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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
23 Sep 2011
 

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I could easily get into the habit of judging these food and wine matching competitions. A morning spent consuming carefully prepared food with sensitively chosen wines has its appeal.

As I explained in the introduction to yesterday's two videos, I spent1842_solera Tuesday tasting 18 sherries with 18 different dishes. One of the sherries I enjoyed the most was the bold main course choice of the stunning Spanish team, Valdespino, Solera 1842 Oloroso Dulce Sherry served with their shoulder of lamb, slow cooked on a dark tawny almond cream that was actually more like peanut butter than the pale almond soupy liquid I had been expecting from the description. (Chef Cayetano Gómez of Casablanca – El Taller, Murcia is pictured above left in mufti the morning after his big win – looking very different from the besuited chap who accepted the prize the night before, as shown in my first video.)

This wine is from a solera begun in the mid 19th century (though obviously, through fractional blending, the wine drawn from the solera today is nothing like that old. But what I loved about it was that it is clearly long aged in oak, with lots of oxidative rancio notes, and yet has the balance of sweetness and even fruit just right. Every sherry bodega worth its salt has a little stash of very old wine that has been aged in wood for decades. Many of these wines are downright painful to taste – so austere and almost bitter are they. And then there are the older sherries that are made acceptable by the simple expedient of adding sweetening, usually in the form of dried raisiny Pedro Ximenez.

But this sherry has so much acidity and depth of nutty flavour that it tastes just off dry – quite dry enough to serve with a main course, or with cheese, ham or nuts (and definitely not sweet enough to serve with a really sweet dessert). Wine and food writer Francis Percival apparently enjoyed this gorgeously nuanced wine at his wedding with Eccles cakes (I'm guessing these particular currant pastries came from St John bakery in London) and crumbly, salty Lancashire cheese. I bet that match was great.

What the Copa Jerez food and sherry matching competition taught me was how versatile sherry is. The winning Spanish sommelier Juan Luis García went on to serve us a 20-year-old Bodegas Tradición Pedro Ximénez VOS with a 'chocolate and peppermint sorbet with coffee rocks on a curdled cream of dates' which I thought sounded disgusting but they made it work. (Chiefly because the peppermint was so low key.) The Germans also chose to serve this particular PX, with their PX ice cream, fresh peach and dark chocolate, which also worked well.

But my principal message is: a good dark sherry can go with many a savoury dish too. And an opened bottle can last for several months - very useful. I suspect this wine would be great for cooking too.

Fortunately the Valdespino, Solera 1842 Oloroso Dulce Sherry is quite widely available. You can find it at Lea & Sandeman in the UK, in many an American wine store, in France, New Zealand, Sweden, Malta, Germany, Benelux, Switzerland, Ireland, Russia, Australia and, of course, Spain. Prices vary widely but I was amazed to see it on the long list of sherries available by the glass at our NH hotel in Jerez – for €1.60!

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