Tuesday, October 21, 2014
The Unfortunate Reputation of Sherry
Breaking through preconceived notions about wine is an onerous task, and the case in which I was reminded of this came about a few weeks ago when we did a tasting of Delgado Zuleta Sherries at the store. Tom George, the founder of Frontier Wine Imports, was good enough to lead us through a tasting and educational seminar about these wines from Jerez de la Frontera in Spain and we had some enthusiastic and interested tasters with us there that evening - which I was thrilled to see.
That being said we had a smaller crowd than if perhaps had we made it a focused tasting on other more popular Spanish wines (Rioja, Priorat, garnachas, etc). I would pose the question of why that might be, but a handful of anecdotal interactions have already answered it for me.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Sherry?
Ed Helms in Cedar Rapids doing shots of the cream stuff? An elderly relative who has a small glass of “sherry” from New York state that comes in a three litre jug? A shot of it in crab bisque? These are all essentially the answers that came up when I offered the idea of sitting through a sherry seminar to other employees and customers. A sample dialogue would go as follows:
Me: Would you like to taste and learn about sherry at a seminar we’re holding this week?
Almost Everybody: Sherry? Eww, no.
Me: When was the last time you actually tried Spanish sherry?
Almost Everybody: (Either) Hmm, I had it in soup once. (Or) Never.
I sure do hate travelling in Norway. Granted, I’ve never been there, but it sure is a terrible place to travel in... So you get my point. Here is a style of wine wholly unique unto itself that is reviled for nonspecific reasons. At this point I would go into the history of sherry, but that’s a lot of reading when I could simply link you to the wikipedia page for sherry if you really want a springboard to find more out about the wine and its history.
What I will say is that the wines were absolutely fascinating, seeing the difference between the Fino, Manzanilla, and Manzanilla Pasada was enlightening. Here you have essentially the same style of wine that is separated, respectively, by geography and length of aging. The flavors were marked by prominent acidity, a dry nuttiness, and the potential to pair well with salty fatty foods.
The also dry, but fuller bodied, Oloroso cried for grilled or smoked food. One taster wisely pointed out that heavily smoked foods, briskets and the like, often overwhelm and can be difficult to pair with wines, but the Oloroso had rich savory flavors that would act as a perfect foil. And even though the apparent ultimate good of wine is to be “dry & smooth” the sweet dessert sherries would be considered deserving of the word ambrosia.
If one approaches sherry with malbec or chardonnay on the brain, it’s easy to dismiss them based on flavor alone. But with an open mind and remembering to look at sherry within its own idiosyncratic framework there is a lot of interesting, and delicious, potential.
Conveniently you wouldn’t even have to go broke trying these wines; entry level Antonio Barbadillo starts around $10.99 per bottle and these Delgado Zuleta sherries that we tried are all on our shelves at $14.99.
I think there is more to lose by not trying these wines than there is by avoiding them due to prejudice.