June 3, 2023
Food & Drink News Opinion

WINE O’CLOCK: With Sherry, the cream is at the top

Sherry comes in many hues and flavours. Last week I looked at some of the clean, white varieties we tend to drink in summer or as an aperitif. But in Ireland Sherry is seen largely as a drink for autumn and winter, and it is the dark shades we go for.

Dark and sweet, some would say, for there is a common misconception that all sherry is sweet.

That has arisen because of the popularity here and in Britain of a style  known as Cream Sherry, in particular  the Harvey’s brand called Bristol Cream.

This product was devised in the 1860s by the winemakers of  Jerez , the Spanish home of Sherry, who had been making their fortified drinks in the same range of sweet and dry that most wines come in.

They found that mixing them gave a different type of wine, retaining the complexities of the originals  but with a touch of sweetness, popular in Port and Madeira, rival fortified wines I will be looking at over the next couple of weeks.

A huge amount of this wine passed through the English port of Bristol and it became known as ‘Bristol Milk’.

Legend says an aristocratic lady tasted a new, even richer style and exclaimed: “If that is milk, then this must be cream”. So, in 1882 Harvey’s Bristol Cream was trademarked.

By the 1950s it was the best selling Sherry in the world. Sales have slipped a bit in recent years but it remains popular,  and rightly so, for it is an excellent Sherry for those who like it sweet.

But there are lots of other Sherries, going by such names as a Fino, Oloroso and Amontillado. They range from bone dry (Fino) to nutty and rich (Amontillado) and the Olorosos which are almost as sweet as a cream Sherry, but without blending or adding sugar, which happens with some of the creams.

If in doubt, ask for help in your wine shop – they are still open. Or you could just buy them and try them.Harveys Bristol Cream (€13.99 Worldwide Wines, Waterford)
Ireland’s most popular Sherry comes from the biggest producers in Jerez. a lovely full-bodied Sherry. I find it a bit too sweet for general drinking but a small glass after a meal with cheese or fruit is very nice.

Viejísimo Amontillado  (€43.24 for 50cl, O’Briens)
This is a lovely, complex Amontillado, with flavours of raisins, spice and almonds. It is expensive for a three-quarter size bottle burt worth it as a special treat. It would make a nice present for a Sherry lover.
Valdespino Solera 1842  (€18. 25 wicklowwineco.ie)

This is an Oloroso, a medium-sweet blend. It is blended at an early stage in the process whereas, with most Sherries, the blending comes quite late. The makers say this gives it a more natural sweetness.  I really can’t vouch for that  but I can tell you that this is a nice Sherry, to sip by itself or enjoy as an after-dinner wine.


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