There are more of these tummy-rumbling (or churning) pairings in the Hospo food and wine matches guide.
We’re sherry zealots at JancisRobinson.com (just look at the crazy number of articles we’ve devoted to the wine) and so are somms. Victoria Moore calls it ‘a consummate food wine’ in her book The Wine Dine Dictionary, and back in 2011 Jancis noted that the Copa Jerez food and sherry matching competition ‘was a revelation in how versatile Andalucía's most underrated wine is’.
It was therefore not surprising to see the many sherry pairings that arrived in our inbox. Sure, there were classic sherry pairings that have stood the test of time and place: Fino with olives, charcuterie and salted nuts; Manzanilla with oysters and seafood; almost any sherry with tapas dishes; sweet sherries with all manner of desserts. Some of these classics were reflected in the suggestions we received, but it was thrilling to read the varied, creative and daring pairings that came through as well as some lovely riffs on classics. Jonathan Reeve (who wrote a superb guide to wine travel for us – just before the lockdown) shot the beautiful photo above for me to capture some of those classics.
I agonised about whether to organise this by food or by wine, unsure as to what would be more useful to those who want to try out some of these combinations, but in the end decided to group them by sherry style and highlight the foods so that you can pick them out easily. Some foods/dishes appear under more than one sherry style, so it would be great fun to experiment with two (or three?!) sherry styles side by side with a meal to see which one works best.
Perhaps it’s cliché/classic to pair anchovies with Fino/Manzanilla, but when Tokyo-based Frederic Cayuela (Académie du Vin educator) and Melbourne-based Travis Howes (Carlton Wine Room sommelier) both suggested it, I was reminded what a fantastic pairing this makes. Whether it’s anchovies traditional tapas-style boquerones en vinagre; fried, Moorish style with garlic, cumin, parsley and paprika; Basque pil-pil with garlic and chilli; in pasta puttanesca; on a pizza; or simply salted anchovies from a tin or jar on toasted bread with grated tomato and grassy extra virgin olive oil, Fino and Manzanilla make music with this teeny fish.
Sergey Antov, sommelier from Blush in Moscow, continued the theme by suggesting dry-salted river fish. Alexander Pitt (The 10 Cases, London) also suggested the classic Padrón peppers pairing, but I really liked his specific recommendation of Toro Albalá Eléctrico En Rama Fino.
Another classic sherry food is soup. Victoria Moore even goes so far as to say, ‘sherry in general is almost the only wine I recommend to drink with soup of any kind’. Pierre Girard, head somm of SK Steak & Oyster in Brisbane, writes: ‘Cherry tomato gazpacho, Modena vinegar, sorbet basilic, black bread croutons, González Byass Una Palma Fino’ – another favourite of the JR.com team.
Much more unusual is Ryan Kraemer’s (sommelier from 71 Above, Los Angeles) Fino pairing with strawberry gazpacho with balsamic reduction and garlic toasted breadcrumbs. I’d be intrigued to taste the combination of dry, salty Fino with sweet strawberries and balsamic syrup. Does anyone have a recipe for this? Won’t be long before local strawberries are in season in the northern hemisphere – mine are flowering their hearts out.
Both Maksym Demchenko (a sommelier from Ukraine) and Chris Midtun (sommelier from The Vandelay in Oslo) opt for Fino with soups that I would have more instinctively paired with darker sherries, so again, combinations I am keen to try. Demchenko suggests mushroom soup. Midtun, even more daringly, suggests reduced oxtail consommé with poached egg. I wonder if that would be even better with an en rama Fino?
Pickles are one of those very tricky food items when it comes to wine. Most of us just try and keep them apart, much as one might avoid inviting two pugnacious relatives to the same family get-together. There will be a fight. But Francisco Ramirez, sommelier and owner of Amano in Madrid, reckons that Fino is the one wine that won’t be boxed out cold by pickles. Now there’s a crazy tray-tasting experiment begging to be carried out: Fino with 10 different pickles. I’m already thinking ploughman-style onions, lime pickle, pickled eggs, Japanese pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut, dill pickle and mouneh…
(Later note: I tried some en rama Fino with various pickles and I can report back that sauerkraut is not good; capers and dill cornichons are amazing; silverskin (white) pickled onions are ok but the much more intense balsamic pickled onions actually work when no other wine would; kimchi is king.)
