Majestic reported a surge in sales of sherry by more than 40% this year
We tend to associate the tipple with our parents, grandparents and maiden aunts.
Ask most people to give an opinion and they will dismiss sherry as something sweet and alcoholic to be sipped under sufferance or poured into a retro trifle.
However after three decades in the doldrums there are signs that this type of wine, which comes only from a triangle of land in southern Spain, is enjoying a long overdue revival.
Majestic reports a surge in sales of sherry of more than 40 per cent this year, while demand for the most expensive bottles is even higher.
The boom is attributed to young people seeking out new tastes, who are discovering the joys of this very underrated and misunderstood drink.
Sherry originates from a region in southern Spain, and legally cannot be produced anywhere else
We are seeing the influence of tapas bars where people are trying sherry and realising it’s such a food-friendly wine
And for many who are not yet familiar with its charms it may come as a surprise to learn that most varieties of sherry are dry and should be consumed not lukewarm from the sideboard but chilled.
“We are seeing the influence of tapas bars where people are trying sherry and realising it’s such a food-friendly wine,” says Jack Merrylees, Majestic’s sherry expert.
“That’s really driving increasing demand for bone-dry, ice-cold varieties.
“We already know how drier styles of wine such as sauvignon blanc are very popular and we are seeing the same trend with sherry. So people are going for Fino and Manzanilla varieties, which are very dry and great with foods like olives and cheese.
“We are also finding that because drinkers are waking up to the idea of sherry being served chilled it is being enjoyed all year round rather than just at Christmas.”
Sherry is a fortified wine and its name comes the anglicisation of Jerez, a city in Andalusia
Sherry is a fortified wine and the name comes from the Anglicisation of Jerez, the city which forms part of the so-called Sherry Triangle along with Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria, in Andalusia.
Here summer temperatures of up to 40C are countered by cooling Atlantic breezes providing perfect conditions for the grapes.
Legally sherry cannot be produced anywhere else in the world.
There are several different styles with the common denominator being the addition of grape spirit to the base wine to increase alcohol content.
Although some sherries are dark in appearance they are all made from white grapes.
Sherry sales in the UK are about 10 million litres a year, and about a third of the global total
Sherry has been produced in the region for more than 2,000 years and by the end of the 16th century was regarded as the world’s finest wine.
Among the spoils that Sir Francis Drake brought back after defeating the Spanish Armada were 2,900 barrels of sherry – or butts as they are properly known.
Sherry was especially popular in Britain because the addition of spirit made the wine more stable, long-lasting and easier to transport and store in the days before refrigeration.
Consumption peaked in the late 1970s when the fashion was for sweet versions known as creams, which were developed in the 19th century for British palates. These are made by adding other types of sherry, syrups or sugar.
Sadly, over time Britain’s love affair with the drink cooled and all but withered. Some of the commercial sherry was of low quality. Sales slumped and the future for sherry production looked bleak.
Around Jerez, vineyards were abandoned, bodegas closed and unemployment rose sharply.
However sherry has slowly been making a comeback fuelled by the arrival of drier and more upmarket varieties.
Sales in the UK are about 10 million litres a year (about a third of the global total) and in 2016 consumption here rose for the first time since the turn of the century.
It is now claimed to be the hipster’s tipple of choice.
The finest types can be aged for more than 25 years but it is still possible to pick up a decent bottle for just under a tenner.
Wine writer Jamie Goode says: “Sherry is one of the treasures of the wine world and I love it,” he says.
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“For a while it has been under-appreciated.”
Unique to sherry is the presence of flor – a yeast-like growth that helps protect the wine from contact with air (oxidisation) in the barrel and gives sherry a distinctive taste.
Goode adds: “Traditionally sherry is thought of as a sweet wine but most of the serious examples and the ones the Spanish usually consume are dry. It is a drink that is severely under-priced when you consider the whole production process and the long ageing in oak casks.
“Sherry got into trouble in the 1970s when it started going downmarket to appeal to a mass audience. I’m delighted it is bouncing back and that’s largely because of the consistent quality of the wines. People are bored with standardised, over-marketed bland food and drink and want something authentic and different.”
Whisper it but 2018 could be the year we finally say olé for sherry again.