If you hear the word, “sherry,” it’s OK if you think of people gathered in a 19th century drawing room after a feast, sipping from glasses that are simply tiny. It’s the stuff of Bridgerton and Jane Austen novels. Even though sherry is s Spanish drink, the fact that it was so widely imported across the English Channel through the centuries made it a major part of British culture.
But it is these stereotypes that Alvaro Ruiz is fighting against. He’s the export director for Alvear, the oldest winery in Spain. He was in Edmonton last week to meet, to greet and share the sherry gospel. And, maybe, little by little, we can change the conversation around this very complex drink — that shouldn’t simply be saved for an after-dinner quaff. No monocles required, here.
“It’s very difficult to step away from the conception of sherry as an old person’s drink that is not gastronomical and not be able to be paired with anything,” he said for a small group who had gathered at DOSC to try some sherry-based cocktails.
In fact, sherry doesn’t have to be sweet — and when we sampled the Alvear Pedro Ximenez Solera, with some of the casks dating back to 1927, what struck me was just how many different flavours and aromas were active at the same time. It was as if there were entirely different feels on the tip of my tongue than what was registered on the site. It’s not an easy drink to describe — and that’s kind of the point. Sherry isn’t an easy thing to pin down. And while it makes for an excellent drink, it makes it hard for those of us who want to simply know if something is sweet or dry or has fruity notes.
“The taste profile is difficult,” said Ruiz.
But there has been a surge of interest in sherries from a growing number of young drinkers who have embraced things like sour beers or natural wines. They don’t want simple. As well, as was proven in DOSC’s All Inclusive, a cocktail made with Alvear Medium Dry, black tea, lime, pineapple and a hint of vanilla, it can act as a base for a drink, especially for those looking for a cocktail that doesn’t taste like fruit juice, but don’t want to be punched in the face by the alcohol content, either.
“It might not be the star, but it’s really good in combination,” said Ruiz.
Because sherry has been exposed to oxygen before it’s bottled, it lasts longer after it’s been opened. Ruiz called it “indestructible.” A bottle can be opened, a glass of sherry can be enjoyed, and the rest can be stored in the fridge. A dry Amontillado sherry goes so well with sharp cheese, nuts, or the simplest of combinations, some good olives and crusty bread. The simple things are often the best things.
“We need to walk away from the strict rules that have been associated with sherry,” said Ruiz. And that means not serving it in tiny glasses that are fit for a dollhouse. Enjoy it in a wide wine glass.
Alvear may be a winery that dates back over 300 years, but it’s time to inject some youth into the classic.
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