James Hartley, front of house at Fischer’s in Derbyshire says that he loves scallops and black pudding with his Fino. But I particularly liked Brasserie Blanc (London) sommelier Jon O’Rourke’s suggestion of Tio Pepe with grilled aubergine – yes, yes, yes! Or smoked aubergine, or baba ganoush. Which makes me wonder, would nasi dengaku (one of my weak-knee dishes) be better with a dry or sweet sherry? And which one in particular? Any Japanese sommeliers out there to advise…?
But the Fino trophy goes to Andrew Di Sora from the Ham Yard Hotel, London, for his well-thought-out essay, which I will reproduce in full:
‘With the ongoing struggle of finding supermarket delivery slots, it's opened up a market for local delicatessens to widen their delivery area. With the type of products they offer it is great for head to tail cooking, reducing food waste and discovering products that you would normally throw away. This is why my food of choice is lardo. It's a word in the UK that would normally turn heads away. Whilst most may pair this with a Tuscan red I would prefer a Pinot Noir from Germany, particularly the Pinot from August Kesseler (~£80 6x75cl ib). The fresh ripe plum note would cut through the richness of the lardo. Whilst the gentle sour cherry and rosemary finish would complement the herb curing of the meat. An alternative if having lardo on toast would be to have a glass of Fino sherry. The classic crisp note would go hand in hand with the richness of the lardo. Una Palma by González Byass (£13.99 from Soho Wine Supply) has a wonderful apricot skin and nectarine note which would pair nicely. It ties in nicely with the head to tail eating by also having a history of the flor being thrown away.’
Manzanilla got even more votes than Fino. Travis Howe (see above) explains, ‘Salt on salt, eg anchovy or sardines, herbs, fresh ricotta on toast…’. Ricotta is a brilliant suggestion – especially with some sourdough toast to echo the bready, tangy notes in Manzanilla. His suggestion of herbs also made me think: herbs like parsley, lovage, nettles, samphire and seaweed are really salty. There is lots of fun to be had with taking that line of pairing further. Thank you Travis!
There were quite a few suggestions, as expected, for jamón and fish. Oily fish (think heart- and brain-health friendly and dive in there) seem to be especially good with Manzanilla. Mackerel (Aylishia Chiffers, Ten Green Bottles, Brighton) and sardines (Jenny Eagleton, The Punchdown, California) got particular mention. Marie-Claire Peretto from BlueBlood Steakhouse in Toronto suggested Hidalgo's La Gitana En Rama with whole grilled Mediterranean sea bass, so white fish also seem to be a good match.
Eleanor Cappa (sommelier at Maeve Wine, Brisbane) took us back to anchovies (and pickles!) and I love her mouth-watering description so much that you’re getting it just as she wrote it:
‘We have artisanal Cantabrian anchovies dressed in sherry with a little honey and pickled kiss peppers on the menu in our wine bar. I thought it would be impossible to match but a glass of cold Equipo Navazos En Rama Manzanilla has enough force of flavour to match beautifully. The briny flavours match the fish's umami and are strong enough to power through the honey. The unfiltered sherry is slightly heavier and earthier than the filtered version and this added weight means that it isn't lost on the strongly flavoured dish. I am thrilled to say because of this match, I've made converts out of many people who would never have tried sherry otherwise!’
With that level of passion and knowledge and thoughtfulness, I would be putty in her hands. Eleanor Cappa, you’re a credit to your profession.
London’s Pollen Street Social assistant head sommelier, Andrea Cotichella, goes super-modern with oyster ice cream and Manzanilla. Madrid’s Estimar sommelier, Miguel Pantoja Fente, is more traditional with marisco paella. Both wonderfully briny suggestions.
And then we move inland. Dim sum, says Debbie Shing (Barberians Steak House, Toronto). Mushrooms, says Pawel Zduniak of Arco by Paco Pérez in Gdańsk, Poland. Manzanilla Pasada with smoked pheasant, black garlic sauce and grilled asparagus is the creative and delicious pairing from Linda Silva in Barcelona, managing the drinks section for pop-up resto Okupa.
Most interesting – and unusual, I thought – were the pairings with hot Mexican dishes. Jésus Rodriguez (Steel Bender Brewyard, New Mexico) goes with hatch green chilli chicken enchiladas and Bodegas Yuste Aurora manzanilla. I had no clue whether hatch was a brand, a Mexican dish or a type of cooking. Turns out it’s the generic name for New Mexican chillies. You probably already knew that.
