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By Frances Bentley

'Retro' - I despise the term. I like to think of myself as one of those anti-nostalgia types - I hate kitsch, abhor Victoriana and loathe anything 'vintage'. I'm all about the new, the exciting, so when asked to write about Sherry for Retro Bite I got upset on the behalf of Sherry. The region is going through a bit of an overhaul, with more modernised methods, approaches to winemaking and crucially, to marketing, it's had to, everyone in the UK associates it with the 70s, and no-one wants that for their brand.

Poor, misunderstood Sherry. The Dr Pepper of fortified wines. Everyone knows it's there, but aren't quite sure why it exists and it loses out to the bigger names constantly. Let me set the record straight, it's not just a drink for your granny at Christmas. Sherry deserves respect and understanding, this is my crash course.

Made in Jerez from the Palomino grape (with Pedro Ximinez the one exception, more on that later) the grapes are fermented, then fortified by adding brandy, a layer of yeast (the 'flor') then forms a coating on the wine, protecting it from oxidization. What happens to this flor determines which of the 3 main sherry styles the wine will become;

Fino - the driest, palest. It gets under the flor, which keeps it light.

Amontillado - darker and richer than a Fino, the flor is present for a time, but then dies exposing the wine to oxygen, making it nuttier and more rounded.

Oloroso - Darker, richer still with intense nuttiness and stronger aromas (the name means scented) - the flor dies off quicker (often due to higher alcohol) it is therefore exposed to oxygen for longer

The other important styles are Manzanilla and Pedro Ximinez (PX to its mates). The first is a type of Fino aged on the coastal town of Sanlucar de Barrameda, this exposure imparts a saltier, more minerally flavour. The latter is an intensely sweet wine, and the only sherry made from the partially dried grapes of the same name, so the sugars are concentrated. Those cream Sherries you all know well from a certain Bristolian company are usually blends of the three main styles, with a bit of PX thrown in to make it sweet enough to down like Baileys.

Sherry has something for everyone, and just requires a bit of experimentation. Unsurprisingly, given its origin it's brilliant with Tapas, though I believe you can match a sherry to everything. Soups with Fino, Chicken with Amontillado, Fish and Chips with Manzanilla, Chocolate with PX; the possibilities for this most versatile of wines are endless. (F.Bentley)





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