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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Sherry: Culinary Institute of America - Greystone (Napa Valley)

Culinary Institute of America - Greystone (Napa Valley)

Worlds of Flavor Conference

Interview with Gerry Dawes on Sherry 

Spain produces one of the most fascinating and least understood beverages in the world: Sherry. Made in a spectrum of styles, from dry to sweet and from pale gold to walnut brown, sherry can accompany a meal from soup to dessert. Here to guide us through some of the finer points of tasting and serving sherry is a longtime enthusiast and connoisseur, Gerry Dawes.

Q: Before we start the tasting, can you give a quick overview of how sherry is made?

I recommend that you look at books like Julian Jeffs’ (Sherry by Julian Jeffs, Faber & Faber, 1961) because the fractional blending, or solera, system is quite complex. To oversimplify it, if you imagine a pyramid of barrels, you draw off the wine you’re going to sell from the bottom row, then refill those part-empty barrels from the second row, and refill the second row from the top row. So some of the sherry in each bottle is as old as the solera itself.

If you see a bottle that says “Solera 1950,” that was the year the solera was established. New wine keeps getting added, but each barrel contains fractional amounts of wine from the earliest foundations of the winery.

That’s what gives sherry its continuity and character. It is constantly building on its ancestor wines. The young wine takes on the character of the older wine, so you’re able to produce a uniform, steady product year after year.

Most of Spain’s best sherries are now available in the U.S. The important thing to realize is that sherries now are better than they’ve ever been in their history. The sherry business went through a bad period, but the industry opted for quality, and what we’re seeing now are some of the greatest sherries every made.

Q: And the price is right.

For what you get out of a bottle, they’re very inexpensive. You can get eight to nine pours out of a bottle, so it costs far less per serving than a red wine consumed in one sitting by two people.

Dawes is going to introduce us to some of his favorite sherries. Listen closely to the words he uses when describing them. Some of the aromas and flavors he discerns in sherry are uncommon in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other familiar varietal wines.

Note that he begins his tasting with the most delicate wine and ends with the richest. In order from left to right, they are: manzanilla, fino, amontillado, Jerez cortado, oloroso and Pedro Ximénez.

Q: What about serving temperatures for these wines?
The manzanilla and fino should be served chilled. The others should be at cellar temperature, the temperature of a good white Burgundy—not chilled but cool. Never serve the fino or manzanilla warm, and never leave them open behind the bar. Always make sure they’re kept under refrigeration.

(Click on link and scroll down to interview and video link.)

From Barrel to Glass
If you ever visit the sherry bodegas in Jerez de la Frontera or Sanlucar de Barrameda, you will see winemakers drawing sherry samples from barrels in a most dramatic fashion.

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