Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sherry Food Pairings: More Bellota Please

From appetizer to dessert, there is a sherry which can accompany almost any dish.  It is a versatile wine and Spaniards primarily drink it with food rather than alone.  Yet in the U.S., it is far too often seen as just an apertif or an after-dinner drink.  Not enough U.S. consumers consider it as a proper pairing with dinner so they need to be educated in that regard, shown its vast potential.  So let me offer some food pairing suggestions for a range of sherry types. 

Fino and Manzanilla sherries share many characteristics so they often pair well with similar foods.  Manzanillas tend to be slightly drier, a bit more salty and with a more pungent aroma.  A good choice for a wide range of tapas, these sherries pair very well with seafood, especially shrimp, mussels and fish like sardines, but they even go well with sushi. Drink them with olives, sliced hams, salami, soups, mild cheeses, almonds, other nuts, and pickled foods. They even are a good accompaniment to hard-to-pair foods like artichokes and asparagus.

Amontillado sherry often has a compelling aroma with smooth flavors of nuts, caramel, and vanilla.  It is a very good pairing for soups (like gazpacho), poultry, pork, spicy foods, BBQ ribs, and stronger fish, like blue fish.  It is also very good with strong cheeses, including pecorino, gorgonzola, and stilton.

Oloroso sherry often has similar flavors to Amontillado except they are often rounder, deeper flavors with pungency.  Oloroso pairs well with poultry, pork, wild game, red meats and even tuna.  It also works with cured meats, smoked bacon, and even foie gras. Try it with creamy cheeses like brie or even bitter chocolate.

Palo Cortado sherry is said to have the aroma of a Amontillado and the taste of an Oloroso, thus it will often work with many of the same foods as an Oloroso.  But, I have found Palo Cortados to taste a bit more like a blend of the two, with less roundness than an Oloroso though not as pungent as an Amontillado. So consider similar pairings to an Amontillado too.

Pale Cream sherry has the addition of some Pedro Ximemez, so it is has hints of sweetness.  Suggested pairings include fresh fruit, foie gras, blue cheese, cured meats and slightly spicy dishes. Medium sherry, which has more sweetness, will go well with patés and quiches.  Cream sherry, which sometimes can be a 50/50 blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez, is the sweetest of the cream sherries. It too can pair well with foie gras and blue cheese, but also sweet pastries.  It is popular to serve Cream sherry on the rocks, and that can sometimes be a good pairing for various tapas. 

Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel both make very sweet sherries, often thick, viscous wines and will generally pair with similar foods like chocolate, blue cheese, puddings, pastries, and other sweet desserts. A favorite suggestion is to pour some of this sherry over ice cream.  The main difference between these two sherries is that the Moscatel may have different aromatics, more herbal, pine notes.

Experiment, and try various sherries with different dishes.  You can use the above information as a guideline, but personal preferences can vary so discover what you like best.

Do you have any of your own favorite sherry food pairings?


Unknown said...

If you were to choose two sherrys....one to pair with lamb, the other with beef....what would you choose for each?

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Ryan:
It would partially depend on how the meats are prepared, though in general I would choose an Amontillado with the beef and an Oloroso with the lamb. I recently paired an Amontillado with a Beef in a Red Curry Sauce, and it was a big hit with everyone at the dinner.

Ramon said...

Hi from Spain,
I would like to combine three sherries with three english cheeses.
Any ideas please?.

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Ramon:
Can you tell me more about the type of cheeses. For example, are they aged cheddars or a creamy blue?

william said...

Do you have any book recs on sherry?

Kevin Davis said...

Sherry tasting and food pairing at Lalola bar de tapas in San Francisco.