Mon Sherri!

As we all look forward to new adventures, allow me to wish you nothing but happiness! Speaking of happiness, I'm always happy to introduce folks to new wines and make new friends. My philosophy is that we can never have too much wine or too many friends. I hope you agree? I was privileged to make some new friends at the Ajo Restaurant/Bent Oak Winery dinner and wine pairing, which was held on February 7, 2017, at Ajo Restaurant, 121 Main St., Round Rock, Texas.

If you missed the event, I'm sorry. The Benitez brothers, Albert and Ernest, of Ajo Restaurant did an outstanding job showcasing their talent in preparing and presenting delicious courses. They served their Seared Scallops atop of corn purée, bacon, fennel, almonds and grapefruit, which is one of their signature dishes, along with other equally delicious off-menu items. And John Catalano from Bent Oak Winery did a marvelous job of pairing his wines to the courses. I think we all made some new friends that night.

In case you missed it, you can still visit Ajo Restaurant in Round Rock, [click here] for a link to their website, and Bent Oak Winery in Cedar Park, [click here] for a link to their website. Let them know you are friends of mine and they will quickly become your friends, as well. Remember my philosophy.

A couple of years back I did a Spanish themed event for some other friends of mine. I presented several wines from Spain, including a couple of different types of Sherry. From the feedback I received, I succeeded in educating everyone on why grandma liked her Sherry. It has been my experience that not many Americans have been exposed to the different types of Sherry, other than maybe the cooking kind.

Spanish Sherry comes to us from what's known as the Sherry Triangle. The Sherry Triangle is an area in the Cádiz province of Spain's southwestern Andalusian coast. And the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa Maria, and San Lucar de Barrameda make up the triangle. The exact origin of Spanish wine is unrecorded. However, the Phoenicians are believed to have introduced the production of wine in Spain somewhere around 1100 B.C. and records indicate that England was importing Spanish Sherry in the 16th century. Sherry is still very popular in England and for good reason, as I demonstrated to the attendees at the Spanish themed event.

Like Port wine, Sherry wine is a fortified wine, meaning that grape spirits (think 80 proof Brandy) are added to the wine after fermentation raising the alcohol content to between 15.5 and 22 percent. Fortified wines got their start before sterilization became the norm in bottling. The higher alcohol content kept the wines from spoiling during their voyage, which usually included transporting the wine in barrels. Fortified wines caught on and are still popular today. Yea!

Although there is some debate within the wine industry as to the number of different types of Sherry, you can categorize Sherry into two broad categories. The first being the light, dry, and crisp fino-type sherries and the second being the darker, fuller bodied, nutty, and some sweeter oloroso-type sherries. The primary grape used to produce Sherry is the Palomino grape, which makes up about 95 percent of production. There are two other minor grape varieties, the Moscatel and the Pedro Ximénez, which are also used to produce sweeter style sherries or as a blending wine.

Under the fino-type sherries, we find those labeled as Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, and Paulo Cortado. Manzanilla and Fino are the lightest and driest with colors resembling straw. They should be served chilled and go great with shellfish and other seafood. All sherries by law must be aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years. Amontillado and Paulo Cortado sherries aged even longer and develop darker colors through oxidation.

Sherries labeled as Oloroso, Cream, and Pedro Ximénez fall under the oloroso-type. These sherries are usually aged much longer than the fino-types and develop into darker, richer, and nuttier colors and flavors. They are usually at the higher end of the fortified scale somewhere between 18 to 22 percent alcohol by volume. Oloroso started out as a dry style, but most producers today tend to sweeten them just a bit by blending some of the sweet Pedro Ximénez. Cream sherries were originally created for the English market by adding liberal amounts of Pedro Ximénez to Oloroso and can range from sweet to syrupy. Pedro Ximénez should be sipped in small amounts, as it is a sweet dessert style Sherry.

If you are unfamiliar with Sherries, try picking up a bottle of Fino and a bottle of Oloroso or Cream and giving them a try with some tapas. Be sure to serve them chilled. You, too, may discover why grandma liked her Sherry.

Until next time, Cheers🍷