I also had to look up chiles en nogada, suggested by Rod Suarez, who does the wine-bar service and tastings for Bodegas Santo Tomás in Mexico. Wilton Romero, also from Mexico (head sommelier of Quintonil) suggests guacamole and pork chicharrón. I have a Mexican-sized hole in my food knowledge, it seems. Need a list of authentic Mexican restaurants to frequent – purely for research purposes – once this lockdown is over.
PS A neighbour has just dropped a bag of foraged wild garlic on our doorstep. Something makes me wonder whether a wild-garlic omelette might work with Fino or Manzanilla... (He road-tested an English sparkling wine and rosé with it at my request and reported back that English sparkling wins hands down. NB those who bought wines for English Wine Night.)
Julia celebrated this ‘hybrid’ style of sherry in Glorious Palo Cortado back in 2014, and it’s still just as glorious today, perhaps even more flexible than any of the other sherries in terms of the food it goes well with.
Although cured pork is a classic match with any sherry, I like Ana Rosa Padilla Cacere’s wine selection with presa Ibérica – Osborne Solera PAP. Someone in the JR team needs to get a tasting note for that particular Osborne sherry in the database! Ana Rosa is the assistant manager and sommelier of Pizarro in London, so if we’re going for the perfect classic match, she would nail it.
Ramón Testo-Soto (Jaleo by José Andrés in Orlando) also plumps for pork, but he suggests solomillo (pork tenderloin) on a bed of mashed potatoes and cabrales sauce paired with González Byass Leonor Palo Cortado.
Palo Cortado with manchego or halloumi cheese on bruschetta topped with a honey gremolata or an almond and watercress pesto is the mouth-watering suggestion from Mike Blackburn of Malo, New Zealand, perfectly summing up the yoga-bendability of Palo Cortado that means it can go with sweet nuttiness or peppery creamy greenness. Mike, you captured this wine in two bites.
And then, because we’re talking sherry, we’re back to the coast. But this time it is paprika that brings an alto/tenor note into the mix, to resonate with the deeper flavours of Palo Cortado. Sebastien Longo (Zarande, Mallorca) opts for traditional Valencian all i pebre with octopus. Devon Phoenix, on the other side of the world (Maple & Ash, Arizona) suggests sardines with paprika dust. With the mention of paprika, I wonder what goulash would be like with Palo Cortado?
Game birds turn out to be a particular favourite with the somms. Rey Fernando de Castilla Antique Palo Cortado with partridge and savoury rice, says Octavio Millares from The Betterment, London. Duck-liver pâté with marinated shallots – a match from Akos Cristescu, Stand Restaurant, Budapest. And roasted quail on a bed of lentils with old Palo Cortado, says Samuel Fritz-Tate from Iconink in Toronto.
Ana Isabel Zarzuela del Buey (Triciclo, Madrid) digs into the complexity of Palo Cortado with her pairing. Artichokes, chickpeas, asparagus, jam, prawns and mushrooms stew with Delgado Zuleta Monteagudo. Recipe please, Ana Isabel. It sounds yum.
And then we received a long message from head sommelier of Belgium's three-Michelin-star Hof van Cleve, Tom Ieven, which was not only beautifully detailed and lyrical, but it came with an educational depth of explanation. Somms-in-training, take note. (And it’s the second vote of the day for the Rey Fernando de Castilla Antique.)
‘Dear Mrs. Robinson and team, I'm already a member of your website however I also would like to share one of my favourite pairings. I would love to share my pairing with one of our classic dishes in the restaurant which is returning every season when it's time for the white truffles from Alba, Piedmont. The Chef prepares a pasta with king crab legs, smoked eel, a creamy sauce, parmesan cheese and freshly shaved white truffle. A rich dish with a lot of different flavours, interesting! I wanted a not-too-mainstream pairing and went for a sherry. In this case I took the Antique Palo Cortado by Fernando de Castilla. A richer type of sherry which combines very well with this – as already mentioned – rich dish. The sherry is full of flavour and well balanced. The richness and crisp acidity cut through the rich and creamy pasta. The dried fruit and citrusy aromas fit perfectly with the crab and the eel. The nutty flavours and salinity accompany the parmesan cheese very well. And thanks to long ageing in the solera system this sherry is very complex and has some earthiness, perfect for the white truffle. I hope you can enjoy this pairing and I would love to hear from you soon. Kind regards, Tom Ieven.’
