As the year draws to a close I find myself reflecting upon the bottles that most impressed me over the last 12 months.
This selection is made in absolute terms, putting aside price and availability, and incorporates 10 wines that have, quite simply, provided me with the utmost drinking pleasure in 2013. It is, therefore, a very personal selection of my most memorable bottles.
In no particular order:
• Baccolo Appassimento Parziale Rosso Veneto 2012 (£5.95 per bottle)
Real Italian flavour here and probably the best-value red I have tried this year. From Veneto, it is made from partially dried grapes which concentrate the flavour.
• Viña Zorzal Graciano, Navarra 2011 (£6.75 per bottle)
The 2011 of this Navarra red meets the high expectations set by the superb 2010. Think modern, ripe Rioja but with a twist of individuality.
• Domaines Lupier El Terroir Garnacha, Navarra 2009 (£16 per bottle)
I predict we might be hearing a lot about this exquisite garnacha in years to come. A newish set-up, using 100 year old+ vineyards to craft a seriously fine expression of this Mediterranean grape.
• Frog’s Leap Zinfandel 1993 (No stock available)
Frog’s Leap owner John Williams kindly brought this to show to members at a London tasting in May. At 20 years of age, it dazzled us with its maturity and freshness.
• Dog Point Pinot Noir 2010 Marlborough (£23.50 per bottle)
A remarkable Marlborough pinot: ripe, smooth and stylish. I would go as far as saying it is Dog Point’s best pinot yet.
• Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 1991 (No stock available)
Tasted as part of a Penfolds vertical (alongside the legendary Grange), this sensational shiraz knocked me for six. Surprisingly youthful for its age yet completely delicious to drink now.
• The Society’s Vinho Verde (£5.95 per bottle)
New to the range this year, I sense this might just spearhead a comeback for vinho verde. Light, crisp and effortless to drink.
• Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2010 Auckland (£17 per bottle)
The tricky climate in Auckland means that vintages really do matter. 2010, though small, produced beautifully ripe grapes, and this is excellent.
• Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Chaumées, Domaine Jean-Nöel Gagnard 2008 (£43 per bottle)
Wonderful, complex Côte de Beaune that ticks all the boxes you expect from top level white Burgundy.
• Rivesaltes Cuvée Lucie, Domaine de Rancy 1985 (£50 per bottle)
This fortified macabeu, aged for a long time in old barrels in contact with oxygen, has near-perfect balance between sweetness, acidity and flavour. The finish goes on and on and on.
In a recent food and wine matching workshop, that was (surprise, surprise) themed around Christmas, the thorny issue of whether ‘to sprout or not to sprout’ raised its head.
Did you know that Brussels sprouts were named after the Belgium capital after becoming popular there in the 16th century? However, they are only recorded as having made their first appearance in Britain as late as the 19th. For better or worse, sprouts have become an integral part of Christmas dinner. In fact, Christmas dinner without sprouts would be like Father Christmas without the beard – just odd!
On this particular occasion, the question was which wine should be served with a sprout? (We had a rather nice sprout kebab, made up of sprout and bacon lardons; chestnuts would have worked well too.)
The argument was rather theoretical, as so many are, as it is highly unlikely that even the biggest of Brussels sprout lovers will serve a dish of them on their own; often it is the trimmings that play more of a deciding factor when it comes to wine selection. Nonetheless, we endeavoured to find the perfect vinous match for this Marmite of the vegetable world, with some very interesting results.
Indeed, just as sprouts themselves divided opinion (unsurprisingly) on the day, so too was the choice of wine to pair with them, determined by whether the tasters were lovers of sprouts or not.
Those partial to the odd sprout found that chardonnay seemed to be the answer. The creaminess of The Society’s Exhibition Limarí Chardonnay matched brilliantly with what sprout lovers described as ‘the creamy, nutty flavours’ of the veg and didn’t overpower or fight with the flavours.
On the other hand, those who were not fans of the sprout, decided that riesling was a better match; on this occasion Toni Jost’s Bacharacher Hahn Dry Riesling 2011 shone through. This slightly richer wine took centre stage with the sprout as the support act, and as one member put it, ‘completely masked the flavour of the dreaded sprout!’ without clashing.
Ultimately, when looking for the perfect wine to match Christmas dinner, there are, of course, many other flavours, apart from sprouts to take into consideration. Once you have loaded your plate with turkey, goose, or beef, with all the usual Christmas trimmings you have some quite powerful flavours. The key is therefore to look for a wine which will match the overall flavour of the whole dish rather than the key components.
