I don’t think I ever go to a sherry tasting without coming away renewed in my conviction about what a marvellous match it is for food and the one I attended yesterday was no exception. It was organised by the enterprising Les Caves de Pyrne who are importing for the first time into the UK some rare sherries from Emilio Hidalgo and took place at Dehesa, the sister (if that’s the appropriate word) restaurant of the better known Salt Yard.
The sherries themselves were spectacular but what was impressive was how well they were matched with the food - no mean feat with wines of this character and complexity
Especial Fino, La Panesa with smoked Lincolnshire eel with hispi cabbage and dehydrated olives
The component sherries in this untypical fino are an average age of 15 years which accounts for its rich golden and intense flavour of roasted almonds. The combination with the eel seemed quite Japanese in character - it added a nutty top note that provided a brilliant contrast to the slightly oily, soft, smoky fish (the cabbage and olives didn’t really affect the pairing, I found).
Oloroso Seco, Gobernador with roasted Jerusalem artichoke, pied de mouton and Morcilla (above)
A true dry oloroso with a powerful flavour of grilled hazelnuts which stood up well to the earthy flavours of the artichoke and morcilla, two difficult ingredients to pair with wine. A very autumnal combination as Le Cave’s Doug Wregg aptly observed.
Marques de Rodil Palo Cortado with pan-fried barbary duck with blood orange and parsnip purée
The stand-out pairing for me for its sheer unexpectedness. The palo cortado which was aged for half its 20 year life under flor was paler than the oloroso, but deliciously fragrant and nutty almost turning into caramel with the sweet orange sauce (made with blood orange juice and chicken stock) and creamy parsnip pure. A really inspired combination
El Tresillo 1874 Especial Amontillado Viejo with Parmesan, Comté and Mahon with caramelised walnuts and rye bread
Possibly the best sherry I’ve ever tasted - certainly the best amontillado. I can’t really improve on the tasting note: “Imagine notes of cooked walnuts, orange peel, dried figs, toffee, cream, warm wood and spices (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves among others” (although possibly hazelnuts rather than walnuts) Almost too good to drink with the cheese - you really didn’t want anything to distract from the amazing flavours but it did obviously work, especially with the Parmesan and Mahon. Shame it retails at around £60-70 but a perfect present for an ardent sherry lover.
Pedro Ximenez, with bitter chocolate sorbet, muscavado ice-cream and moscatel raisins macerated in PX brandy
Again a lovely and quite distinctive sherry without the excessive sweetness of many PXs: pure liquid raisin. Possibly the raisins in the dish were therefore superfluous though there was a touch of lemon zest which accentuated the flavour of the sherry nicely. (I also found the combination of black coffee, chocolate sorbet and PX pretty sensational when I sipped my espresso afterwards)
These sherries are only available in limited supply. Only 5000 bottles are made of the fino, for example - and most will go into restaurants like Dehesa and Salt Yard. But if you’re a sherry fanatic you really must try and taste them.
I attended the tasting and lunch as a guest of Les Caves de Pyrène.