As a fitting end to the enormous scope of Palo Cortado, Hayley McCord of Toro Bravo in Oregon writes, ‘Since staying home I have been craving … for dessert Valdespino Palo Cortado sherry with caramel panna cotta’. My low-sugar lockdown regime has been properly wobbled.
A couple of years ago, Ferran wrote a love song to Amontillado. It’s worth reading again, not least for the fantastic ‘gustatory profile’ infographic he developed. This very special wine elicits some very special pairings from our hospo crowd.
Alberto Borge (Hawksmoor, Manchester) kicks it all off with an emphasis on the deep umami character of Amontillado, suggesting that we pair it with ‘high umami-content dishes such as sautéed mushrooms with onion and egg, grilled shellfish, grilled asparagus with ibérico ham or charcuterie boards. It's just the dream. The older the sherry (VORS and the like) the better, especially with top-end charcuterie’. Madeline Close (Boeufhaus, Chicago) also suggests mushrooms; Gil Rovira (Ramón Freixa, Madrid) writes, ‘Boletus edulis [that’s porcini to you and me], garlic, almonds and cappuccino of boletus match with Amontillado Tradición VORS.'
I loved Ricki-Lee Podolecki’s contribution. Assistant general manager and wine director of Peasant Cookery in Canada, he writes:
‘The world continues to become more aware of the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle. I've made it a goal to look at more options for guests to explore food and wine pairings. Grüner Veltliner with items such as fried artichokes or roasted sunchoke soup have been popular during the winter. However, a simple bean burger can go great with Cabernet Francs, especially from Colchagua Chile for the upcoming summer months. Personally, my love of food and wine started when I discovered sherry. Amontillado paired with mushrooms on toast and a few pine nuts on top is incredible. Thank you for the kind gesture. I've had my Purple Pages for two years now. It has helped me immensely through my WSET diploma studies. This website continues to be my go-to for reference. Stay healthy and safe. Best, Ricki-Lee Podolecki’. Ahhh.
Sautéed mushrooms with roasted pine nuts on toast (and a sprinkling of thyme, which is just beginning to come through again in our veg garden) is on the meal plan for next week. Plus Amontillado. Lunch? Why not. It’s lockdown. The rules are out the window.
Then Sandra Bein from Lima in Peru wrote to us with this rather special, unique offering. ‘Back in London I used to have a dish on my pairing which was a pumpkin flan with truffle sable, chestnuts and crispy ham and I matched it with the Del Duque, a 30 year old Amontillado sherry from González Byass. I love the way the nuttiness of the sherry and the sweetness of the pumpkin balance each other and the incredible minerality of the Amontillado just keeps playing around and animating the palate.’ Reading this reminds me why sommeliers are worth their weight in gold.
Robert Noel (sommelier and chef in Canada) also suggested a gorgeous combination of foie gras, chestnut purée, sea-salt roasted pecans, salted-maple-syrup caramel and crispy brioche bread. Yup. I’d try that. In a heartbeat. Do you deliver?
Youri Sabatini from The Ritz in London goes with smoked veal sweetbreads; Jim Thomas from Bar Margaux in Melbourne says steak tartare; and Samuel Diaz from NUB in Tenerife opts for Rabo de Toro, a meltingly seductive Andalusian oxtail dish. Nina Jensen from Lyst in Vejle, Denmark, is all about dry-aged veal ribeye with morels, morel sauce and crushed potatoes with Equipo Navazos Bota 61. Umami symphony?
It would be wrong to omit the sole Manchego entry from Tara Spiteri (Momofuku, Toronto).
But if anything stymied me it was crack pie and Amontillado. Thank you, Edo Ukrainitz from Bushwick cocktail bar in Tel Aviv. I had no idea there was such a thing as crack pie. I’m still trying to decide whether my heart/liver/pancreas could withstand such a thing, but in the meantime, you’ve won me on the drooling.
I was shocked by how few entries there were for Oloroso – although I have stashed a few of them back for the desserts pairings (still to come). Surely this beautiful baritone sherry deserves more love?
Comté, says Amar Boudjaoui from Vinifera in St-Helier, Jersey. Sushi, says Pablo Canete, sommelier at Griabig wine bar in Munich. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, according to Kim Romo.