Rich chardonnays or white wines from the Rhône work beautifully for those craving a white wine with their Christmas lunch, whilst a generously fruited grenache-dominated red sets off the slight spice in dishes such as pigs in blankets, bread sauce, and stuffing to perfection.
I feel sure that there will be many people out there thinking we have paid far too much attention to sprouts; however to them I would say that if you can’t pay attention to a sprout at Christmas, when can you?
You can read more about wine matching at Christmas in my article on The Society’s website.
Tastings & Events Co-Ordinator
The Cellar Showroom here in Stevenage has had the decorations up for a while now, welcoming members to a wonderful selection of festive wine and foods.
As the season to be jolly is rapidly approaching, here’s my vinous version of the Twelve Days of Christmas which, who knows, may give you some ideas for wines to go with the festive fare that is on the way.
Twelve Guntrum-mers Guntrum-ming
Eleven vin de Paille-pers Paille-ping
Nine First Ladies Dancing
Seven Joseph Swans-a-Swimming
Five Goldcap Rieslings
Four Collioure Birds
Three French Full Reds
Two Turtle Duvals
And a Mas Champartridge in a Pear Tree.
Have a very happy Christmas.
May your days be Maury and bright.
What has 640 legs and drinks 256 bottles of wine in 90 minutes?
The answer: Wine Society members at our recent tasting of Spanish wines.
It was clear to see why, after tasting the wines on show at Merchant Taylors’ Hall in London earlier this month, Spain is now one of our most important sources of wines, and why these wines are so popular with members.
34 wines were available to taste, many of which were poured by winemakers and representatives from some of Spain’s finest wineries.
So what makes Spain so outstanding at the moment? For me, the primary reason is that it manages to deliver at whatever price point you care to look at. ‘Diversity’ can be a somewhat overused term in wine circles but it’s certainly true of Spain.
I spent a large part of the recent tasting pouring Cruz de Piedra Macabeo. At £5.75, this was a white that, I have to admit, I was unfamiliar with. When members started coming back not just for a second taste but for a third and fourth try, I quickly started to take notice, particularly when there were many more expensive wines vying for their attention.
My colleagues pouring wines at a similar price point – both reds and whites – reported the same thing. There was no doubt that Spain can certainly hold its own in terms of offering great value for money.
But it is not just at the entry level that Spain shines. I was lucky enough to try a selection of Riojas from £6.95 to £34 and was impressed that all of them delivered a great wine for the price.
The Society’s Rioja Crianza is made by Bodega Palacio, a winery with a history nearly as long and rich as The Society itself. Each year The Society’s Spanish buyer Pierre Mansour travels to Rioja to carefully blend the wine with the expert team at Palacio to provide an end result which is absolutely typical of a traditional Rioja. I struggle to think of another wine made with over 250 years of combined winemaking expertise and hand blended to such exacting specifications for under £7.
At the other end of the pricing spectrum was the Contino Graciano Rioja 2007. This was one of the wines that made me take a step back upon tasting. It is only produced in exceptional years and yes, ok, it is £34 so it should be excellent, but when compared to wines of similar quality from other regions that £34 price tag starts to swim into perspective. With 15 months in French and US oak and with a tiny overall production of 330 cases (the typical production of a left bank chateau of a similar quality might be around 20,000 cases) this might be even be considered by some a bargain.
Pierre recently described Spain as ‘the most exciting, vibrant wine country in the northern hemisphere’ but don’t just take his word for it, it would appear that the several hundred members who enjoyed the recent Spanish tastings would agree with him.
If you weren’t able to attend the tastings then all these wines and more are available as part of our latest featured range of Spanish wines.
Filipa Pato is the daughter of the Bairrada region’s most famous son, Luís Pato. Luís is described as a nonconformist and a pioneer, and has been crafting some of Barirrada’s, if not Portugal’s, finest red and white wines since the early 1980s, garnering worldwide acclaim and multiple awards along the way.
It appears that the winemaking apple does not fall far from the tree.
Standing in Filipa’s newly acquired vineyard in Bairrada, some of the problems and opportunities faced by those producers dedicated to Portugal’s indigenous grape varieties and winemaking heritage become apparent. The vineyard used to belong to a grower who, since the closure of the local co-operative five years earlier, has struggled to find buyers for his grapes. This is a story repeated throughout the region.
