Today sees the start of Sherry Week- a global celebration of that most underrated (in Ireland at least) and quintessentially Spanish wine; showcasing the history, culture and creation of sherry. Once Spain’s most important wine export, sherry is in the middle of a true renaissance. If you think it’s purely the preserve of elderly female Downton Abbey characters, take another look at the wine lists of some of the trendiest restaurants across the globe, where a good sherry offering is essential. And it’s no surprise, as these are hugely versatile, food-friendly wines.
If you want to get involved in sherry week, find a full offering of events in Ireland over on The Vine Inspiration blog, run by the passionate and knowledgeable sherry educator, Paddy Murphy. For those of you not on The Emerald Isle, you can get a comprehensive list of events in your area on the Sherry Week website.
One event that everyone can join is the online tasting with the Master Blender of González Byass, Antonio Flores. On Thursday 10th November he will be giving a tutored tasting of Tio Pepe. Find details here. Last night I started celebrations early with a bottle of this delicious fino.
Being on the market since the mid-19th century, even confirmed sherry lovers often overlook this wine in favour of more fashionable brands. However, it remains one of the best-value mass produced wines of the world.
As with all sherry finos, the Palomino grapes for this wine come from the vineyards around the city of Jerez in the south west corner of Andalucía in Spain. Only the finest first press grape juice (must) is used, from which this style of sherry gets its name (fino= fine in Spanish). The must is fermented like any other wine before the addition of alcohol to bring it to 15% abv. This fortified wine is then aged for an average of four years in large old oak casks that are two-thirds filled. During this time a layer of yeast (flor) grows on top of the wine, protecting it from too much oxidation and preserving its freshness.
This wine could not be further from the perceived sweet and cloying reputation sherry has attracted. It is light, floral and bone dry. On the nose it is full of aged green apple, chamomile and an attractive almond and bready note. In the mouth it is crisp, fresh, dry and balanced, offering up those promised green apples and almonds. The alcohol (15-15.5%) is well balanced and gives it a lovely warming touch on the long finish that offers a touch of saline minerality.
This wine should be served well chilled and is perfect as an aperitif or with fresh shellfish. Once opened keep in the fridge and drink within a week. Tio Pepe is available from most off-licences, supermarkets and wine shops for around €16 for 750ml.
The Irish Wino’s Verdict: This is not the most serious or complex sherry I will try this week, but it is fabulously consistent, excellent value and tremendously food-friendly.
The Irish Wino’s Tip: This wine should be drunk young and fresh, so check the back label for the bottling date. If it was bottled over a year ago, leave it on the shelf. Independent wine shops and better off-licences should have younger, fresher stock.