OPINION: It was an attention-grabbing headline in Yahoo News. "Three-fourths of people believe the rules of wine are intimidating".
My particular favourites are Fino and Manzanilla. They remind me of my first visit to Jerez, Spain’s sherry capital (okay, it was my only visit to Jerez). Following a moderately harrowing flight from London and a taxi ride from Seville, we arrived at our hotel just after midnight.
After checking in we hit the street in search of a tapas bar. It was a perfect evening – pleasantly warm and soothingly humid. The streets were full of people heading for their favourite eatery. After a short stroll we found a tapas bar that had been recommended by the concierge and which we subsequently discovered was reputed to be the best in Jerez.
Within a few minutes we were seated at an outdoor table with the most delicious tapas I had eaten and a glass of chilled Fino sherry. It was heaven. By the time we flew out of Jerez two weeks later we had acquired a serious tapas/Fino habit.
Fast forward a decade or two…
I had accepted an invitation to a Gonzalez Byass sherry tasting and was milling around with a group of fellow sherry enthusiasts while the room was being set up. We were sharing great sherry experiences and “tuttutting” the fact that sherry appeared to be rapidly following the dodo on a path to extinction, when I asked them, “when did you last have a glass of sherry?”
My question provoked much embarrassment and shuffling of feet. One person offered “about three months ago”. The rest of us remained silent. I hadn’t tasted sherry for over a year. Excuses followed. Too much alcohol (Fino is around 14.5 percent, less than many examples of Barossa Valley Shiraz). It takes too long to finish a bottle (there are plenty of good 375ml bottles available), it doesn’t go well with food (obviously never had Fino with Serrano ham, stuffed olives or roasted almonds). No one accused sherry of being too expensive.
I vowed to the group that from now on I would pour myself a glass of Fino every Sunday before dinner. Have I kept my promise? No, although I did buy a case of Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla - a deliciously dry and slightly salty wine that transports me back to Andalusia.