishy delicacies such as unagi (eel), uni (sea urchin) or shimesaba (cured mackerel).
Such is the affinity between sherry and Japanese cuisine that the country currently holds the Guinness world record for the largest sherry list (Bar de Ollaria Ginza) and boasts over 150 certified venenciadores, professionals who have mastered the tricky art of pouring sherry from the long-handled venencia traditionally used to extract sherry from barrel.
Whether vivid green or white, asparagus – like artichoke – can so easily make a wine taste unappealingly metallic. Step in manzanilla. What’s more, this choice will cope happily with many of the common asparagus partners that can prove similarly challenging for wine. Fried egg, vinaigrette or hollandaise all pose no problem, and if you’re wrapping the asparagus in salty parma ham then you’re onto a real winner.
Whether in a wine glass, splashed into the soup itself or, ideally, both, sherry is one of few wines that can comfortable handle this awkward clash of liquids. When it comes to manzanilla, the most obvious soup match is a classic Andalusian gazpacho, or indeed its less well known cousin salmorejo.
On a hot day gazpacho’s combination of cool cucumber, rich tomato and pungent garlic, further enlivened by a bite of onion and vinegar, is a delightfully refreshing option. A cold glass of manzanilla not only handles all those challenging flavours but shows them off perfectly.
If you’re planning a hot soup then manzanilla’s affinity with fish, tomato and garlic can translate seamlessly into a hearty fish soup, or indeed fish stew if you fancy something chunkier. Another excellent warming option would be asparagus soup, playing on manzanilla’s friendliness with the intensely green flavour of this vegetable.
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