A Sherry Christmas

The History of Sherry

Sherry is one of the oldest wines in the world. It was only after English explorer, sea captain, privateer, slave trader, naval officer, and politician, Sir Francis Drake plundered Cadiz in 1587, bringing back to England with him around 3,000 butts of Sherry, that the British love affair with it started.  Sherry was shipped to the UK for centuries in oak barrels.

Where is Sherry From?

All Sherry is from the recognised DO (Denominacion de Origin) of Jerez y Sanlúcar de Barrameda. This unique DO, on the west coast of Andalucia has three main towns, Jerez, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. These three towns form a triangle - ‘Sherry Triangle’. Sherry can only be from within this Sherry triangle.

What is a Sherry?

Sherry is a generic term for an aged white wine from DO Jerez, made from 3 green grapes only. Palomino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez. The Palomino grape gives us all of the dry Sherries. The colour of Sherry comes from oxidisation or sun drying. Sherry is bottled by extracting a little each year (max. 30% by law) from the solera (oldest barrel at the bottom) which creates space for it to be topped up from the criadera (newer barrel) above and that in turn will be topped up from the criadera (newest barrel) above – until eventually there is space in the top criadera for the new wine to be added.

Sherry is FAB – Fortified, Aged and Blended

FORTIFIED: 100% of all Sherry is fortified from a grape spirit, which then in turn is aged in old Sherry casks, producing Brandy de Jerez.

AGED: All Sherry is aged. The youngest Sherry you will ever drink will be three years old.

BLENDED: 98% of all Sherry is non-vintage; it is a blend of different vintages. Only Oloroso can be a vintage. The ageing system of solera and criadera allows for fractional blending – all vintages meet together as they make their journey to the solera for bottling.

Different Types of Sherry and How to Pair them over Christmas

The sheer variety of sherries is dazzling, making it the perfect Christmas drink to match the occasion or the dish. What's interesting is the way in which sherry is now being embraced as a ‘gastronomic’ wine - one which is extremely food-friendly. The Spanish have always known this, but perhaps we Brits have been slower on the uptake. Below we take a look at the different sherries available and how to pair them with food over Christmas.

Fino and manzanilla sherries - the pale, dry styles that you must serve chilled make superb aperitifs. Fresh, lemony with a slightly salty, green-olive bite, they pair up well with dainty canapés, and with salted, toasted nuts or plain crisps, olives and tapenade. These dry sherries also partner a first course of fish or seafood well, including mild smoked salmon.

Amontillado sherry - dry amontillado is the sherry to have with cold meats, charcuterie, jamon, also chicken, turkey and pork. Its nutty, fresh, orangey-tinged character is perfect with a Boxing Day spread of cold meats and salads. Its intense flavours means it can even stand up to pickles and chutneys.

Dry oloroso - this is the one for the festive cheese board, together with a selection of nuts and dried fruit. The dark mahogany hue and rich raisin and walnut flavours are just perfect for savouring as you make your way slowly through the cheeses, yet the dry finish of the sherry works well with savoury food.

PX - the very sweet, dark, sumptuously sticky Pedro Ximenez sherries, tasting of raisins, spices and black molasses, are glorious with Christmas pudding, mince pies and other hot desserts like treacle tart or steamed puddings. PX also triumphs with salty blue cheese and if you’re feeling lazy, just pour a shot over fine vanilla ice cream. Keep a bottle on the go all through the Christmas feasting season - it should last well for a week or two once opened.