Sherry’s Sweet (and Not-so-Sweet) Secrets


Is there an alcohol with a less sexy rep than sherry?

I’m pretty sure that for most Americans, if sherry rings a bell at all, it reminds you of puking up some sickly-sweet stuff you nicked from your grandma’s liquor cabinet. Well it turns out there’s a cabal of Sherry producers in southern Spain who are ready to punch your grandma’s lights out for giving their beloved drink such a bad name…

Sherry with a capital S is a type of fortified wine that’s been cultivated in the Spanish town of Jerez for a good 3,000 years now, and bears little resemblance to that over-processed creamy crap that comes to mind when so many of us think of sherry. Authentic Sherry is made from a mix of wines that are finished with brandy, for a highly-alcoholic finished product that can be anywhere from dessert-sweet to desert-dry. While imitation “American sherry” is available in this country, in Europe it’s a protected brand, like Champagne or Feta, and can only be labeled Sherry if it’s produced in the region surrounding Jerez. And throughout Spain, Sherry is not associated with anybody’s grandma — it’s a legitimate hardcore cordial that many people would order with dinner just as often as they’d ask for a beer.

No longer willing to stand idly by while their product’s good name is sullied across the seas, a group of Spanish Sherry producers have started a campaign to rehabilitate Sherry’s image in this country, so the Secret Sherry Society recently invited me to a Sherry tasting paired with dinner at WD-50. (I won’t go into Wylie Dufrense’s space-age cuisine as I’m sure many of you have read about it before, but over at Capital Spice, Mrs. JoeHoya has a roundup of a similar tasting menu experience at WD-50.)

Anyway, on with the Sherry. I’m sure the Sherry PR people wanted me to write something about the bold flavors and intense mouthfeels and rare vintages, but you all know I’m more of a beer shake kind of guy and none of those wine-y words mean anything to me. But I do know this: Sherry is the bomb. Seriously, I think I’ve found my calling as a wine snob. From the super dry and drinkable Manzanilla (a great replacement for a wine-and-cheese-night beverage), to the rich and sweet Pedro Ximenez, which takes dessert to a whole ‘nother level when poured over vanilla ice cream, poor, under-appreciated Sherry should never again be associated with something to let go stale in the liquor cabinet. I’m totally keeping a bottle of it around as my random drink-on-hand to impress guests.

So I’m curious — any other Sherry snobs out there? If so, where do you get your Sherry? Know of any stateside restaurants that serve the good stuff? Or if not, feel free so share your puking-on-grandma’s-stale-sherry stories.

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  • gansie May 26, 2009  

    i know absolutely nothing about sherry. are prices equivalent to wine (ie, some cheap enough for every day)?

  • Laura May 26, 2009  

    Not a sherry snob…but after reading this, I wish I was. Adding “Become sherry snob” to my to-do list!

  • Michael May 27, 2009  

    never had sherry, but now curious. may add “sherry” to my “become X snob” list

  • BS May 29, 2009  

    @gansie – yeah I think it pretty much runs the gamut, like wine. You can get a high-end bottle of Sherry for $40, or the cheapskate version for $10. Maybe a more long-time Sherry snob can give a recommendation on a good cheapish one?

  • brendan February 12, 2010  

    Umm one question how can Sherry have been made for 3000 years when distillation of potable spirits didn’t come to Europe until the 1500’s?

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