The unspoilt way of life and the beauty of these rural Portuguese vineyards is certainly attractive to visitors more accustomed to the hectic pace of modern living. But for the younger generation growing up in the same sleepy surroundings there are few prospects and little to entice them to stay in the region. Consequently the majority have left for the larger towns and cities where there are far greater opportunities for education and employment.
Speaking to Filipa, it becomes clear that there is conflict between her desire to uphold the traditional way of life in the region coupled with a real feeling of responsibility to help the population of smaller growers balanced against commercial considerations, sustainability and quality.
In many ways she is a conservationist, but one firmly rooted in the reality of today’s ever-changing wine marketplace.
The problem, however, has created an opportunity: now many growers who originally refused to sell their grapes are queuing up to do so, which has allowed the indigenous grapes of the region to take shape in the hands of a forward-thinking winemaker.
Much of the fruit Filipa buys comes from old vines that have been traditionally farmed but in many cases were at risk of being replaced with more profitable crops. Indeed, she was so shocked at what she called the `devastation’ of Bairrada’s native baga variety that she formed along with her father, the group ‘Baga Friends’, whose aim is to keep and maintain the heritage of the old vineyards of this grape.
Despite (and maybe because of) having a famous winemaking father, Filipa is very much her own person. Her winery is modest, located in pretty little farmhouse. Wines are tasted at the kitchen table with most of the house taken up by vats, stainless-steel tanks and barrels.
The basement cellar is dark and cool and, it wouldn’t be unfair to say, a little run down. The wines, however, are not – and are recognised as such by noted UK wine critics Jamie Goode, Sarah Ahmed and Jancis Robinson MW amongst others.
Filipa describes her winemaking style as producing ‘authentic wines without makeup’. No flashy use of new oak or overblown marketing hyperbole here. The wines are very much allowed to speak for themselves. If oak is needed then it is used, but always as a supporting role to the flavours and idiosyncrasies of the region’s indigenous grapes.
The end result is a range of finely crafted wines that speak of the terroir of Bairrada and that respect the traditions of the region while showing off the huge potential that is gradually starting to be recognised outside of Portugal. These attributes, combined with honesty and elegance, could easily be applied to describe Filipa herself.
You can read an interview with Filipa’s father, Luís Pato, on the Wine World & News section of our website.
Don’t miss Filipa’s and Luís’ wines, alongside many more, in The Society’s current featured range of Portuguese wines.
Although the first story, concerning a supposed forthcoming global wine shortage, was somewhat specious (see Jancis Robinson’s excellent rebuttal), anything to remind us that it is not an endlessly available commodity is arguably welcome: the remarkable effort, expense and complexity involved in making good-quality wine is something we are always in danger of undervaluing.
The second story, hot on the heels of a recent investigation from BBC’s Watchdog, concerns a study by mysupermarket and Guardian Money into the pricing on some of the major wine brands sold by the supermarkets over the past year, leading to accusations of ‘manufactured discounts’: putting an item on the shelf at an inflated price before advertising a perfectly legal yet somewhat too-good-to-be-true ‘50% off’ deal.
I therefore wanted to clarify and reassure members that artificially inflated prices, loss-leaders and the like are not devices used by The Wine Society.
Our objective, unchanged since our foundation in 1874, is to source ‘the best wines at the best possible price’.
As members will notice, we do occasionally offer savings on wines. These are always clearly marked alongside a transparent explanation of how and why they are being employed. By far the most common are:
1) Modest savings to encourage exploration
Quite simply, we want members to try different wines. Incentives to do so, whether for ‘one bottle only’ or for pre-mixed cases seem appropriate ways to encourage a sense of discovering new wines and areas, and continue to prove popular.
2) Supplier-supported savings
The producers (and, occasionally, regional bodies) with whom we work want you to try their wines, and sometimes offer their support for temporary price reductions as an incentive to do so.
3) Clearance and bin ends
Warehouse space is finite and we occasionally ask for your help in order to clear the decks, making way for new vintages and new wines.
For more information, please refer to The Society’s Value Charter, introduced this year to explain how and why The Society’s unique model can provide members with the best of the world’s vineyards at competitive prices with good service, without the short-term distractions of shareholder dividends and growth purely for growth’s sake.
Every autumn, the French food and wine marketing organisation Sopexa, on behalf of French Wines With Style, hosts the Absolutely Cracking Wines From France tasting where they ask key wine writers, bloggers and sommeliers to put forward the best French wines they have tasted in the last year.
