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A Sherry Tasting

Bob Tickler returned from Andalusia, the home of sherry, full of praise for this wine for  it is a wine. So much so that he has replaced a glass of Nye Timber for his midday sharpener with a glass (schooner more likely) of manzanilla or amontillado. Yesterday I invited him to a sherry tasting at the Hotel du Vin Brighton as it’s international sherry week. Sherry has a strange brand image. One present said it was “his nan’s favourite tipple”, I recall at university it was the drink of choice of dons inviting students to a social.

It has been produced and drunk for 3,000 years, deriving its name from Sherish the Arab name for the city that is still the home of sherry, Jerez. Three cities in the  Jerez area – Jerez de la Frontera, el Puerto de Santa Maria and Saalucar de Barrimeda -produce sherry in 74 bodegas. It’s fermentation and ageing process is complex. The fino and manzanilla are fermented with a layer of for, yeast, whilst the darker Oloroso is oxidised. This is more deep bodied with a high alcohol content.This production requires quite a lot of skill as the casks are placed on the floor and replaced by a process of wine transfusion in its ageing. The blended sherries with a well known British label contain sweetening grape juice and therefore lack the purity of the Jerez sherries.

After a short presentation we drank 6 sherries – a manzanilla, fino, palo cortado, amontillado, oloroso and a sweet Pedro Ximenez. I liked the manzanilla the best. The final one was so treacly that it would send a diabetic unconscious.

Although the course instructor was enthusiastic and well informed, my neighbour commented that drinkiing sherry from 7-9 pm with some almonds and ham is not wholly satisfying nor satisfactory. Bob’s neighbour, an attractive oriental woman, spent the whole of the event sipping her sherry delicately and texting. He wondered why she bothered coming in the first place.

Can sherry do a “gin” in popularity? I will know more after the gin-tasting next week but I think not. It’s essentially a fortified white wine, highly sugared and therefore fattening and has not shed its supeannuated decanter image. It does not have the international glamour of malt and superior whiskies. That is not to denigrate its versatility and its aromatic clean tangy freshness as an aperitif, as Bob can attest.


About Algy Belville

We are delighted to add Algy Belville to our team of writers. Algy was a director of family film Bodgers and Belville , Wine Merchants of St James. He will be contributing a column on wine. Algy lives in Amberley Sussex , is captain of his Crown Bowls team and a local Councillor. More Posts