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Oh Sherry

August 1, 2010

I have no idea what the song is about, and I doubt he’s singing about the wine, but someone needs to sing its praises.  Sherry is one of the wines most maligned by the plonk that is sold on the shelves at American liquor stores; although the damage done to Chablis is arguably greater.

Locally, even better liquor and wine stores stock full shelves of Taylor, Fairbanks, and Christian Brothers “sherry,” none of which, mind you, actually comes from Jerez, Spain.  It’s cheap, it’s sweet, and it will get you tipsy.

Much like True Chablis must come from its eponymous region in France, true sherry is made in the Jerez region of Spain.  Officially, sherry is a fortified wine, with brandy added once the fermentation is complete.  The actual process by which this wine is made is complex and unique.  If anyone is interested we can talk more about that some other time.

Perhaps it is the complexities of sherry that have kept it at arm’s length from many domestic wine drinkers.  It can be difficult to wrap one’s head around the various styles that range from light, dry and snappy to dark, sweet and viscous.

Around these parts, the best you are likely to find is Harveys Bristol Cream in its striking blue bottle.  

My mom loves the stuff, and it served as my introduction to sherry.  We even had a beautiful crystal glass of the Harveys before our dinner at San Francisco’s Ritz-Carlton many many years ago.  I found its dark nuttiness to be intriguing and appealing, although certainly there are people who aren’t crazy about sherry’s overall flavor profile.

However, as I learned more about sherry, and tasted more examples of the style, Harveys became less and less special.  F. Paul Pacult summed it up with, “The agreeable flavor like the aroma is monotonal and simple, but tasty and user-friendly nonetheless.”

Now, let’s contrast that with his notes from a similarly priced cream sherry from Hartley & Gibson:

I put this plummy thoroughbred right up there with the best creams in today’s marketplace; the gorgeous coffee-bean/mahogany color has reddish/golden highlights in the core; the aggressive, ambrosial nose is simultaneously strong and elegant, emitting enchanting aromas of raisins, prunes, dark chocolate, and paraffin; the viscous texture underpins luscious, intense flavors of prunes, cocoa, and coffee; luxuriously long finish; high-end quality at a low-end price; no doubt the headliner of this cast; a superb sherry for any money. 4* Highly Recommended

That is just one example of one style from the low end of the price spectrum.  One of the great things about sherry is that the top-of-the-line bottles are within reach of those who truly want them.  The prices of some kinds of wine or spirits can easily climb into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars.  But you would have a hard time finding a bottle of sherry for more than fifty bucks.  There are many stunning sherries available for less than $20, even the storied amontillado.

The best sherry selection I have been able to find locally is at All Star Wine & Spirits in Latham.  But the bar is pretty low.  Anyone local have a suggestion about where to find the stuff?  I had hoped that with the new expansion of Exit 9 in Halfmoon that there would be plenty of room for some serious sherry.  Sadly, there is not.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Angelique Vega permalink
    August 1, 2010 12:00 pm

    Daniel, so glad you can post again. And, I’ll be trying sherry today just because of you. I am so enjoying your blog – it’s a real treat: witty, informative and reflects the real Daniel. You must tell about presentation skills workshop and your amazing presentation. All the best, Angelique

  2. John H. permalink
    August 1, 2010 11:42 pm

    Profussor, I did a search at Sherry Lehman on Sherry – (which turns up a LOT of Armagnac under their label – some from way back) – which of these Sherry wines would you recommend? Those of you in the Albany area can probably get things shipped to you from them. And the rest of us could learn more about your views.

    Also a great place to get Roulot wines at a pretty get discount to market. Not to be missed.

    I was expecting a reference to the turtle soup part of Babbette’s Feast though. Which version of Sherry did she serve with the soup?

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