Pizarro, sherry tasting, matched food. Well that didn’t require much thinking about. Was I in town? Yes. Well, of course I would go.
José Pizarro has started running wine tastings featuring specified producers and/or regions of their excellent wine & sherry list. Last week was the first and featured Fernando de Castilla, one of the smaller and most admired boutique bodegas of Jerez.
Five wines were matched with five dishes for a maximum of 20 people on one long table. The cost was £25. José hosted along with Bea from Boutinot Wines (Fernando de Castilla wine importers). Bea took us through the wine, and José took us through the food. Some fabulously geeky facts accompanied all. I was in my element.
So, firstly, some sherry facts. So many people think Dot Cotton, when in fact they should be thinking Hackney Hipsta. Well, maybe not quite, but sherry is a fabulous drink and it is such good value for money too. They range from bone dry to syrupy sweet and can be rich and complex or playful and light at either end of the spectrum.
I get a little frustrated when people proclaim: “Oh, but I don’t like sherry!”. Well, maybe you don’t like Harvey’s Bristol Cream, but that is not all sherry. Ok? So lets get started.
We started with a classic fino matched with clams and artichoke. This fino is one of the driest wines in the world, is served ice cold, and is reminiscent of apple, toasted almond and yeast. Artichoke is notoriously difficult to pair with any wine but the bone dry fino was perfect with it.
Next up was the sublime Jamon Iberico Manuel Maldonado, a stunning jamon, so rich and nutty, it melts in the mouth. Served with an Antique Amontillado, which served a little warmer is a much richer sherry. Nutty and toasty, and a perfect match for that divine ham. Retail this costs about £1000 a leg and is aged for 4 years. It is worth a trip to Bermondsey just for a plate of this and a matching glass.
The next dish brought things to a darker more intense place with slow cooked Iberico pork cheeks. They were so rich and tender. Served with Antique Oloroso, this sherry is a very small production so it is a real treat to try. The pork cheeks are marinaded overnight in red wine before being cooked slowly. Oloroso is the red wine of sherry, served at an optimum 16 deg C it is a much fuller rounder wine with a silkier mouth feel. Divine.
Time for cheese but not just any cheese, a beautiful raw blue from Catalunya, and a lovely glistening raw manchego. Antique Palo Cortado was served alongside, a lovely gently spicy wine, with notes of raisins and nuts.
To finish a chocolate dessert, a mousse with chocolate, olive oil and sea salt and an Antique PX to accompany. Late harvest PX grapes are dried on mats for 10 – 12 days in the sun. The wine is aged for 30 years and is so utterly decadent and divine, I have promised myself a bottle for Christmas.
I couldn’t quite believe that all of this cost £25 – the wines were terrific and the food too. The best way to learn about wine is to taste them, and I know people are nervous, but I couldn’t encourage you enough to embrace the opportunity and to go.
The next session will be on the wines of Ribera del Duero, I am not sure which date, but the folks at Pizarro will surely know that so I will see if I can get an update. See you there!