While you’d expect The Society to feature, given the strength and depth in our French offering, this year we had more wines represented in the tasting than any other merchant – more than double the second most mentioned! Testament indeed to the combined talents of buyers Marcel Orford-Williams (Alsace, Beaujolais, Champagne, Rhône, South of France), Jo Locke MW (Bordeaux, Loire) and Toby Morrhall (Burgundy).
156 wines featured in the tasting from 75 UK merchants, and 23 came from The Society. We’ve put together a 12-bottle mixed case of 2 x 6.
Red: Domaine du Cros, Lo Sang del Pais, Marcillac 2012
Writer, blogger & the Sunday Express‘s wine expert Jamie Goode says of this wine: “It’s bloody, ferrous, meaty and fresh, with minerality and bright fruit. It’s drinakable. It’s food friendly. And I like to drink it.” It’s one of the most versatile wines we have on our list, and while you may have never heard of the fer servadou grape, it’s very worth getting to know, and offers such excellent value for money.
White: Domaine Cauhapé,Chant des Vignes Sec, Jurancon 2012
Award-winning wine writer and regular Decanter columnist Andrew Jefford sums up this wine in his inimitable style, to which there really is nothing to add: “Gros manseng is blended with 40% of the rare camaralet de Lasseube to make this bracing, complex dry Jurançon. Aromas almost jump from the glass – pineapple, hay, pounded almonds, hawthorn blossom, a little banana, somne fresh apricot. On the palate the wine is rousing, vivid, saline and incisive, yet every bit as perfumed, and as singular, as its aromas – deverting yet palate-cleansing. I don’t think you’ll find a more intriguing aperitif from France than this, and few to match it for concentration and character.”
Sparkling: Domaine du Montbourgeau, Crémant du Jura NV
The UK’s acknowledged Jura expert, Wink Lorch, says: “This Crémant from 100% chardonnay has purity, finesse and a lightness from start to finish. Yet it remains distinctly Jura in its flavours.” She is so right – there is something so crisp, clean and … well, ‘mountain air’ about this wine. The most refreshing fizz you’ll drink this year, and cerrtainly the one the family and I will be seeing in Christmas with.
Sweet: Maydie, Tannat Vintage, Madiran 2010
Expert wine buyer Christine Parkinson, from London’s Hakkasan restaurants, says: “This is a vin doux naturel from a grape usually better known for tannic, dry wines. The wine has flavours of blackberry and damson which mesh well with the sappy sweetness and a structure reather like a young vintage Port.” Delicious, and has the added bonus of going very well with chocolate!
We regularly feature strongly at this annual tasting, but we don’t rest on our laurels. Marcel, Jo and Toby are already combing the vines of France to ensure we stay on top of our game.
This is an account of how I got to experience how one of our drivers goes about his day’s work recently.
My day started at 4am! A total shock to me and my alarm clock, normally set for 7am. At 5, I met Dale at the warehouse. The day’s work was already loaded onto pallets. His worksheet was set out in delivery order (1 to 32).
Once inside, he sorted the cases into reverse order so drop 32 was at the back of the van working forward, so once at the drops minimum time was spent searching for boxes. A heavy but effective start to the day!
Our route was south London. We hit the A1 at 5.40am and on into the smoke, missing a LOT of rush-hour traffic. The early start was a very good idea.
Dale works two of our Stevenage shifts and some London ones, driving over 1,000 miles a week. He is 33 and knows south London like a cabbie! As we chatted, I also discovered that he played football from an early age to a very high level and two of his mates went onto make careers: a certain Elvis Hammond and Darren Bent. He has always loved driving, but to my dismay has never rode a motorbike. I duly bored him with tales of my biking years…
The first drop of the day was at a large, fairly new development close to the Thames. Up in the lift with four cases we saw several ‘costly suits’ on the way down. I wondered whether their day was going to be more stressful than ours!
Dale has a very good rapport with his ‘regular customers’ (his words, not mine) and takes tremendous pride in his work. A prime example of this was towards the end of the run when we received no reply after ringing the doorbell. There were no instructions for where to leave the wine in the event of this, so Dale tried four neighbours. Only one was in, but they refused delivery. Undeterred, however, Dale called the member, who then called his wife. Ten minutes later, the wine was safely inside.
Dale knows the area extremely well and the rest of the drops were all on schedule. He completed all drops safely and, escaping the heavy traffic in Kilburn via the back roads, we were back at base at 2pm.
