Led by a wave of artisanal wines, Sherry is winning a new generation of fans. Here’s the 411.
By Michael Schachner
Ready for a vinous oxymoron? Sherry, for ages one of the most tradition-bound, staid and ignored wines in the world, is surging in popularity.
A new generation of wine drinkers is embracing this idiosyncratic, fortified product from Spain’s deep south.
If this sounds like a story you’ve heard before, I hear you.
As long as I’ve been covering Sherry, the message out of Andalucía has been that Sherry is being rediscovered en masse. Or, that Sherry producers, believing that their wines are about to take off, are mounting yet another global marketing campaign. Or, simply, that Sherry is the most underappreciated, yet perfect wine to pair with food.
But according to tastemakers—i.e., the sommeliers who sell Sherry daily—there’s something different this time around, adding traction to the latest movement.
Young wine devotees—millennials—are enthralled with discovering Sherry’s myriad styles and flavors, especially if the wines are made in tiny batches by small bodegas.
“There’s been renewed interest in Sherry, that’s for sure,” says Gil Avital, wine director at Tertulia, a Spanish restaurant in New York City. Avital says he’s been “blowing through” artisan Sherries lately.
Recipe courtesy Dan Greenbaum, co-owner and bar manager, The Beagle, New York City
A riff on the classic Bamboo cocktail (equal parts Sherry and dry vermouth), this drink features the light, mineral-like flavor of fino Sherry. “I like La Ina, because it’s a young, sharp fino that can withstand a good amount of vermouth without being overpowered,” Greenbaum says. “A manzanilla like La Guita also works well.”
1½ ounces La Ina Fino Sherry
1½ ounces Perruchi sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
Stir all ingredients (except garnish) with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Recipe courtesy Jon Santer, co-owner, Prizefighter, Emeryville, California
This downright muscular cocktail uses a hit of rich, nutty amontillado to add complexity to rye whiskey.
2 ounces rye whiskey
¾ ounce amontillado Sherry
¼ ounce orange liqueur, such as Cointreau
2 dashes orange bitters
Fat strip of orange peel, for garnish
Combine ingredients (except garnish) over a large chunk of ice in a rocks glass and stir. Twist orange peel over the top of the drink to release oils from the skin, then use the peel to garnish.
Recipe courtesy Jackson Cannon, owner, The Hawthorne, Boston
This drink gives crisp, dry fino Sherry a bit of fruity flavor and tiki flair.
¾ ounce grenadine
½ ounce ruby Port
½ ounce Cognac
¼ ounce fresh lemon juice
2 ounces fino Sherry
5 dashes Fee Brothers
Whiskey Barrel bitters
Mint sprig, for garnish
Fill a highball glass one-third with pellet or crushed ice. Add the grenadine, Port, Cognac and lemon juice, and mix the ingredients with a swizzle stick (or long spoon). Pack the remainder of the glass with ice, then add the Sherry. Swizzle again. Pack the glass with ice until full, then top with the bitters. Garnish with mint sprig and serve with a straw.
5 Sherries Top Restaurants and Bars Love Right Now
Here’s a shortlist of some of the labels spotted on the shelves and menus at Sherry-loving bars and restaurants. Score a bottle or two for your tasting room at home.
La Ina Fino: At The Beagle in New York, co-owner and bar manager Dan Greenbaum frequently mixes La Ina into cocktails—young, bone-dry and crisp, it stands up to vermouth, amaros and other spirits, he says. It’s also a fine sipper alongside light nibbles such as Marcona almonds.
La Guita Manzanilla: Spanish resto Manzanilla in New York City (recently named a Wine Enthusiast’s 100 Best Wine Restaurant) showcases the mouthwatering saline and bright apple notes of this Sherry in its signature Manzanilla Martini.
Pedro Romero Amontillado: Crowned with fruit and plenty of crushed ice, Bellocq’s signature Sherry cobbler utilizes this amontillado. Off-dry and featuring notes of hazelnut and spice, it’s a natural companion to cheeses and savory appetizers, too.
Toro Albala ‘Don PX’ Pedro Ximenez: “PX,” as Pedro Ximenez is often shorthanded, is noted as the sweeter side of the Sherry spectrum. This bottling is served by the glass at Vera, a tapas restaurant in Chicago’s West Loop area, usually as a dessert pairing—but on the savory side, keep an eye out for the PX syrup drizzled over Vera’s cocoa-dusted foie gras, too.
Lustau East India Solera: With its tawny hue and appealing mix of rich fig, raisin and cocoa, consider pairing this bottling with a traditional Spanish flan. Yountville, California’s famous French Laundry includes this bottling on its extensive wine list. —Kara Newman