EAT, DRINK AND BE SHERRY NO 4 | Académie du Vin Library


Date: 25 October, 2019 / Author: Ben Howkins

Sherry, Understood, Enjoyed, Celebrated!

Fresh from two weeks in the California sun, where I was wearing my Last Drop Distillers (‘seekers of rare, old, exceptional spirits’) hat, I plunged into the UK October autumnal weather with a feeling of huge excitement.

My book, Sherry, Maligned, Misunderstood, Magnificent!, was to be launched, not just once, but at a range of events throughout the month. 

Having enjoyed a pre-launch lunch in The Spectator boardroom mid-September, we followed with a magnificent dinner in Cardiff, Wales. Co-founder of ‘the UK’s most popular Spanish restaurant’, Asador 44, Owen Morgan, entranced a full house with five beautifully paired courses and sherries ranging from Fernando de Castilla’s  Antique fino through to a Soluque family reserve PX. Stunning.

Then it was immediately off to Jerez to launch Sherry in the Sherry Triangle itself. Don Beltran Domecq Williams kindly hosted a very successful event at the heart of the sherry trade, at the Consejo Regulador, in the centre of Jerez. It was very special meeting with my old friends and colleagues from my Croft days in the 1970s. (We all looked just the same!)

We drove to Osborne in Puerto de Santa Maria and to Hidalgo La Gitana in Sanlúcar de Barremeda and dined at La Carbona in Jerez.

Then, back in London, came the big UK launch. A multifaceted event held at the wine mecca, 67 Pall Mall, on October 21st. An Aladdin’s cave awaited our special guests. Among the wines served were two of the most extraordinary and unique sherries, both amontillados, ever to leave Jerez. They were ravished over. Both had been drawn from their respective butts in recent days; both were north of 100 years old; both were just magnificent, awesome and achingly good, and both were priceless, only to be enjoyed at the launch of Sherry. To me, it signalled that amontillados are the kings of Jerez. And I send a huge thank you to bodegas Barbadillo and Alonso for providing these amazing wines in honour of my book and the sherry it celebrates.

Reflecting a tad and enjoying the reactions of those present, it really does seem to me that sherry has actually turned the corner. Today, it is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘now’. The quality export markets of the UK and USA, the volume markets of Germany and Holland, together with the discovery markets of Japan and China, are now aware of sherry’s sheer diversity. Sherry is a world class wine whose vast stashes of treasure, gently reclining in its respective butts within the Sherry Triangle, are gradually being released to the outside world. And folks are loving them.

Do spend a few minutes asking your local wine merchant what he has discovered recently. If the answer is nothing, change your wine merchant.

Sherries are classic pairing favourites for creative menus and soft cocktails. The bygone days of ‘sherry is just for Christmas’ have been replaced by a newer outlook: the younger generation discovering what their parents and grandparents were deprived of, ie, the really good, aged wines of top quality, that can be enjoyed all year round, including of course, at Christmas time. Never miss a sale.

My book Sherry is a story. It features a real villain – now dead, his six sons are still in jail – who, in no exaggeration, nearly destroyed this wine, its heritage and the sherry region itself. It has some wondrous photographs, great detail about the wines, their vineyards and their newest incarnations. It introduces the sherry heroes and tells the tale of this wine’s comeback to glory.  Enjoy!

Sherry, Maligned, Misunderstood, Magnificent! is available on our website, priced £20.

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