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Winner Details

Sherry

Some exceptional wines on the Gold List this year, but a paucity of entries prevented this quality from persisting in any real depth

 

Sometimes the wine trade needs a size 10 forcibly applied to its rear – and its attitude to sherry is a case in point. Talk to merchants and they bemoan how hard it is to sell, largely giving up on the off-trade, and vaguely citing the ‘importance of the on-trade’ as the drink’s only salvation.

So, as a competition aimed entirely at the on-trade, this category was awash with entries, right? Wrong. Sherry was probably the smallest of all the sections in this year’s Sommelier Wine Awards, with our judges thrilled at the overall quality and disconsolate about not having more of them to work through.

How, I wonder, will merchants encourage the on-trade to think about their sherries if they don’t attempt to promote them? Answers on a flor-sodden postcard, please… Remember, guys – you can’t rely on the sherry culture halo-effect from Downton Abbey indefinitely.

On the plus side, this year we did get good wines in every style, so our tasters were able to put together a small but well-balanced (if pricey) sherry section for the Gold List, with a fabulous pastrana manzanilla from Hidalgo filling up the ‘affordable’ end of the spectrum, and three (count ’em) superlative offerings from Fernando de Castilla to take the fino, amontillado and PX slots for customers who ‘get’ sherry and don’t mind spending big on it.

‘If you can sell the Antique Amontillado to your customer they should be amazed and converted,’ drooled consultant Peter McCombie MW. ‘This is an incredible, complex, hugely characterful wine and gives so much for the price that it deserves a place on the list even if it doesn’t sell in volume. By the Glass with a nudge from the sommelier, this can do very well.’

‘The big problem with sherry is that it doesn’t get poured with food,’ opined consultant Angus Mcnab. ‘It needs someone brave to do it. They’re dry, nutty and rich and perfect with food.’

This assertion, in fact, was borne out during the Food Match section of the competition, when the Hidalgo Pasada Pastrana came to the rescue of our tasters during a long and tricky battle with a particularly recalcitrant plate of mushroom risotto. ‘It’s always the same,’ said Hakkasan’s Christine Parkinson. ‘If you’re stuck, reach for the sherry…’

‘You just need to serve the PX in a glass with a spoon and customers can have it for dessert.’ Andrea Briccarello, Galvin La Chapelle