Sherry is a match for big flavours

Sherry goes well with cheese and chocolate
Sherry goes well with cheese and chocolate

Sherry is often referred to as "'one of the Wine World's best kept Secrets."

http://www.winewyse.comIn the last few decades, the drink has gone somewhat out of favour in the UK, largely due to its image being tarnished by large volumes of rather innocuous sweet or semi-sweet commercial blends sold in the 60s. Apart from being somewhat of a secret, it is utterly unique in its range and production methods and unfortunately misunderstood. Today, thankfully, sherry is being rediscovered and re-appreciated, since it is one of the most versatile wines produced anywhere in the world.

Apart from being appreciated in its own right as an aperitif, such as a well-chilled Manzanilla, or after dinner tipple, such as a Pedro Ximenez, sherry is a fantastic food wine, with all sorts of combinations possible. This was demonstrated recently in one of the more unusual tastings in the Arundel Festival Wine Trail held at the Parsons Table Restaurant. The title was Sherry, Cheese and Chocolate and based on a London tasting which I reported on last year. The idea was to show just how versatile sherry can be and how some pairings can be quite a revelation.

I specifically chose cheese and chocolate which really had something to say for themselves. No shrinking violets, but big, bold flavours to give the different sherry wines a run for their money. Three different cheeses were chosen - a mature Spanish manchego, a blue cheese from Shropshire and one which you could detect half way down the street - Stinking Bishop. The latter is from Gloucestershire and the rind is washed in perry, giving very strong flavours and aromas. Since it featured in the Wallace and Gromit animation, 'The Curse of the Wererabbit' sales have apparently increased dramatically.

The chocolate was provided by Montezuma, a local company based near Chichester. The three different types all had knockout flavours - a 100 per cent cocoa, a milk chocolate with chilli and lime and a 70% cocoa with spicy ginger.

Under some guidance from me, the group of around 22 tasters had great fun experimenting with the different combinations of six different sherry types, from bone dry Manzanilla to richly sweet Pedro Ximenez, with the cheeses and chocolates. Many of the pairings worked extremely well and were quite surprising to many of those present, who had not previously considered sherry in this way. Each person had their own tasting kit with six miniature bottles of sherry, sponsored by Sherry Wines UK. There was unanimous agreement that the dry Fino was perfect with the manchego cheese and surprisingly good with the 100 per cent cocoa chocolate which has no added sugar. The full, dry Oloroso matched well with the Stinking Bishop and the nutty, dry Amontillado was great with the spicy ginger Montezuma chocolate.

The sweet cream sherry sat well with the Shropshire blue and the rich Pedro Ximenez stood up to the Chilli and Lime milk chocolate. These were just some of the great combinations, with each person discovering matches which were revelationary, if not downright revolutionary. And thus another group of sherry disciples went out to spread the word and encourage others to rediscover the unique range of wines that is Sherry.