Many people, particularly those based in the UK believe that Sherry is a sweet wine that should be drunk as a night cap or for a little tipple before dinner. Absolutely, there are sweet styles of Sherry and there is no occasion when it should be ruled out. However most Sherry that is produced is a dry wine and shines when paired with food.
Due to the complex way that Sherry is made, which is using a traditional fractional blending system called the Solera System it can develop many flavour and aroma compounds. With over 300 of these compounds in Sherry, it has more than any other wine! These compounds can give Sherry aromas and flavours of bruised apple, orange peel, seaweed, chamomile, tea leaves, toffee, coffee, walnuts, maple syrup and many many others. Admittedly not all of these characteristics sound that alluring for a wine, but once you become accustomed to the dry, salty character of a Fino or Manzanilla Sherry, that seaweed note actually works very well with sushi!
The power and complexity found within the combination of aromas and flavours of Sherries means that it can be paired with some extremely powerful dishes. An Oloroso Sherry is a style that has been aged only oxidatively giving it coffee, toffee, walnuts, raisins and mushroom notes can always stand up to big flavours, those you might find with roasted meat dishes and blue cheese.
Amontillado is a fascinating Sherry that is aged oxidatively like Oloroso, but also under a yeast layer called Flor. You also find Flor on Fino and Manzanilla sherries which contributes to their flavours and aromas. The Flor lends these wines yeast extract and bruised apple flavours, so an Amontillado Sherry is also highly complex with umami tastes, so pairs well with teriyaki dishes and other strong flavours.
Sherry can be a very serious wine, and nowhere is it taken more seriously than in Michelin starred restaurants, like Celler de Can Roca and in Jerez itself where they hold an annual Sherry and food pairing competition called the Copa Jerez. So next time you are preparing a meal, have a go at pairing a Sherry instead of that bottle of red or white. And don’t forget to chill it!