SHERRY: A LONG-AWAITED COMEBACK?
Our co-Founder Beanie was invited to contribute to the latest edition of the Good Pub Guide. Read the full, unabridged version of the article below!
“If I had a thousand sons, the first human principle I would teach them should be to forswear thin potations, and to addict themselves to sack”, so concludes Falstaff after a lengthy monologue on the subject of sherry otherwise known as “sack” in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 2. The UK’s love-affair with sherry is long-standing and deep rooted - Shakespeare is just one of countless British personalities who refer to it in their writing with great affection – so why is it that it has fallen from favour in recent years and is it true that a comeback is finally just around the corner?
Beginning at the beginning, there are records dating as far back as the 12th Century of shipments of wine to the British Isles from ‘Sherish’ the Moorish name for the town of Jerez de la Frontera, in the heart of the Sherry Triangle. However, it was almost one hundred years later that the trade began in earnest, when the Spanish King Alfonso X – having reclaimed the city from the Moors - entered into a bartering agreement with the English King Henry I to each promote their national produce: English wool for Spanish sherry wine. Imports took off and the Jerez vineyards became such an important source of wealth for the Spanish kingdom that a Royal Decree in 1402 prohibited the uprooting of even a single vine.
The export of sherry gave rise to some of the leading characteristics of this style of wine, notably fortification with grape spirit to prevent spoiling during sea voyages and later the unique ageing method known as the Solera System which ensured a product which was consistent in quality and flavour year after year. Before long, sherry had become so popular in the UK that – as with Port – British companies were setting up home in the region to oversee production, and in 1796 an importer by the name of Harveys was established, before going on to blend and launch one of the enduring sherry brands in the UK market: Harveys Bristol Cream.
To this day, sweeter styles of sherry – such as the chestnut-hued Harveys Bristol Cream or pale cream Croft Original – account for 85% of sherry consumption in the British Isles, but the consumption levels of this style of sherry as a whole are dwindling as younger consumers turn-away from sweeter drinks in favour of crisper, fresher alternatives – nowhere seen more clearly than in the stratospheric re-birth of Gin. Spain is in fact Europe’s leading market for Gin – their elaborate ‘gintonic’ culture is an inspiration – but Spain has also now succeeded the UK as the largest single market for sherry and it’s on the rise. The reason? 85% of sherry consumed in Spain is dry – bone-dry Finos and Manzanillas.
Fino sherry – like its cousin Manzanilla – has all the hallmarks of a contemporary classic here in the UK too. A food-loving, appetite-whetting wine, it pairs brilliantly with classic bar snacks such as nuts, olives and charcuterie, as well as heartier staples such as fish and chips and risotto. Naturally low in residual sugars (comparable to champagne), which appeals to the growing body of health conscious consumers, it is also far lower in alcohol than most consumers think at 15% ABV.
Steve Carter’s article in last year’s Good Pub Guide addressed the question of the UK’s changing relationship with alcohol with an increasing number of consumers looking for low or no-alcohol options. As a fortified wine which is more robust than most white table wines, sherry in general and Fino in particular can offer up their services to a large number of fun and more elaborate low-alcohol spritz options – soda, tonic, lemonade and ginger ale all work brilliantly with Fino and look delicious when properly garnished.
XECO Wines, which launched in September 2017, is on a mission to re-energise the sherry category precisely by putting a contemporary edge on this age-old wine, promoting its use in spritz and other low-alcohol cocktails and in doing so helping to dispel some of the myths that “sherry is for nan, not for me”. It is still early days, but the tide is definitely turning as more and more younger consumers wise-up to the richness of sherry, its history and pedigree but most of all its versatility.
XECO serves worth giving a spin –
· 75ml XECO Fino
· 75ml Schweppes Ginger Ale
· 2 dashes of peach bitters
Combine together in a rocks glass, over ice, and garnish with a lemon twist.
· 50ml XECO Amontillado
· 25ml lime juice
· 15ml sugar syrup
· Summer fruits and herbs
Muddle fruits and herbs together in the bottom of a highball glass, add other ingredients and churn with ice. Garnish with lots of fruit an optional dash of soda.