Sherry Cooking Class: A Journey Through Sherry’s World.
Celebrating Sherry Week 2023, we joined a cooking class at Amsterdam’s Peter Pan studio on a rainy Wednesday. Greeted warmly with a delightful Sherry cocktail, a Fino and tonic with ice, mint, and lemon, the stage was set for an exciting event.
The day featured a Sherry tasting and masterclass, paired with a cooking workshop for food enthusiasts and the press. Pilar from Jerez de la Frontera’s information bureau and Karel Klosse, a Dutch Sherry expert, provided insightful background information.
Sherry: An Ancient Tradition
Sherry, a wine with over 3,000 years of history, is made in a unique way. The Criaderas and Solera system, specific grape varieties, and the distinct soil and climate contribute to its uniqueness. The Solera system blends and ages the wine in a cascade from upper to lower barrels. Sherry, primarily an aged white wine, should be enjoyed chilled in a white wine glass. Made from Palomino, Pedro Ximénez, or Moscatel grapes, it offers diverse styles perfect for pairing with various dishes.
Sherry undergoes either Biological or Oxidative aging, influencing its flavor and style. While Sherry remains good for a long time, it’s best consumed within a year of bottling and three to four days once opened (longer for sweeter variants).
Sherry comes in three main styles: Fortified wines (e.g., Manzanilla, Fino), Fortified liquor wines (e.g., Pale Cream, Medium Sherry), and Natural sweet wines (e.g., Moscatel, Pedro Ximénez). It’s exclusively produced in the “Sherry triangle” in Andalusia, Spain, a region with a unique climate and calcareous Albariza soils.
Cooking & Pairings
Our workshop included preparing seven dishes, each complementing a different Sherry style. Let’s take a look at the culinary masterpieces we created, and judge how Sherry worked for them.
We started our dinner with a sushi roll, filled with ginger, spring onion and herring.
This dish was paired with ‘Manzanilla la Goya’ by Delgado Zuleta. Manzanilla is a dry style Sherry, made of 100% Palomino. Aged under the Flor this Sherry has a straw yellow color. In the nose we detect flowers, chamomile, almonds and some dough. In taste the Manzanilla is dry and delicate, even a bit salty. A nice balanced Sherry with some fruitiness, saltiness and fruits such as peach and plums.
In the end a perfect combination with the cured herring, breaking off bits of the fat in the fish, and a nice match with the spiciness of the ginger.
The second course was a Dutch Shrimp soup and Mussels with Aioli and Cured Ham.
Two totally different dishes, paired with one single Sherry, ‘Fino Inocente’ by Valdespino. Luckily, we saved some Manzanilla in our glasses so we could play a little with the food pairing. Fino is made from Palomino grapes as well, and also classified as a dry Sherry. Like Manzanilla it also undergoes Flor aging. The result delivers herbal notes, together with some wild flowers and ripe fruits such as apple and pear. In taste it’s dry and light, reminding us of raw almonds and some citrussy tones, with a nice fresh and fruity finish.
The pairing worked really well with the mussels and Serrano ham. The Fino seemed a bit too dry for the soup, as the Manzanilla did a great job picking up the crème fraiche and salty taste of the shrimps.
Our third course: Cauliflower Salad with a Crunch of Chorizo.
We paired it with a ‘Amontillado NPU’ from Sanchez Romate. Amontillado is again made of 100% Palomino, but has had an oxidative aging, instead of Flor aging. Resulting in a darker caramel color, and a heavier smell. Tones of roasted nuts, some spices and pepper as well as a light hint of tobacco. The wine tasted a bit more “mature” with dried fruits and nutty flavors, and even some vanilla and brioche tones showed up in the aftertaste.
The pairing was spot on, the earthiness of the cauliflower went really well with the Sherry and the crispy spicy chorizo, it did a great job in extending the aftertaste of the wine. A Sherry style which would definitely also go well with truffle and mushrooms.
The fourth course was a combination of Albondigas (meatballs in tomato & mushroom sauce) and Tortilla de Patatas with different vegetables.
A nice ‘Oloroso Don Zoilo 15 Years’ from Williams & Hubert was poured in our glasses. Again, a dry Sherry style made from Palomino. A bit darker when compared to the Amontillado, and stronger in the nose. This Sherry delivers warm round tones of roasted nuts, spices, pencil shavings and leather. The palate is strong but packs a nice structured body and a long elegant aftertaste.
The Sherry might have been a bit overpowering but there was a nice match with the mushrooms in the sauce. Alternatively, we think the tortilla could be a better match with a nice Fino. Oloroso is the perfect Sherry for winter, paired with nice stews, cured cheeses or anything in game season.
For the fifth course we made grilled grapes with mozzarella and basil, paired with a ‘Cream East India’ produced by Lustau. Cream is a fortified Sherry liquor made from Palomino, Moscatel and P.X.
The Sherry brought nice tones of dried fruits such as peach, mango and papaya but also some sweet nougat and caramel tones. It was velvety soft in aftertaste, but fruity, with some nice sweetness.
This Sherry would be a great match with foie gras for as well. But we must say, it worked really well with the dark grilled grapes, and the creaminess of mozzarella. Thinking out of the box a pairing with a simple Dutch ‘appelflap’ would be lovely!
On to the sixth course. Tarte Tatin made from Spinach, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Old Cheese, paired with a ‘Matusalem Oloroso Dulce’ from Gonzalez Byass. A dark, mahogany colored, Sherry, made of Palomino grapes.
Warm and powerful in smell, with notes of burned wood, leather and dark sugar. Semi-sweet in flavor, with dried tropical fruits, chocolate, coffee and mocca in the finish.
The richness in the wine really goes along well with the puff pastry in the tarte tatin, and also the saltiness in the cheese is picked up perfectly by the Sherry!
For dessert there was French toast made of “Fries Suikerbrood” and some fresh ice cream made of P.X. Two Sherry’s were served to pair this sweet dessert.
First a ‘Moscatel Dorado’ by Cesar Florido. Made from 100% Moscatel, as a natural sweet wine. A nice dark brown color and intense smell of jasmine, orange blossom and sweet citrus. Sweet but still fresh in aftertaste, with a hint of flowers.
Secondly a ‘Pedro Ximénez ‘98’ by Alvaro Domecq. The sweetest style for Sherry. Dark brown in color and made with 100% Pedro Ximénez. Natural sweet and with oxidative aging. A nice full smell of dades, figs and raisins. Velvety soft and sweet in aftertaste, with some nice dark chocolate and coffee flavours.
The Moscatel paired really well with both the French toast and the ice cream. The P.X. was a bit overpowering for the French toast, but did a really good job keeping up with the full bodied, creamy ice cream. We think the P.X. as well as the Moscatel would also be great to pair with strong blue cheeses, as well as any sweet pastry.
Final Thoughts: Rediscovering Sherry’s Gastronomic Elegance
This event showcased Sherry’s versatility, challenging its dated reputation and highlighting its suitability for a range of culinary experiences. A perfect holiday addition, Sherry can be a refreshing aperitif, a companion to main courses, or a sublime dessert wine.
This article is written by our own Martijn Coenen. Special thanks to the Sherry foundation, particularly Pilar, Karel Klosse, and Pitch PR (in particular Lisa Dalmulder), for this enlightening experience. Picture credits: Vivian Secreve (@photograviv)