Think Sherry This Christmas

Predictions of a sherry revival come round about as often as meteorologists forecast a long hot summer says Martin Orbach. And just as often, they turn out to be a chimera.

The truth is that today we drink about half as much sherry as we did in the 1970s. Then it was second only to beer as the nation’s favourite tipple, and the Chancellor took note of the price of a bottle of sherry in calculating the Retail Price Index.

Yet there are reasons to be cheerful.

First of all the kind of sherry we are drinking is changing, and the way we are drinking it. Back then over half the sherry we drank was of the sweet/cream variety (and over half of that was something called British Sherry, made in the UK from dehydrated grapes).

Sweet cream sherries were the preserve of maiden aunts. The dusty bottle dragged out when the vicar came round and served in thimble-sized portions in cut-glass schooners. British sherry, benefitting from a UK tax loophole to undercut the Spanish stuff, was basically a cheap hit. Much loved by winos and drunk from the bottle.

Today, under the influence of pioneering  restaurants such as Fino and Moro –  we are learning to drink sherry as the Spanish do. More often than not it will be a dry sherry – Fino or Manzanilla – served chilled in a wine glass with a tapa before lunch.

While the 1970’s market was dominated by well known and heavily advertised brands like Harvey’s, Domecq and Gonzalez Byass, today smaller importers are sourcing wines direct from the makers and in the process opening up a whole new world to explore.

And that’s the second reason to be cheerful. Since the heady days of the 1970’s, the region has gone through a contracted and painful restructuring. It has regained control of its famous name,  acreages have been reduced, and to maintain quality sherry now is mostly bottled at source. And while sherry battles to regain its former standing, all pundits agree that the fortified wines of Jerez will continue to offer outstanding value.

If you want to learn more about the modern styles of sherry – the way they are made and the way to drink them – join Spanish specialists Paul Grimwood of Ultracomida and Jose Velo-Rego of C and D Wines. This Tutored Tasting takes place alongside our Christmas Fair of Food and Drink – Sun 9 December)

As part of Ultracomida’s 10 year celebrations, they will be showcasing the spectrum of sherries and fortified wines from the Andalucia region available from their online deli alongside some of their mild and strong cheeses, breadsticks and olives.


Sherries to be tasted will include:

  1. DELGADO ZULETA FINO- D.O Jerez- Founded in 1744  Delgado Zuleta the oldest family owned winery in the sherry district.
  2. MONTEAGUDO PALO CORTADO- D.O Jerez- Also from Delgado Zuleta.

Fortified wines will include:

  1. Moscatel de Malaga N.2 ‘VICTORIA’ – D.O Sierras de Malaga- Produced in the Axarquia region of Malaga near the mediterranean one of the oldest viticultural areas in Europe.
  2. PEDRO XIMENEZ Reserva Familia from Malaga Virgen- D.O. Malaga – Bodegas Malaga Virgen was founded by the two Lopez brothers at the end of 19th centuary.

Date: Sunday 9 December. Venue: Angel Hotel Ballroom, Cross Street, Abergavenny. Time: 11.00am. Tickets: £6.00. Buy online now

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