Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sherry by Talia Baiocchi

"There is Sherry, and there are all other wines."
--Rupert Croft-Cooke

Back in June, I Ranted that people should Stop Neglecting Sherry, asking that they take a chance and explore the wonders and diversity of Sherry. I've written over thirty articles on Sherry, some of those posts based on my visit to the Sherry region of Spain. Back in 2010, I penned a five-part series on the History of Sherry, noting that Sherry has weathered many ups and down through the centuries, and was currently at one of its low point. However, I felt that after rebounding so many times during the centuries, that it was only a matter of time before it saw a resurgence once again. Currently, it seems Sherry is climbing in popularity once again, and the outlook seems bright.

Sherry needs passionate advocates, to help spread the word, and Talia Baiocchi is doing her part to popularize Sherry. In her new book, Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World's Best-Kept Secret, with Cocktails and Recipes (Ten Speed Press, October, 2014, $24.99), she helps to educate people about Sherry, presenting this information in an easily understood manner for readers of all knowledge levels. If you are curious about Sherry, this is an excellent introduction to this worthy wine, and even presents cocktail and food recipes.

Talia Baiocchi is the editor-in-chief of Punch, an online magazine focused on wine, spirits, and cocktails. She has also written for other outlets, including Wine Spectator, San Francisco Chronicle, Decanter, Bon Appétit, and Wine & Spirits.

Available as a hardcover or e-book, this Sherry guide presents seven chapters, with an informative appendix on "Where To Find Sherry." The first two chapters, How Sherry Is Made and Wines of the Sherry Spectrum, present all of the basics of Sherry, including methods of production, terroir, solera system, bodega architecture, flor, as well as the various types of Sherry, from Fino to Palo Cortado, from VORS to En Rama. Though this can be complex, Talia does an excellent job of explaining matters so most anyone will understand. These chapters will also show readers the incredible diversity of Sherry, and how it isn't simply some sweet stuff their grandmother once drank. I also enjoyed a fascinating sidebar on Flanenco & Sherry.

"Sherry is one of the greatest of all misunderstood wines."
--William Grimes (New York Times, 1999)

Chapters 3 & 4 discuss the history of Sherry and its modern renaissance. The history lessons extends back to the Phoenicians, covering a number of highlights across the centuries. You'll learn how Sherry was popular in the U.S. during the 19th century, with cocktails like the Sherry Cobbler and restaurants pairing Amontillado and Turtle Soup. There is also mention how U.S. wineries started making their own Sherry-like wines in 1948, and that by the 1950s, it was said California was making 8 times as much Sherry as Spain.  The recent resurgence of Sherry is due to many factors, from a change of tastes to more savory items to its greater use in cocktails. There are hopes that Sherry popularity will continue to grow.

Chapter Five explores the Towns &; Bodegas of the Sherry region. There are listings for the Bodegas of Jerez, El Puerto and Sanlucar, with short descriptions and listings of their notable Sherries. If a consumer sees Sherry on their local wine shop shelves, they can use this chapter to do a little background research, to learn more about those specific Sherries.

The next chapter is all about Sherry Cocktails, providing a short history and an explanation on how Sherry affects cocktails. Then, the chapter provides over forty cocktail recipes, from old classics to modern innovations, such as Sherry Cobbler, Adonis, Sherry Flip, Bamboo, Pale Rider, and the Rye Witch, Even if you don't like drinking Sherry on its own, these cocktails might appeal to you, balancing out the flavors of Sherry with other ingredients. And if you like Sherry on its own, these cocktails can introduce new flavors and combination to you.

The final chapter,Sherry At The Table, begins with an origin tale of Tapas, and then presents about ten recipes, dishes that go well with Sherry, including items like Salmorejo and Huevos A La Flamenca. There are even cool sidebars on Spanish Cured Ham and Sherry Vinegar. However, there is little information on pairing Sherry with food, which would have been very helpful, especially considering how food-friendly it is. For example, as I mentioned before, Sherry would be a good choice as a Thanksgiving wine.

In a final appendix, Where To Find Sherry, there is a list of restaurants, bars and wine shops where you can purchase Sherry. Initially, there are restaurant recommendations for the Sherry region, but the rest of the lists are for the U.S. A number of Massachusetts spots get a mention, including Taberna de Haro, Belly Wine Bar, Toro, Merrill & Co., The Hawthorne, Central Bottle, and the Wine Bottega.

Overall, this book is an excellent and reader-friendly introduction to Sherry. It covers a wide range of topics, though could have provided more advice on pairing Sherry and food. As there are few books currently available on Sherry, this is a needed book, and Talia has written a guide that should be on the shelves of all wine lovers.

"There are only two kinds of sherry, the good and the better."
--Jerez saying


Anonymous said...

Regarding Talia's book on sherry, I have been going to Sanlucar de Barremada for 30 years so know a little about it, the book is fine, sort of primer..BUT it could be so much do not want to make cocktails with manzanilla or sherry, that is a complete waste..they should always be drunk on their take out all these waste ful pages on cocktails, put in more local receipes, or notes on good restaurants and or bars, of wwhich there are plenty,...but space is wasted on cocktails no one is going to make.

Richard Auffrey said...

In the U.S., Sherry cocktails are popular, and numerous bars are making them, so I think her addition of cocktail info is very relevant to her intended audience.