Now that summer has arrived and the temperatures have risen well into the 90´s in many parts of the country, there is no better time to enjoy a glass of well chilled pale dry Sherry. It’s a refreshing and satisfying accompaniment to savory snacks or meals!
Sherry has long been misunderstood and underappreciated. For most people what probably comes to mind is inexpensive, sweet Cream Sherry, something their grandmother or great aunt used to drink. However, there are many styles of Sherry ranging from pale, bone dry Fino and Manznilla, to amber Amontillado and Oloroso, to dark, richly sweet Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel.
Fortunately for diehard Sherry fans, this perception is slowly changing and there has been a steady surge of interests in Sherry. This is evident from better availability and selections at a growing number of trendsetting restaurants and retailers, as well as increased attention in the press. Eric Asimov published several articles in the New York Times last year on Sherry including one titled “Sherry Sidles Out of the Drawing Room”.
One question people often ask about Sherry is when and with what food to serve it. While the wide range of Sherry styles provides extensive food matching possibilities, this post will concentrate on pairing with pale dry Sherry, which is ideal for summer weather.
A good pale dry Sherry, either Fino of Manzanilla, should be crisp and zingy on the palate. Typical scents and flavors are: nutty (almonds, hazelnuts), yeasty (brioche), floral (camomile) and fruity (lemon, green apple, apricot). There can also be chalky mineral and saline notes, especially in Manzanilla. This complex set of scents and flavors allows pale dry Sherry to accentuate and highlight a wide range of food ingredients and preparations.
Traditionally, pale dry Sherry is served as an apéritif or with Tapas, so the typical food pairings include salted nuts, olives, cured meats and cheeses. Sherry compliments the nutty, salty and bold flavors of the food, while the food both softens the sharp edges and brings out the subtle fruit tones of Sherry. Although these are great pairings, pale dry Sherry is much more versatile and can be served beyond the start of meal or solely with Spanish dishes.
As a comparison, consider dry French white with good acidity and minerality. They share many common flavors with pale dry Sherry. Take the example of Muscadet – tangy with mineral, citrus, whiffs of sea air and yeast (for Muscadet sur Lie) – it is not surprising that food typically associated with Muscadet such as raw oysters, shrimp, crab, and delicate fish also paired beautifully with Fino or Manzanilla.
Another example is an un-oaked Chablis – vibrant with lemon, green apple and steely minerality. Food that is often served with Chablis such as lobster, shellfish, escargot, battered fried fish, and rich baked seafood dishes like Coquilles St. Jacques or Oysters Rockefeller also work well with pale dry Sherry.
For cuisines beyond Spain, one of the most magical food matches is Sushi. The crisp acidity, citrus fruit, mineral, and saline flavors of the sherry compliment the raw fish, while the yeasty component harmonizes with the soy sauce. This is something that neither sake with its fruity elements nor crisp Japanese beer with its yeasty elements can achieve alone. Sherry, however, excels at both.
So, next time you are having Sushi or dishes that bring to mind French whites like Muscadet or Chablis, consider trying Fino or Manzanilla. You will be amazed at how well Sherry partners with these foods and elevates your meal!