This was sunny Wednesday, rather than the stormy Monday but the day’s work still took nine hours to complete (not counting the driver’s commute). It was a long, hard day’s graft: all these guys need to be fit, strong and have a very good even temperament and a sense of humour for what their days present.
I really enjoyed my day with Dale, a man who really does travel the extra mile for Society members.
This recipe, while hopefully of use and interest to all, was written with the winter 2013 selections of The Society’s Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind. Voted Best Wine Club by both The Independent and Which? Magazine, Wine Without Fuss offers regular selections of delicious wines with the minimum of fuss. Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?
You can now find out more about Wine Without Fuss in a short video on our website.I heard a rumour the other day that a number of newspaper and magazine editors have taken against printing any recipe that takes longer than 30 minutes to make. What nonsense. At this fraught time of year, what could be better than something that can be slipped into a low oven and left for hours, without risk of overcooking, while other pressing matters are attended to? After a long day, a cold nip and a mad world, coming home to the promise, then the aroma, and finally the sheer, melting tenderness of this pork dish is bliss.
The recipe, one of my enduring favourites, comes courtesy of Philippa Davenport, who for many years was the cookery correspondent of the Financial Times. My original clipping, no longer a pristine pink, but withered by age, grease and overuse and held together with sellotape, is one of my prized possessions. Whether I serve it for two or scale it up considerably for my colleagues here, compliments abound. The recipe is always requested, and I share it here with the kind permission of the author, who, blessed with a thoroughness I could never aspire to, even went to the trouble of cooking it again, using metric measurements, to ensure that it worked.
British pork is at its very best now. By all means deploy rare breeds and even farmed wild ones, but it’s my belief that the important things are the rearing, and the ratio of fat to lean meat. This recipe calls unashamedly for the fattiest, but most flavoursome cut of all, the belly. If you are too worried about how flat yours should be, let’s meet again in the New Year belt-tightening feature.
Apart from being simplicity itself to prepare and impeccably behaved while left to its own bubbling devices, this dish is a winner with any number of wines, white or red. Pork and honeyed whites are known to live happily together and I’d single out Benedict Slovenian White (not surprising, given its proximity to Austria) in the Buyers’ Everyday Selection. Riesling is another very pork-friendly variety: Corte Ignacio in the Premium Whites has all the lime-slicked piquancy and concentrated fruit you could wish for. In the French Classics selection, I’d choose the Collioure for its focused, full-throttle fruit and overall polish.
Reds must be exceptionally fruity, but with good backbone to cut through the richness and square up to the deep flavour of the prunes. Step forward the serious mien but warm heart of Domaine Gournier’s IGP Cévennes in the Everyday Selection and the wonderfully-named Drác Magic in the Premium Reds. It will happily mop up any of the reds in the French Classics case, though my top pick would be the deeply satisfying fruit of Moulin-à-Vent Labruyère.
CHRISTMAS EVE PORK
© Philippa Davenport
Serves 4 generously
• 1kg boneless belly pork rashers
• 1 dozen prunes
• 1 smallish onion
• 1-2 tbsp each chopped coriander flat parsley
• 3 -4 tbs lemon thyme leaves
• 2 fat garlic cloves
• A small corner of a chicken stock cube
• 2-3 butter papers
• 1 tbsp tarragon or white wine vinegar plus enough unsweetened grape juice to make 300ml in total
Lightly butter a large shallow dish that will take the pork in a single layer. A Le Creuset buffet casserole is ideal. Cut each rasher in half, but leave the rinds on. They will enrich the gravy deliciously and are good to eat.
Lay the pork jigsaw fashion in the dish, squeezing the prunes into the gaps. Scatter the herbs and the finely chopped garlic over the meat. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the crumbled stock and veil the lot with the onion, slicing as paper thin as you can.
Pour on the liquids which should come almost level with the top of the meat. Lay the butter papers directly on top. Cover with a well-fitting lid or double thickness of tightly crimped foil.
Place the dish in a cold oven, turn it to 300F/150C/Gas 3 and bake for 3.5 hours.
A little longer will do no harm provided the temperature is low and the dish is well-sealed. When ready, the meat should be so tender that even the toothless would rejoice in eating it.
Serve with lots of mashed potatoes to soak up the flavoursome gravy, and a clean green salad of bitter leaves on the side.
Janet Wynne Evans
Specialist Wine Manager
When trying out food and wine matches at home, remember that help is at hand in the form of The Society’s interactive Food & Wine Matcher.
