It is a fact widely acknowledged that Christmas is all about the ones we love – and boy, do we love a sherry! The toast of choice among the rich and famous back in the day, it’s position as a festive favourite has remained steadfast and strong for centuries, and it’s not difficult to see why.
If you’re in the market for some salutary seasonal serving suggestions, can we just say that sherry goes with everything. Ev-er-y-thing. There really isn't a food, dish or ingredient in the world you can't pair with a sherry. From pale, dry, crisp and chilled, to rich and nutty, through to the sweet and sticky - the food pairings know no bounds (something that can't be said for other wine categories).
So, this Christmas why not pair a bottle of beautifully chilled Manzanilla with your prawn or smoked salmon canapés, a crisp Fino with your cured meats and roast hams, or a beautiful toasted dry Amontillado as the centre piece to your roast turkey? Or, if you're going all out for goose or duck perhaps purchase a Palo Cortado, or a robust but elegant Oloroso if you're planning on bringing out beef.
For afters, think about accompanying the brandy sauce on top of your Christmas pudding with a rich and unctuous Pedro Ximenéz on the side (lovers of extra rosy cheeks might also like to put in the pudding too!).
Then, make sure to please the cheese lovers by putting your grazing boards and platters out with a generous side serving of the finest fortified selection around. Just remember, the stronger the stink, the browner the drink (well, something like that – it’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s a good start).
If we’re looking at specifics, classically something like a chilled Fino goes with mild hard cheeses such as a young Manchego, mild Cheddar, Comte, or the like. The world’s driest wine, Fino is savoury with bready and almond notes, and served from the fridge sits wonderfully with these types of cheeses.
Amontillado is otherwise fantastic with funky and pungent soft cheeses – think stinking bishop, ripe brie, and the famous gooey torta style cheeses from Extremadura in Western Spain. Oloroso is a powerful dry sherry which is perfect for big mature cheeses carrying the sharpness and saltiness of a 12-15 month cured Manchego, say, or a 24-month-old parmesan, a Montgomery cheddar and other cheeses of that ilk.
Pedro Ximenéz, meanwhile, is the dark, rich, sweet, sticky wonder of the sweet wine world. With notes of figs, raisins and dates, plus lots of sugar, it can stand up to some monster cheeses - Cabrales from Asturias, strong Roquefort or stilton are your natural partners here.
Cream sherry (essentially an Oloroso sweetened with Pedro Ximenéz) otherwise needs to be served slightly chilled and in a nice big wine glass as a great partner for any cheese board, or with many of the previously mentioned Oloroso and Pedro Ximenéz pairings.
And finally, if you’re feeling particularly generous this yuletide, you could wheel out a nice Palo Cortado to round off the proceedings. A.K.A the ‘Rolls Royce’ of the sherry world, it makes for a wonderful accompaniment to any cheeseboard, or simply a nice glass on its own in front of the fire at the end of the night.
In short, keep your mind and sherry open at all times this festive season and you won’t go far wrong. From all at Bar 44, a very Sherry Christmas to you all.