A while ago my colleagues and I were at ‘MoVidas Bar de Tapas’ in Melbourne and it was the most contemporary Spanish conceptual ideal that I have experienced in my life. What struck me about the venue was the atmosphere and dining experience that will be remembered for quite some time, not to mention the slick operation they work in..
Sherry has been long forgotten in today’s society and it’s a shame in so many ways that I can’t contemplate how to entertain your attention to understand my enthusiasm and passion for all things wine and food. However, you have to experience just once, the hidden treasures of sherry and its magic when it comes to food. We sat down and the barman poured a little glass of chilled Manzanilla sherry and sat it beside our plate of anchovy stuffed olives. I took a sip and it was cool, dry, crisp and slightly aromatic. We heard the clatter of pans form the kitchen and then appeared a plate of prawns and grilled snapper dressed with red capsicum placed next to the sherry. The glass was dripping with condensation at this time. This is the very essence of the three elements that dominate the part of Spain’s cooking culture, sherry, salt and fish…
I have, on occasion, indulged in Spanish fortified wines, commonly known as Sherry, it is the two lighter styles that hold the most appeal, however, Fino and Manzanilla…It’s not a drink but a way of life in Spain. To understand the drink, you have to eat the food that has evolved with it in its homeland.
For a wine to be called sherry, it must have been produced in a small triangle of Spain on the southern Atlantic coast marked by three sherry-making towns; El Puerto de Santa Marina on the ocean, Sanlúcar de Barrameda on the Guadalquivir estuary and about 20 km inland in the hills, the town of Jerez de la Frontera.. It’s here that the very heart of sherry evolves with the Palomino grapes covering the hills like a blanket. After the grapes are harvested and crushed, they are taken into the towns where the sherry is made in cathedral-like bodegas filled with blackened oak barrels…It truly is a work of artistry to see it close up.
Drink Fino or Manzanilla on its own and it can seem quite out of balance. It’s too big, too dry and complex and often far too yeasty, and even salty to a virgin palate that has not experienced the wonders of sherry… However, when you sit down with a plate of deep-fried baby sole or a full baked snapper, all the elements kind of come together and blend. The saltiness of the sherry complements the saltiness of the fish. The yeastiness and complex malty flavours work with the roundness of the fresh fish and the crispness leaves your mouth clean and wanting more food. I was fortunate enough to have it with snapper recently; the Fino sherry was superb in the complexity of rancio and aged characters, whilst complimenting the fish that I shared it with friends over dinner.