Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Valdespino sherry tasting - I can hear Jerez calling!

It comes as no surprise that wine is something I (and this blog) love. Be it white, red, rosé, sparking or port. But there is a wine I've been trying to get to grips with: sherry. Sure, I've used it in cooking; in these mussels, in this baby octopi recipe, these Andalusian lamb shanks, these Iberico pork cheeks and Crème Ninon, the diva of the soup world. Recent Valdespino wine tasting made me realize what a versatile wine it really is and how well it pairs with food, too!

The sherry country, starting from Cadíz and culminating around Jerez is the last unexplored corner of Andalusia for me. I've been dreaming of exploring it for a while now and I think I'm finally about to make it happen - that's how much I fell for Valdespino's Oloroso and Cream. 

House of Valdespino is one of the oldest in Jerez and one of the most prestigious ones, too. Founded in 1264 it has throughout its history supplied royal families from Spain to Sweden. 

When one thinks of sherry, one thinks of hundred-year-old grannies with perms tighter than David Beckham's abs, sipping sherry out of thimbler-size glasses, "purely for medicinal purposes, dear" (see if you can say that without breking into your finest Hyacinth Bucket voice...!)

However, in the recent years it's enjoyed quite a renaissance and the younger generation (along with the world outside Spain) has opened their eyes to the versatility of this drink.

Even in Finland over half of all the sherries sold comprise of Valdespino's Oloroso and Cream. 

Fino is probably the best known sherry variety and the most popular one in Spain. It's enjoyed ice cold (even as a sherry tonic!), but it's also considered the most versatile kind for tapas feasts. 

It's dryness and notes of almond compliment the little nibbles that often accompany aperitifs: olives, toasted almonds, but you might also want to try it with smoked salmon and fritti misti. Works with crostini and tuna paste, too (recipe to follow!)

My own palate (clearly about to hit the middle age..) has surprisingly became enchanted with sweeter sherries like Oloroso and Cream, though those too should be served chilled. I can honestly say Valdespino's are the best I've ever even tried. 

Oloroso has a darker colour and nuttiness with hints of toastiness; courtesy of years in old oak barrels. Though clearly sweeter than fino, it has richness that pairs well with a variety of tapas. Concentrated, acidic flavours like sun-dried tomatos are just one surprisingly good match. Serrano ham is another. 

Darker and more robust meats (game, even) would be worth a try, too!

Cream is even sweeter than Oloroso with velvety finish. Sweet, however, is known to balance salty components. This works particularly well with tortilla Española (a tapas classic if there ever was one!) but saltier sausages such as chorizo bring an interesting dimension to it, too. 

Salty cheeses (Manchego with Oloroso, rich blue cheeses with Cream...) would make nice pairings for the sweeter sherries, too.  

Oloroso and especially Cream wouldn't be out of place as dessert wines, either, especially now with all the autumnal flavours such as apple, cinnamon  - anything nutty and toasty - but Dios mios, the last wine we had just pulled out all the stops.

I first had Pedro Ximenés in Ronda and was love at first sip. Echoing the dark, toasty, syrupy character of locally produced sugar cane molasses miel de caña,this is a jubilant way to finish a meal all on its own. But pour it over a good quality vanilla ice cream (and maybe top with some caramelized nuts...?) and you've got yourself the easiest dessert imaginable. 

Its toastiness is perfect match for rich, chocolatey treats (like brownies and mud cake) and anything with burnt sugar such as crème brûlée.

By the way - ever thought why desserts like crème brûlée, crema catalana and flan have all been created by traditional wine-making countries? Because the egg whites were needed in the wine-making process (clarification of the wine) the leftover yolks found a new lease on life combined with cream, sugar and vanilla and hey presto!




No comments :

Post a comment