Sherry: Needs a new course

24 October, 2018

Fino invariably gets the ‘thumbs down’ from the young international chefs. Many of their exclamations are unprintable.

The word ‘weird’ often appears in tasting notes that cross my desk. Fino’s crisp, citrus, yeasty, flor character rarely makes a friend. It’s an unscientific survey but, from a decade of painful facial expressions, it’s evident that fino does not fall well on the young palate – sadly, just the spot where the Jerez boys are trying to settle.

With many top international chefs passing through the Tante Marie gateway these reactions should also give those who promote fino as ‘food friendly’, food for thought. It is time for a change.

UK Manager Edward Butler is embracing change to reboot Williams & Humbert’s sherry sales. “Fino is a strange taste to many, so we’re giving the younger generation a choice. We’re finding that our 12-year-old oloroso and 12-year-old amontillado are fast gaining popularity in bars from London to Paris,” he says.

Dry oloroso as sherry’s new flagship? Served in large, fine wine glasses, not in those small, silly schooners, its attractive light brown colour, clean, dry, nutty flavours (without a trace of flor or yeast), would be a new blank-page experience to the young consumer. The higher alcohol may be a drawback in today’s health conscious market, but seeing the rise and rise of cocktails in trendy bars this brown beauty should fit well. The promotion of a new kid on the block could also kickstart an interest in other sherry styles.

González-Gordon thinks young consumers don’t understand sherry, saying that “education is its biggest challenge”. Wise words indeed, but the UK wine trade is not too bright when it comes to consumer education, so it’s hoped that any new campaign doesn’t get too clever with its soleras, palo cortados, specific vineyard pagos, and en ramas. No matter what market, ‘keep it simple’ is the name of the game.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. To its credit the switched-on branch of the Jerez Club has realised that pouring traditional styles ‘solo’, be it fino, manzanilla, amontillado or oloroso, no matter how good the wine or the promotion, will not bring back the good old days. The new branch has cleverly embraced the new marketplace – the growing number of Spanish restaurants and bars that are springing up in the UK’S major towns and cities and the capitals of Europe. Among the glitter, sherry is now an exciting part of the colourful and lucrative world of cocktails. “We must not be frightened of new things,” says William & Humbert’s Butler. “The bottom line is that we need to sell sherry and innovation is the way forward. The cocktail scene is a great way to open doors.”

NEW GENERATION

The old farts of the UK wine trade who insist that sherry should only be enjoyed ‘solo’ have thankfully fallen silent, no doubt aware that this alternative approach may be sherry’s escape route. They’ve also realised that the modest growth in fino is due, in part, to its contribution to a new generation of cocktails. That said, many still cringe at gaudy cocktail lists peddling Verano Verde (fino), Thunder in Paradise (oloroso), No. 8 (palo cortado), Miracle of 7th Street (amontillado), and Criadare (manzanilla), convinced that ‘hipsters’ are highjacking their beloved wines.





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Dominic Roskrow

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