Last Updated on March 8, 2021
Anyone for Sherry and British Tapas?
Lockdown has been the perfect opportunity for the writers at London-Unattached to ponder some of the deeper questions in life. For instance, what British produce would make the perfect accompaniment for a glass of sherry or even what would make great British tapas? In the lead up to Mother’s Day, the quintessentially British treat of a glass of sherry deserves a revamp – and we propose trying this excellent Palo Cortado with some fine artisan foods.
Sherry has come back into fashion in the last few years with restaurants such as Street XO, the quartet of Barrafina tapas bars, Copita and Iberica making this most varied of fortified wines hip again. From viscous black raisiny XO dessert sherries to bone dry Finos there should be a sherry that will excite your tastebuds.
For the review, I was very lucky to be sent a bottle of Bodegas Hildalgo Palo Cortado Wellington (VOS). Bodegas Hildalgo was founded in 1792 and is one of the oldest of all sherry producers. I’m a big fan of their La Gitana Manzanilla but it’s the ‘accidental’ Palo Cortado style that we are investigating. Palo Cortado sherries are aged under a film of yeast (the infamous ‘flor’) with the intention of becoming a well-behaved Fino or Amontillado. But in a small percentage of cases, the flor dissipates allowing the oxygen to get at the wine as with an Oloroso and these special bottles are designated as a Palo Cortado (a cut stick – the symbol which is used to mark the barrels). Palo Cortado wines made from Palomino grapes have the complexity of flavour of the oxidised Olorosos but retain the freshness of a Fino. The Bodegas Hildalgo Palo Cortado Wellington (VOS) is aged in American oak for at least 20 years allowing it to be designated VOS which stands for Very Old Sherry. The oak gives this delicious fortified wine wonderful caramel and molasses notes followed by a heady surge of citrus. It’s a very sophisticated mouthful and although not cheap delivers plenty of bang per buck. Oh, and the smart people at Bodegas Hidalgo had one label for the French (Palo Cortado Napoleon…) with Brits getting the Wellington branding. The sherry is available from Lea & Sandeman for £27.95 for 50cl.
To match the quality of the Palo Cortado we have gone for some premium British products. Smoked salmon and sherry are a terrific pairing and London Smoke and Cure sashimi-grade smoked salmon is probably the best smoked salmon I have ever eaten. This cold-smoked Scottish salmon uses fish farmed off Shetland, Orkney and the West Coast of Scotland. Cured with salt, juniper and sugar the day after being caught, the fish is then lightly smoked with English oak and beech and Dartmoor heather. The experience is like eating top-grade sashimi that has a mild and fragrant smokiness with a hint of juniper. Very thick cut and with not a hint of the oiliness that bedevils most smoked salmon, the fish has a buttery luscious mouthfeel that we have simply paired with crispbread for our tapas but which would go just as well with a classic bread, butter and lemon serving. It’s available for £14.95 for 200g from https://www.londonsmokeandcure.co.uk/our-products.
The Spanish often pair Manchego, a sheep’s cheese, with dry sherry like Palo Cortado. We have gone for Holbrook, a new cheese from cheesemaker Martin Gott, creator of St James and Crookwheel cheeses, with his partner Nicola Robinson. Holbrook is a goat’s cheese made with milk from their own herd in Cumbria where their dairy is situated and it is named after Martin’s mentor the late Mary Holbrook, one of the finest British cheesemakers. The cheese is slightly aerated, with a creamy texture, a rich, deep, nutty almost walnut tang and a long finish that takes you into next week. It is wonderful paired with the softer notes of the Bodegas Hildalgo Palo Cortado Wellington (VOS) but would just as easily work with a pint of your local brewer’s best bitter. You can buy Holbrook at https://www.thecourtyarddairy.co.uk/shop/buy-cheese/goats-sheep-cheese/holbrook-goats-cheese/ £9.95 for 250g
It has been a lot of fun sourcing and testing these fantastic British products with top-class sherry. It’s more important than ever to support UK food producers so why not give our sherry and British tapas tasting a try?
Check the links if you’d like to order for yourself or find out more
For another way to serve your sherry, how about Tio Pepe and Tonic? an excellent lighter way to indulge!