BREAKING NEWS: after several decades of ‘A glass of white wine please,’ and ‘Would you like a glass of white wine?’, it has finally dawned on many of us that actually we are fed up with the ubiquitous offer of the daily white wine ritual. So often unfulfilling; so often yesterday. Which region? What price? Do I stick to yet another bland Pinot Grigio or acid tearing Sauvignon Blanc? Do I really like, or dislike, Chardonnay from its myriad of different regions? Who am I?
The joy of rediscovering sherry, the wine for all seasons, is that we do know the provenance, Jerez, Sanlúcar or Puerto in Andalucia, and yes there are differences between the different styles of all the bodegas, but essentially we know what we are getting when we buy ‘a bottle of sherry’ from the two best quality sherry UK retailers, The Wine Society and Waitrose. If there is manzanilla on the label, it will taste seaside dry; fino will be crisp and dry; amontillado will be nutty dry; palo cortado will be fragrantly dry; oloroso will be rounder, yet still dry, and all have a lower sugar content than your average champagne. It is only when you see ‘cream’ on sherry labels that you’ll know these are blends with sweet wines added to them to produce a non dry sherry.
Sunshine may be about these days, but it is cold. In the summer months, after frolicking in the garden or on the beach, there is nothing better than a glass or three of chilled manzanilla or fino. Both are the driest of white wines as such with a max alcohol of 15%. So fulfilling; so today.
During these winter months, after a day’s shooting or playing rugby, there is nothing finer than pouring oneself a glass or three of cream sherry such as the brand leaders Harvey’s Bristol Cream, Croft’s Original Pale Cream or Canasta Cream. It gladdens the heart, comforts the soul and warms one up for the next adventure.
The glorious dry, nutty, achingly satisfying amontillados, olorosos and palo cortados are perfect at noon and to accompany first courses instead of yet another – yawn, yawn – glass of white wine which could come from anywhere. And once open, a bottle of sherry will happily last for weeks, even months, whereas your bottle of white wine will barely last for longer than one or two days.
Of course, Santa’s favourite tipple, which more and more of us are discovering for ourselves, is PX – which is the accepted shorthand for the gloriously rich sherry from the sun-dried sweet Pedro Ximénez grape. The first sniff transports one straight into Christmas pudding mode. So decadent, so raisiny, so unctuous. No wonder Santa is always smiling. HO, PX, HO! So spoiling by itself, and so delicious when poured over vanilla ice-cream.
As the days shorten and nights lengthen, do think about those first words of welcome: ‘A glass of white wine?’, and show that you are a true, thinking host or hostess by changing them slightly to ‘A glass of crisp fino, nutty amontillado or a glass of warming cream sherry?’ Assuming your guests do not lash out at you, you will get a winning smile. A last resort would be to change your friends.