MY granny kept a bottle of it in the dark recesses of her pantry to offer to visiting clergy. A drink to be sipped in bird-like pecks from thimble-sized glasses with your little finger crooked, just so. More sherry vicar?
It was a never-except-on-a-Sunday drink with a whiff of gentility and a medicinal taste. A tipple associated with maiden aunts and Women’s Institutes, neither naughty nor nice.
But what Calendar Girls did for the WI, clever marketing is doing for sherry. This year it’s getting a sexy new makeover in the home of its birth because Jerez is 2014 European Capital of Wine. Sherry is a wine, zut alors, whatever the French say. So if you’d like to give the Croft Original another chance, now is the time and Jerez is the place to make merry with sherry. It worked for me.
Have you ever consumed sherry by the wine glass with your meal?
It’s quite the done thing at Restaurant La Carboná, an amazing Michelin Guide-recommended restaurant in the town centre. It used to be a bodega but you get more than a drop in a tasting glass here, where sherry stars in the food as well as on the wine list. Guapo young Jerezano Javier Muñoz is making a name for himself as The Sherry Chef with saucy techniques that would scandalise your maiden aunt: meat sauces, sweet sauces, marinades and maridajes, all made with sherry!
Have you ever tried sherry in a cocktail?
Master mixologist Eloy García of Bar Cubanamé has won more contests than your granny’s had Tio Pepes and now he’s shaking it up with sherry. I made merry with five of his sherry combos and didn’t even wake up with a resaca. The man’s a maestro!
Have you ever tried sherry from the barrel?
Head for a tabanco where they serve it from the wood for €1 a shot, in measures that would make the vicar slur his sermon! It worked wonders for Ashton Kutcher and his girlfriend Mila Kunis last year, I was told. After being caught on camera downing sherry at El Pasaje (the oldest tabanco in Jerez), they snuck off for a Ritual del Amor at the Hammam Andalusi, say no more…
Even the bodegas are PX-Factoring up their acts. At Tio Pepe you can try a catamaridaje – a sherry tasting paired with a palo of flamenco. Enjoy a fandango with your fino and a malagueñas with your manzanilla. Olé!
I used to think manzanilla was a herbal tea, not my cup of tea at all, until I went to Jerez. But I’ve come to appreciate the dry wit of a flirtatious fino … the full body of a smooth oloroso … and I’d run off with Pedro Ximenez and a chocolate brownie tomorrow, a maridaje made in heaven!
That doesn’t mean I’ve turned into my granny who only thought there was one type of sherry. British sherry.
“Don’t give me that foreign stuff,” she used to say. “You can’t beat good old Harveys from Bristol.”
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