Fri 25 Oct 2013

Matching Sherry To Food: Two Very Different Dinners


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?

The Society's sherry buyer Toby Morrhall talks to members

The Society’s sherry buyer Toby Morrhall talks to members

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.

Members enjoying the Botaina Amontillado in Bray

Members enjoying the Botaina Amontillado in Bray

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!

Emma Howat
Tastings & Events Co-Ordinator


  1. M.J.Macpherson says:

    Sounds splendid.Can you repeat in Stevenage or in the East of England.

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