Sherry is seen by many as a tricky beast – either too alcoholic, too different, or the kind of drink your grandma keeps on her sideboard to be produced with a flourish on special occasions. As a result, it is most unfairly maligned. Even at The Wine Society, with its plethora of wine-savvy members, sherry sales peak at Christmas and then gradually fall away over the rest of the year.
As such, the tastings team decided that it was high time we celebrated the individuality and diversity that sherry offers. From bone-dry, crisp fino to rich, sweet oloroso, with everything in between, sherry is a food-pairing dream come true, so what better way to show the merits of sherry than to drink it with a meal?
Getting Toby Morrhall, The Society’s sherry buyer, on board was easy. To employ a famous catchphrase, Toby firmly believes that sherry is for life, not just for Christmas, and is passionate about getting people to actually drink sherry – and not in little thimble-sized glasses either, but proper wine glasses. Those shocked by the thought of consuming large glasses of fortified wine, should consider that many table wines are now hitting 15% – the lighter finos and manzanillas don’t come out much higher than that.
Three of the movers and shakers of the sherry world were invited to come and talk at the event: Marcelino Piquero of Sánchez Romate, Peter Dauthieu (who represents Cayetano and Williams and Humbert) and Ignacio Lopez de Carrizosa of Lustau. Our idea was to show a range of sherries throughout the dinner, a different sherry to be matched with each course, which would, of course, be specially designed to match perfectly.
Toby feels that it is very important that sherry should not be ‘ghettoised’; that is to say, that people should not be made to believe that sherry only works with Spanish-style food. To this end we chose two very different restaurants, with the idea of hosting two consecutive evenings, with the same line-up of sherries accompanying very different styles of food.
The first restaurant was Moro: based in Exmouth Market, London, Moro is famous for its Spanish and Moroccan-inspired cuisine. The second was The Hinds Head in Bray, Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin-starred gastropub, which specialises in traditional British-style cuisine.
It goes without saying that the two evenings were completely different, but each worked equally well in their own very different ways.
Having seen the menu for Moro a week before the event, I couldn’t wait to try the food. It was my first visit to the restaurant and it didn’t disappoint. Everything was so beautifully done, and the food matched the sherry to perfection – we had sent a sample bottle of each of the sherries to both restaurants beforehand so they could try the wines before planning the menu. Samantha Clark was doing the cooking and whilst in theory the dishes were simple, it was plain to see that the ingredients used were of the very finest quality and the flavours were truly excellent. There were many highlights to the meal, even the olives we had as a nibble whilst drinking the La Ina were fantastic, however for me the standout dishes had to be the seared wild mushrooms with Iberico panceta and almonds, with the Botaina Amontillado, and chocolate and apricot tart with The Society’s Exhibition Oloroso Dulce – we were told later that Sam and Sam had reduced the amount of sugar in the chocolate tart so that it would pair better with the Oloroso, and I have to say that whilst I’m sure it would have been even more decadent with more sugar, as it was it worked perfectly.
Another night, another four-course-dinner. This time we were heading across the country to Bray for a very British-style of dinner. From the bright, open-plan restaurant that was Moro, we found ourselves at the Hinds Head, a beautiful 15th century pub, complete with low ceilings and wooden beams. Head chef Kevin Love created a four-course meal, based on seasonal, local produce which would complement our sherries perfectly. The contrast couldn’t have been more different. Instead of olives, we had ‘devils on horseback’: prunes, which had been injected with alcohol, wrapped in parma ham, and grilled. The salty and sweet flavours worked perfectly with the tang of the La Ina Fino, as did the Mussel broth, which was probably in culinary terms the highlight of my evening. The veal was incredibly rich and stood up to the gutsy Botaina and the Cayetano Palo Cortado. The remarkable As You Like It Amontillado shone with the Cheddar and blue cheeses, showing that sherry really is a serious contender to port when it comes to the cheese board.
So what did we intend to achieve with these sherry dinners – apart from having some great food? Whilst it would be wonderful if everyone suddenly saw fit to drink sherry throughout their meal, matching a different wine to each course, even we know that would be an impossible dream. However, what we hope to have shown is that sherry shouldn’t be relegated to the sideboard by default. There are so many different and wonderful wines out there that there really is a sherry for every occasion. The key is to be brave and have fun experimenting, there is a whole new world of food and sherry matching that awaits. Believe me, it is a lot of fun!
Tastings & Events Co-Ordinator