Advantages Delicious and refreshing when served cold
Disadvantages The bottle never lasts long enough
When I mention the word sherry to my friends, I am usually greeted with shouts of “Yeuck! Not that sticky brown stuff that Aunty drinks at Christmas?”. Personally, I think that this is rather unfair on aunts, but it is also a sadly blinkered view on what is one of the great wines of the world.A few facts about sherry:
All sherry starts off life as a dry white wine made from palomino grapes, and when I say dry, I mean about as dry as a wine can get. There are two basic types of sherry, oloroso and fino. The wine is matured in casks filled to about two thirds full. Sometimes a sort of carpet of mould known as flor forms on the surface of the wine. No one quite knows why this should happen on certain casks but not others, but the result is that the wine below the flor remains fresh tasting and very light in colour. These are the fino sherries and are prized by the wine makers as the finest examples of their art. Manzanilla is a fino sherry from the town of San Luca de Barrameda. The wine in the casks in which the flor does not form develops a darker colour which continues to darken the longer it is matured. It also develops a richer flavour. These wines are the olorosos.So what about the sweet and sticky stuff? Back in the distant past when huge sideburns and brown and orange clothing were all the rage and a brown and tan Rover 3000 was the coolest thing on wheels, most sherry that was sold in Britain was sweetened to suit the British palate. Things have changed a bit since then and a much larger proportion of the sherry sold in this country is dry. In the better quality sweet sherries (and some are very good indeed) are sweetened by adding the extremely sweet juice from predro ximenez grapes.
But I digress, back to La Gitana:Make sure that you buy it from an outlet that has a good turnover. Fino and manzanilla should always be within a few months of being drawn from the casks and bottled because after time it begins to lose its freshness of flavour. Don't buy a dusty one from the top shelf of your local offie because it has probably been there for a few years.
This wine should always be served cold like most white wines so make sure that it has been in the fridge for a good few hours before drinking.Now for tasting:
It is very pale straw coloured with no trace of cloudiness. The nose gives no hint of sweetness but has sharp notes and hints of herbs rather than the fruitiness that you might expect of a white wine. The taste is searingly dry and tangy but also has extreme delicacy and lightness and an almost savory, perhaps salty note to it, which makes it a surprisingly refreshing summer drink. I would recommend sitting in the garden on a warm summer evening with a glass of manzanilla and a bowl of olives, all four of these elements perfectly complementing each other.When pairing manzanilla with food, it goes naturally well with salty snacks such as olives and nuts, but also consider with tapas such as chorizo and tortilla. It is also very useful in the kitchen for deglazing pans when making gravy or adding a dash to a risotto at the start of cooking.
I am rarely without a bottle in the fridge and La Gitana is one of my favourite of those that are widely available.Available from Majestic Wine, Waitrose and Sainsbury's with the lowest price being £4.99. Give it a try and blow those old preconceptions about sherry away.
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A dry wine with a delicate finish from the well-known house of Hidalgo who are based in the coastal town of Sanlucar de Barrameda. The pale light...
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