The switch of the seasons brings with it a wave of changes—from wardrobes to wines to interiors. Aperol Spritz and al fresco dining give way to cozy hangouts, hearty dishes, and cold-weather ready cocktails.
Over the past few years there's been demand for a once-forgotten wine that's seen a recent revival—sherry. Especially loved during the fall for its woody, spicy, and nutty notes, the fortified wine from Spain's Jerez region ("Sherry" is an Anglicized version of "Jerez") plays perfectly into seasonal cocktails. The drinking world's demand for the drier varieties shows no sign of slowing down—International Sherry Week reaches its fifth year this month (October 8th to 14th).
But it hadn't always been that way. Talia Baiocchi, editor-in-chief of Punch and author of Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best Kept Secret, with Cocktails and Recipes first encountered the drink by New York's Casa Mono's Bar Jamon back in 2006—"one of the only bars in the city who knew how to store sherry back then," and weren't placing it under the dessert wine category. Its savory taste and intense dryness left her "perplexed and enchanted" and totally "in love".
So how should you be drinking the revived drink this season? For the fortified wine beginner, we tapped Baiocchi and Chantal Tseng, a certified sherry educator and Head Bartender of the Reading Room of Petworth in Washington, DC to cover the basics.
What is sherry?
Many are still bewildered by sherry. Stick your nose into a glass of fino, manzanilla, or amontillado sherry, and you won't find the usual notes of fruits like in most wines. Instead, you'll find richer, mushroomy, umami, or walnut-y aromas.
At heart, it's just wine, but it's a wine that's been fortified with spirits and is aged via the solera method, a complex approach to blending liquids of different ages. As a result, every bottle of sherry contains a mix of old (sometimes very old) and younger wines. Some types are allowed to oxidize, and that exposure to air creates gorgeous nutty characteristics.
Although there's been a "dramatic change" in sherry's popularity, Baiocchi says it's still the wine world's "best-kept secret in terms of value".
Is there a great sherry for beginners?
There are seven types of sherry. For those new to the drink, Baiocchi recommends popping open fino, manzanilla, or amontillado. Chantal Tseng agrees, "a fresh chilled glass of Tio Pepe Fino is a great introduction to sherry, pair it with some Spanish olives, Jamon Iberico and Marcona almonds".
What should I eat with sherry?
All sherry is wine at the end of the day, and what goes well with wine? Snacks, olives, cheese, and seafood. What's wonderful about sherry is that it's extremely food pairing-friendly.
Tseng recommends crisp dry styles like manzanilla and fino to "start a meal or to pair with seafood and lighter fare". Nutty, dry sherry styles like amontillado & Palo cortado are "amazing with cheeses and soups, artichokes, fried chicken, duck, pork dishes, ramen".
"Olorosos pair well with heartier meats like lamb, beef as well as with aged hard cheeses and off-dry or medium sweet styles pair well with spicier cuisine and dessert styles like Moscatel and PX pair well with all manner of desserts as well as with blue cheeses".
Fall cocktail recipes for sherry beginners
Talia Baiocchi recommends:
3 1/2 oz amontillado sherry
1/2 oz simple syrup
Garnish: orange slice, lemon wheel, seasonal berries
1 1/2 oz fino sherry
1 1/2 oz dry vermouth
1 teaspoon rich simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes orange bitters
2 oz fino sherry
2 oz fresh lemon and lime soda water
Chantal Tseng recommends:
The Jungle (served in a chilled coupe)
1 part Jensen's Bermondsey Dry Gin
1 part Valdespino Inocente Sherry
1 part Dolin Rouge Vermouth
Vaster than Empires...
2 parts Linie Aquavit
1 part Dios Baco Elite Medium Oloroso
1 part Lillet Blanc
2 dashes Absinthe
1 dash Aromatic bitters