Sherry Sucks – No, It Doesn’t

Sherry is a drink I’ve never liked.

Sherry always struck me as a tipple my grandmother might drink late in the evening to help her sleep.

Sherry is what old-time women request after being offered a bourbon on the rocks, ‘cuz that’s what “a lady” drank back then. That’s the image in my mind of sherry.

On my palate, there were fewer drinks more repulsive. Sherry just tasted sour and unpleasant with precious little fruit. I could never stomach a glass of it.

Turns out, I was drinking the wrong stuff.

Sherry panel
That’s what I found out at The Sherry Revolution seminar presented by the Vancouver Wine Festival.

Revolutions always intrigue me, so I thought maybe I can revolutionize my bleak sense of sherry, once and for all.

The Sherry Revolution moderators were Vicky Gonzalez-Gordon, International Marketing Manager and fifth-generation family member of González Byass, which has been family owned since 1835.

Cheerleading on the dais was local wine writer and WineDiva Daenna Van Mulligan who knows a shitload about sherry and provided comic relief to the formal Ms. Gonzalez-Gordon.

Talkin’ ‘bout a Sherry Revolution

Sherry is a fortified wine made primarily from Palomino grapes grown in Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, Spain. The word “Sherry” is an anglicization of Xeres (Jerez) and has protected Designation of Origin status in Europe.

Sherry is produced in a variety of styles, from light, dry Manzanilla and Fino, to dark and heavy Amontillado and Oloroso, which are blended with Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel and allowed to oxidize in barrel under a layer of yeast flor.

Apparently, sherry is shedding its fusty old image and becoming hip and exciting by a younger crowd.

Ms Gonzalez-Gordon said the first sherry bar opened in 2010 in London and was called Bad Pepito. “Sherry is spreading it’s word.” 

Since then, all kinds of cocktails have been concocted. Good Morning M16 combines olive oil and rosemary with Tio Pepe. Belgraviously mixes gin, lime and soda with Oloroso.

2013 saw the first World Sherry Day. In 2014, it changed from day to World Sherry Week with over 20 countries and over 2000 events promoted through social media.

“Things are changing,” she said.

Revolutionary words to begin our tasting.

sherry five

Tio Pepe Fino

Fino is the base from which all sherry springs, the least oxidized of the bunch. The yeasty nose comes from the flor. Van Mulligan described it aptly as briny with bread dough and tart, bitter almond. She said Fino goes well with food and at 15.5%, you need it. Both of them admitted the Fino can be off-putting at first and truer words were never spoken.

I quickly regretted sitting in the front row wondering if these women could see the wince on my face when I tried the Fino. It’s super dry, sour and bitter with a bitterly sour finish and I did not like it at all. I got the clean saltiness and fresh grape-fruitiness, but it was simply unpleasant in the mouth.

“It’s a vermouth,” Van Mulligan said, “and people are using it in place of vermouth.”

I will second that emotion. Throw in soda water and lime juice and make a Sherry Ricky, but as an aperitif, I don’t want to have to work at enjoying it.

Del Duque V.O.R.S.  Amontillado

V.O.R.S. stands for Very Old Rare Sherry, aged in barrel 30 years.

This had giant nuttiness on the nose with hints of maple syrup and slight oxidation. Slightly sweet, but big time sour in the mouth with roasted almonds, and salt, and as Van Mulligan suggested, a “varnishy” taste. 21.5% alcohol.

Still, not impressed.

Apostoles V.O.R.S. Palo Cortado

Darker in colour, but far less briny on the nose with more nuttiness and a whiff of french toast. The off-dry mouth is smoothly syrupy, with concentrated notes of dried fruit and oxide on a full body. A long finish leaves caramel and coffee lingering on the tongue.

Ok, now this is something I could get into.

Originally an accident, said Gonzalez-Gordon, the fino went “off” and became something “delicate in the nose, big in the mouth,” creating Palo Cortado. It’s Palomino blended with Pedro Ximenez and racks up at 20% alcohol.

Try it with foie-gras, she said, for an amazing experience.

sherry three

Matusalem V.O.R.S. Cream Oloroso

Very dark in colour with burnt almonds (from Palomino) and coffee (from Pedro Ximenez) on the nose. Super soft texture and concentrated sweet flavours of coffee, vanilla, maple syrup with a sharp bitter edge on a large, pillowy body. The finish is lip-smaking juicy with extensive vanilla and coffee notes. Think boozy Kaluha at 20.5% alcohol.

Now this I could sip all evening, with a box of shortbread cookies.

Noe V.O.R.S. Pedro Ximenez Oloroso

This Oloroso is french toast with melted butter, drenched in maple syrup with a cup of coffee. Like, your whole breakfast. The nose is white grape raisins with a most pleasant note of brine. The rotund body has intense notes of coffee and figs that’s super sweet but with a bitter edge, and complex as a Napa Cabernet. Only with 20.5% alcohol. Again, caramel and expresso with sugar on an extensive finish.

sherry noe
Each bottle contains 400 grams of sugar, said Gonzalez-Gordon, “So, recommended by dentists.”

Cheeky Spaniard, but right on. I would like to pour the Noe over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This one is not a dessert wine; it is the dessert.

Sherry is alright by me

Ok, alright, I see it now. Sherry doesn’t suck, as I previously thought. I just wasn’t drinking the right kind. Now I know what to look for.

How about you? Are you a sherry fan? Did I insult your sensibilities? Please tell me why.

Mari Kane

Mari is a writer, blogger and WordPress consultant, living in Vancouver, BC, the most wine-soaked town north of the 49th Parallel. She also blogs about WordPress web design at Blogsite Follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.

One thought on “Sherry Sucks – No, It Doesn’t

  • March 10, 2015 at 9:00 am

    My mom always kept a bottle of sherry handy for cooking purposes only–it’s not as if we would actually DRINK that stuff…especially when there was Mogen David aplenty to enjoy with the brisket instead!

    Thanks for the eye-opener, Mari, and please keep them coming.

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