While Sherry is one of the most ancient types of wine, many still shy away when it comes to featuring it on menus. Too often restaurants brave enough to offer a nice selection end up pouring half of the bottle down the drain because it just doesn’t move. It may seem risky, but with a few simple systems in place, Sherry can be a successful and delicious part of any menu.
Know Your Varieties
One of the virtues of Sherry is the variety of styles it comes in, everything from bone dry to syrupy sweet. Fino and Manzanilla are the light colored, almost clear wines with dry flavors of raw nuts, fresh apple, and sea salt. Oloroso and Amontillado styles are amber in color with more toasty flavors of walnuts, raisin and caramel, but still dry. Cream blends and Pedro Ximenez Sherries are brown in color with sweet raisin and toffee flavors, they range from slightly viscous to sticky in texture and are almost exclusively dessert wines. Having a selection of different styles ensures that there will be something to satisfy every palate.
Serve With Food
The key to turning tastes buds on to Sherry is through food pairings. Because of high levels of acidity and deep nutty flavors that are long lasting in the mouth, Sherries are excellent counterparts to food. Finos and Manzanillas make great accompaniments to appetizers such as nuts, olives, shellfish, charcuterie and cheese. Olorosos and Amontillados are classically served with soup courses and also pair well with poultry and meats. Sweet Sherries compliment white chocolate, creamy desserts like cheesecake and panna cotta as well as strong cheeses. While people may hesitate to order a glass on its own, enjoying Sherry as part of a familiar culinary experience is a great way to introduce the complex pleasures the different styles have to offer.
Cook With Sherry
There is no better way to get the flavors of Sherry circulating than to incorporate them into dishes. A diner can always choose not to imbibe, free or not, but once the flavors are inside the dish, they will taste it. The strong toasty flavors of the dark dry wines make excellent sauces for poultry and the light colored wines add a bright flavorful punch to sautéed mushrooms, shellfish and sausages. Sweet wines can be used as sauces for desserts or mixed with other ingredients to lend depth and character. Tasting the flavors of Sherry in food not only transforms ordinary dishes into brand new experiences, but can also cultivate a taste for the complexities of the beverage on its own.
Just like any other wine, if not stored correctly, the enjoyment of Sherry decreases dramatically. Even though some Sherries come pre-oxidized, they still go south pretty quickly after opening so it is important to label the wines and use them up within a few days for the light colored varieties, and a few weeks for the darker, unsweetened wines. When a bottle is nearing its last stretch of freshness, using it as a complimentary pairing with a dish is a great way to reduce waste and demonstrate its versatility.
These days there is a wide selection of Sherries available. Because of its relatively low profile the value is unbeatable, no other category of wine offers oak aged wines of consistent quality for low prices year after year. While it may never sell like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Rose from Provence, Spanish Sherries have a world of culinary satisfaction to offer to the initiated.