WINE O’CLOCK: A winter warmer that is also nice chilled
Last week I looked at wines you might like to try before the Christmas dinner. Afterwards, when the pud has been scoffed and the cheese is on the table, many of us will sip a glass of Sherry, that good old staple for winter days.
It is one of the two great fortified wines. The other, Port, is mostly made from red grapes with a little brandy added during fermentation which makes it retain more of its natural sugar.
Sherry is made from white grapes in the Jerez district of Spain. Sherry-makers add the spirit after fermentation, so the wine is less sweet.
Some Sherries are so light and bright they make a perfect aperitif but it is the darker, creamier versions we associate with Christmas.
Fino and Manzanilla are the Sherries that would serve best for an aperitif. They are pale, very dry and best consumed cold within a couple of days of opening. Try Manzanilla Papirusa, Lustau (€13, O’Briens).
Amontillado is the Sherry we associate with the roaring fires and festive delights, an aged Fino with a rich hazelnut colour and nutty flavour.
The Barbadillo range has a number of excellent Sherries including Amontillado Medium Dry (€14.99 from Ardkeen Stories, Waterford, and many independent traders). It has a salty, nutty taste and goes very well with blue cheese.
Don Zolio’s Amontillado, from Williams & Humbert, is a heartier affair with a similar salty texture. Again, it’s nice to sip with blue cheese or paté. Try Amontillado 12 Years Old, Don Zoilo, from many off-licences at around €13.
The most famous of all the sweet Sherries is Bristol Cream. It is made by adding sweet Pedro Ximinez to good Oloroso sherry to produce a dark, caramel and walnut flavoured wine. Harvey’s Bristol Cream sells at €13.19 from Worldwide Wines, Waterford.
Bear in mind that sherries are for sipping not slurping. The alcohol content of most Amontillados is around 20 per cent, so handle with care.