The most detailed pairing for Oloroso came from Amandine Fournier of Bórn By Tapavino in Sydney. ‘Roasted duck magret glazed with Pedro Ximénez served with spinach, currants soaked in brandy, walnuts and Parmigiano Reggiano salad with onion-cream dressing and croutons. Matching with a sherry, Bodegas Valdespino, Oloroso Medium Solera 1842 VOS. Served lightly chilled around 12 to 14 degrees.’
Madeira and marsala
I’m going to cheekily add madeira and one lonely marsala on to this – it’s an oxidised wine style that, like sherry, works as magically with savoury dishes as it does with sweet dishes. And our hospos came up with some scrumptiously unique (and weird) suggestions. Of all the categories, this one had me wishing I had some madeira in the cellar and a chef’s smorgasbord of ingredients…
Madeira for starters:
Cévennes onion soup and croutons with Barbeito Sercial 1988, from Baptiste Louis Maurice Beaumard at La Dame de Pic at Ten Trinity Square, London. Sercial, again, with foie gras: Ida Rae Zapanta, San Francisco Proper Hotel.
‘Favorite wine pairing is Sercial or Terrantez madeira with smoked mushrooms!’, Wendy Shoemaker from New York. ‘Justino's 10 Year Old Sercial with flambé chorizo and pimento/almond dip’ – from Louella Alice Mathews, head sommelier, bibo wine bar in Sydney. (Another recipe I’d like, please.)
Continuing on the meat-free theme, Stefano Angeloni from L’Atelier du Vin in Brighton opts for a really unusual pairing of Blandy’s Sercial 10 Year Old madeira with burrata and panzanella salad dressed with basil olive oil and pistachios. Alice Williams (Osteria, Melbourne) heads towards pasta with mushroom and truffle tortellini cooked with marsala.
We do have a fried-chicken entry. Yip. But at least it was a lot less clichéed than champagne. Thank you, Dustin Toshiyuki of Ungrafted, California, for daring to be different.
But I just loved Nabilah Rawji’s pairing. Wine director at Toronto’s Shangri-La Hotel, she wrote in: ‘A pairing I'd developed and tested for my chef's (Johnross Woodland) new tasting menu and never got to share it with guests because of the COVID-related shut downs: Rich lovage soup with smoked eel, apple, hazelnut, paired with an old Verdelho Madeira from H&H’. That, to me, sang. I’d fly to Toronto to taste that. Frustratingly, my herb garden is bursting with the most audaciously flavoured lovage. I just lack the H&H Verdelho. The gaps in my cellar are really starting to show, thanks to these creative somms.
Alex Collins (Jackalope Hotel, Melbourne) goes for roasted sweetbreads and H&H Boal 10 Year Old Madeira: ‘Challenging but oh so delicious.’ That’s the kind of challenge I’d fall for. Wen Ting Chiu from Bourbon Steak in Washington tells us that it goes with rum cake. Rum cake? Anyone who knows what rum cake tastes like?
But my favourite pairing was from Mads Mönniche, sommelier at Lyst in Denmark. It’s a crazy, off-the-wall, fun but probably (in all seriousness) awesome pairing that made me laugh out loud and then wish I had the recipe, the ingredients and the wine to hand because I would love to try it. Here it is in its full sommelier-speak glory:
‘We did an excellent pairing at the restaurant with Danish beer porridge (a dish made with sweet beer, brown sugar and Danish rye bread) paired with Justino's Terrantez 60 Year Old Reserve. The rancio notes and elevated acidity of the madeira beautifully complemented dark notes and creaminess of the beer porridge.’
Makes me almost (almost) want winter back because it sounds like such a deeply comforting, warming, scooch-up-by-the-fire kind of meal.
I’m keeping a couple of the PX pairings back for my dessert collection. But these two had a different vibe.
‘I want to share the best-selling wine and gastronomic couple in the restaurant where I worked', writes Oleg Antipin Kharkiv from the Superior Golf & Spa Resort in Ukraine. ‘After visiting the producer Emilio Lustau, I was inspired and with our chef we developed a special dessert. It was ice cream with Dorblu cheese. The ice cream was made in a special machine called a Pacojet. We served a ball of ice cream with a digestive glass of Pedro Ximenez San Emilio.’
And then Yakira Batres, executive pastry chef from Octavia in San Francisco, throws us a curved ball. I would fully expect a pastry chef to come up with some elaborate dessert pairing. Instead, it’s about as simple and unexpected as you could get. ‘Pedro Ximénez and espresso!’
And on that note, I think we’ve concluded the banquet. Pardon me while I weave gently out of the room...