International Sherry Week

Ambassador and owner of Tapavino, Frank Dilernia

Why do we need an international sherry week?
Because sherry is one of the great wines of the world, from one of the great regions of the world and it’s a forgotten drink. We want to bring it back into the forefront of people’s minds. Sherry has a big image problem.

Where is it from?
Jerez, in the south of Spain. It’s similar to champagne, so it can only be called sherry if it comes from that region. The ones from Australia are called Apera.

What do you like about sherry?
I just live the crisp cleanliness of it, it’s also one of the greatest drinks for food pairings. With most wines you take a sip, it fills your mouth and the taste lingers whereas sherry cleans your palate. It can be an aperitive, most people associate it with that or a sweet wine with dessert. I associate it with a wine, it’s to be drunk right through the meal.

What’s the difference between wine and sherry?
The way it’s made. Sherry is an aged wine, the first press of the grape juice is aged in barrels. Normal dry sherry ages under flor, a thin veil of yeast, for two years minimum but it can be up to 17 years old.

Are there different kinds of sherry?
There are five main varietals; Fino, Palo cortado, Amontillado, Oloroso are all made from palomino grapes. The sweeter styles, cream and Pedro Ximenez, are made with Moscatel or Pedro Ximenez grapes.

Fino has a very similar colouring to light white wine, it’s very very dry and around 15.5 per cent alcohol. It has a slight almond aroma and there’s a crispness to it. It goes well with seafood dishes and cured jamons.

Palo cortado and Amontillado are similar, the difference is in the ageing process. They’re dry and have nutty, roasted almond characteristics with a walnut finish that you can pick up on the nose. Palo cortado is a variety that’s not made often, it generally just happens when the flor dies off or the winemaker adjusts the alcohol to 17.5 per cent so they kill the flor and the wine oxidizes. They go well with terrine’s and pates.

Oloroso uses the second press of grape juice. The first is used for the Fino because it’s more elegant. This is more of a robust wine, it never lives under flor, its an oxidized wine in a darker style, with notes of caramel, walnut and a lot of dried fruits. It goes well with game, braised meats, oxtail and blood sausage.

Cream is Oloroso with added Pedro Ximenez, about 15-30 per cent to make it sweeter. Pedro Ximenez is a different style of sherry, instead of pressing grapes they’re left to dry in the sun and then pressed, which gives a sweet, syrupy juice. It’s sweet, dark and great with blue cheese, robust cheeses and desserts.

Is cooking sherry the same as drinking sherry?
I’ve tasted cooking sherry and I certainly wouldn’t drink it.

What made you open a sherry bar?
People thought we were mad, but no one else was doing it and I love the drink. We opened in August, 2012 customers have been really receptive to it. We also have a lot of food and nearly 400 wines on the list, there needs to be something to back up sherry.

What do you recommend for a sherry newbie?
Try a semi-sweet oloroso, it has nuances of being dry and slightly sweet at the same time. Most people recommend a fino but it’s an acquired taste and could put them off. If you’re having food yes, go for a fino, but as an aperitif, I’d give them something slightly sweet.

This was first published in The Daily Telegraph’s Best Weekend magazine on Jun 7, 2014

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