Hello listeners. Here I am taking one for the team and continuing my tour round Swindon in 50 Drinks. If your perception of sherry is the dark, somewhat sweet stuff you remember your granny drinking in a schooner at Christmas – prepare for a surprise. Because there’s as much variety with it as there is with other wines. The fortified wine you associate with grandma and Christmas is more than likely Harvey’s Bristol Cream or something similar. And you might be even more surprised to know that chilled is how you should serve it – according to them.

The merchant William Perry founded Harveys, in Bristol, in 1756. During the 19th C, Harveys turned themselves into one the biggest importers of sherry, from the Bay of Cadiz to Bristol.

In 1882, John Harvey II and his brother Edward created Harveys Bristol Cream from a blend of Fino, Oloroso, Amontillado and Pedro Ximenez grapes. If, like me, you can’t bear this stuff, rejoice! For there’s a world of sherry to explore. And the best news is that you can do your exploring right here in Swindon, at the Los Gatos tapas restaurant in Old Town.

What is Sherry?

A treasure of the wine world aside, according to Wine Anorak, sherry is ‘a fortified wine made from vineyards in the far south of Spain, where extreme heat—summer temperatures regularly exceed 40 ºC—is countered by cooling breezes from the Atlantic.’

Map of sherry country in Spain

Sherry Basics

With thanks to Los Gatos for some useful notes.

Sherry comes only from one small Spanish region. 50 million bottles are produced each year from 7000 hectares of vineyards. After the Spanish themselves the UK is the largest sherry consumer – 30%. No surprises there methinks.

Most sherries come from the Palamino grape variety. And doesn’t that sound like a horse? Only Palamino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximinez can be used for Sherry.

Every bottle has the Jerez or Manzanilla stamp and a unique number.

A Sherry Sampling Session

Myself and my chum Jo Garton, are both somewhat partial to a drop of the Spanish stuff. So not long back we two and a third friend headed to Los Gatos on Devizes Rd for a little libation. Or two. Chilled to perfection and with a bowl of salted almonds there are few things finer.

My friend Jo favours a Pedro Ximénez – the darkest one in the pictures above. That’s still too sweet for my palate. I like a Fino. Or, my fave, a Manzanilla – the middle one you see. I believe Amontillado is the third sherry in the pictures.

Sherry Tasting Notes

Los Gatos kindly gave me some tasting notes about sherry to use in this blog, so what follows is thanks to them.

Manzanilla

  • Only produced in the town of Sanlucar
  • Very pale, straw-yellow colour.
  • Pungent, yeasty nose with hints of almonds and camomile.
  • Dry, fresh, delicate and nicely bitter on the palate, with salty notes.
  • Always serve well chilled.
  • Great with seafood

Amontillado

  • Amber to pale mahogany colour
  • Slightly pungent, with a deep, complex, nutty nose.
  • Full and smooth on the palate, with a dry finish and a persistent aftertaste.
  • A good all rounder with cheese and meat

Pedro Ximénez

  • Extremely dark mahogany colour and dense, syrupy appearance.
  • Deep aromas of dried fruits (raisins), gaining complexity with ageing: toffee, liquorice…
  • Very sweet taste, with a smooth, velvety texture. Very long aftertaste.
  • Great with bitter chocolate desserts or poured over vanilla ice cream
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