Dry Sherry Is The Best Aperitif – Here’s Why
I know what you’re thinking. “Sherry as an aperitif?! No thanks!” Of course, we all love a sweet sherry in trifles or at Christmas, but many of us don’t view sherry an all-year-round tipple. Enter dry sherry – the aperitif to impress if you feel like trying something different this summer.
Sherry has a long history as one of Spain’s most treasured fortified wines. Sherry wine is produced in the Andalucía region of southern Spain. Andalucía’s sherry-producing areas form a triangle from Jerez de la Frontera to Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María. The soil in the sherry triangle is made up of chalk and limestone, which is ideal for the three key grapes: Palomino, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel.
Sherry can be dry or sweet and it is produced in several different styles, such as Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso. All of these sherries have distinctive characteristics, depending on the amount of time the wine spends ageing and whether it is aged underneath flor, a natural yeasty cap that prevents the winemaking contact with the air. In short, there is much more to sherry than just your nan’s favourite, sweet nightcap.
Dry sherry wines are moreish and saline, so they all make a great aperitif. Their feisty flavours prepare your taste buds without dulling your appetite with overpowering sweetness or alcohol. However, it’s summer so only a light Fino sherry will do. Fino is pale, dry, white sherry wine that is produced from the Palomino grape in the Jerez DO. Fino ages under a layer of flor for at least two years. The flor creates a herby, almost dough-tasting wine with salty notes.
One great example is the Valdespino Inocente Single Vineyard Fino Sherry. This is a highly praised sherry from one of the most renowned, family-owned bodegas in Jerez. The Valdespino bodega uses American oak barrels to ferment the complex sherry wine in a Solera system. The Solera involves holding the wine in different scales, or criaderas, and gradually refreshing the lower (older) barrels with wine from the higher (younger) barrels. The end result is a consistently tangy and savoury wine reminiscent of almonds and olives, which goes some way to explain why it’s such a perfect aperitif.
In Andalucía, it is common to drink a chilled glass of sherry with tapas dishes, from salty serrano ham and Seville olives to fresh anchovies to pil pil prawns. For a British sherry aperitif, I’d recommend accompaniments like smoked almonds, olives or even crisps. Really anything goes, and this sherry makes a welcome change from the usual pre-dinner spritz.
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