It’s official: Britain’s love affair with one of its oldest and most-loved imports has found new levels of lust. Sherry is the hot new addition to today’s cocktail cabinets of cool. Just a trifle too good for cooking with (see what we did there), let it be heard that the sherry selection of today is not just for Christmas (or your Nan, or indeed the big man himself).
First shipped to Britain around 700 years ago, sherry became a national staple when the Spanish spotted a gap in the market created by souring relations between Britain and the wine loving French. From there, royal brides (Catherine of Aragon, no less) raved about it, the discovery of America blew the global market wide open and, pretty soon, sherry became the tipple from which to drink and be merry.
Small family businesses based in Spain’s ‘Sherry Triangle’ - the Jerez region where, under EU law, sherry can still only be produced today - became industrial giants overnight. In London, counterfeit trade shipments stolen by passing sea pirates started finding their way into high society cellars and, by the mid-1500s, such was our desire as a nation to get sherry merry, Sir Francis Drake was promptly dispatched to launch an attack on the Spanish port of Cadiz. Drake returned with 3,000 kegs in his back pocket, while other Brits went on to set up sherry production in Spain themselves and the rest, as they say, is history.
The home of three seasoned casks imported all the way from Jerez, we don’t need to tell you that here at Bar 44, we’re a little ahead of the game and already pretty hung up on sherry as it is. Our founder Owen Morgan is the only person in Wales, and one of just a handful in the UK, to receive the Official Certified Sherry Educators qualification.
We also recently paid homage to the fortified favourite with a week-long programme of events marking International Sherry Week from November 6th – 12th. During the event our Cardiff, Cowbridge and Penarth venues featured a selection of incredible wines including Manzanilla and TioPepeFino, a bespoke sherry cocktail menu created by our all-star mixologists, a five-course sherry and tapas tasting menu, and also sherry flights offering any three kinds to try throughout the week.
Those inside and outside Bar 44 Penarth were also treated to a barrel pouring lesson and sherry tasting with nibbles on the street, while an extremely lucky and select few at our Cardiff restaurant also enjoyed aunique, live on-screen tasting session linked to Jerez with Gonzalez Byass wine maker Antonio Flores, world fortified wine maker of the year.
So, being as it is almost Christmas, may our gift to you be the insight and wisdom you need to choose the perfect sherry, whatever the occasion may be this festive season and beyond. Be assured, whether it’s poultry, fish, savouries or sweets you’re serving this yuletide, there’s a sherry to match.
For your cured meat nibble platters, post dinner cheeseboards and fish dishes, Bar 44 recommends a dry sherry such as Fino, or for salad and shellfish courses a similarly bone-dry Manzanilla. If you’re going for an oriental twist this Christmas or New Year, then a medium Amontillado is the perfect accompaniment for rice dishes and spicy food, with a fellow mid-range Oloroso suiting braised meats, casseroles, game, red meat and strong cheeses. For after dinner jollies keep it sweet with a sweetened Oloroso cream for sponge cakes, fruit salads and pates, and a Pedro Ximenez to go with chocolate or ice cream.
Whatever the occasion, don’t be afraid to explore the incredible array of fortified wines on offer today, or pop in to Bar 44 before, during or after the festive season and let us show you the way! Either way, make sure it’s a sherry merry Christmas, and a fantastically fortified New Year, by gaining the knowledge you need now to ensure every course is accompanied to perfection in the future.