Shh, tell no one. I have a secret….
By far and away the most versatile, best value, top end wines in the world are encompassed in one word. Sherry. Three years ago I wouldn't give the stuff house room, but I've been on a voyage of discovery and like Paul on the road to Damascus (but without the beard) I am now a true convert. Nay brothers and sisters I am an evangelist!
My journey to the Promised Land started with my Diploma in Wines and Spirits. I knew I was going to have to study sherry and my way of getting through the course was to be able to identify it simply because I really hated it. But I have to say that in wine as in life I am a terrible judge of character. Bit by bit I started enjoying it and this is quite a feat as we are talking abut a style of wine that spans the very driest to the very sweetest, with intriguing, exquisite and I have to say challenging styles that are not easily approached.
This in many ways is its problem. There is no one catch all sherry, it falls into many styles, fino, manzanilla, amontillado, oloroso, palo cortado, pedro ximinez, moscatel. And within each of these is a range of styles. All of them take some getting used to and this can be quite confusing. Add to this the image of a sherry drinker is Granny slumped in her arm chair on Christmas Day, its no wonder that UK sales have been in freefall for years.
It was with all this in mind that I went to two events run by the Sherry Institute of Spain called Sherry Mondays, the first of which looked at the drier styles, the second the sweeter. They were excellent, by god there were some good wines on show. My particular favorites are listed below, but all in all the standards were excellent and there was some terrific knowledge on hand in the shape of Graham Hines who really knows his stuff. I was also lucky to run into my old friend Julian Jeffs (the man who wrote the book on sherry) who went into raptures about Tio Pepe.
So besotted am I with sherry and so frustrated that only wine buffs and old ladies seem to buy it that I have devised a cunning plan to wean any sherry doubters onto this glorious drink. Step one, go out and buy a bottle of Tio Pepe, it'll cost you somewhere between £6 and £7 in most supermarkets. Step two, put it in the fridge, really all sherry should be chilled well. Step three, on Monday evening open the bottle and have a glass before you have dinner, in the first instance you may not like it, but this is true of all great drinks, persevere. Repeat this step each day until you have finished the bottle. By Saturday you will be a convert and come the following Monday you'll crave a glass. This has the added bonus of using up a bottle in a week which is vital as this kind of sherry will fade very soon after opening.
I could go into some length about the different styles of sherry out there, and believe me its not all Harvey's Bristol Cream, but there's a much better resource for this stuff and its here www.sherry.org <http://www.sherry.org> a website which looks great and has all the info you will ever need.
As for my top wines from Sherry Mondays, they are as follows
Manzinilla ‘La Guita’ Bodegas Perez Marin Drinker rating 84
Fresh bright, clean tasting, hints of apple, bone dry with hints of salty almond.
Fino ‘San Patricio’ Bodegas Garvey Drinker rating 84
Fresh, vibrant, nutty, zesty, apple and walnut notes.
Amontillado Seco ‘Dorius’ Bodegas Valdivia Drinker rating 84
Brick red in colour, nutty, raisiny, full body
Palo Cortado ‘Obispo’ Bodegas Barbadillo Drinker rating 87
Outstanding wine, complex, beautiful and well structured. Marzipan hints on the nose, elements of sweet cedar and citrus, full body, elegant and nutty. Wine of the day.
Oloroso seco ‘Alfonso’ Bodegas Gonzales Byass Drinker rating 83
Caramel nose, hints of tar and citrus, dry, medium body, long finish revealing more layers of complexity.
Oloroso dulce 'Rich Old Oloroso VORS 30 years John Harvey and sons Drinker rating 87
Caramel, fruit peel, full flavour, good balancing acidity, beautiful dry saltiness, rich and rewarding.
Moscatel ‘Emilin’ Bodegas Lustau Drinker rating 81
Lovely complex meaty nose, full body, soft and elegant.
Pedro ximinez ‘San Emilio’ Bodegas Lustau Drinker rating 86
Medicinal and prune nose, luscious, complex, liquorice. Good length.
Palo Cortado 'Obispo' - Bodegas Barbadillo
The best wine I have tasted this year.