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Saturday, 9 March 2013

More Sherry Taking On Cambridge 105

This is the second part of my talk on Sherry with Alan Alder on Cambridge 105's Flavour programme. In the first part (here), I covered the pale and dry darker styles. For the second part we moved onto my favourite part - sweet sherries. You can listen to the podcast of the whole show, but here is an edited version of the interview.

Sweet Sherries are made from a grape called Pedro Ximénez or PX; 100% PX sherries have the colour and consistency of used engine oil - but they are utterly delicious. Imagine a rich, fruited, nutty, spiced Christmas pudding in a glass - that's a PX. And the amazing thing is, they still have good acidity so they don't become flabby and cloying - they are still fresh.

A 100% PX needs to match with a rich, sticky dessert like Christmas pudding or treacle tart. Or you can pour it over home-made vanilla ice-cream - two glasses: one to pour over and one to drink with it.

If that sounds a bit too rich and indulgent, there are less-sweet Sherries - PX can be blended with Oloroso or Amontillado to give something less intensely sweet but with all the character and flavour - these are the cream sherries that we associate with grannies and vicars and so on.

The can be a dessert in their own right, just a small glass after a meal. Or you could match the roasted, nutty flavours to a pecan tart and sweet Oloroso also matches well with a blue cheese like Stilton.

One to try is Waitrose's own-label Jerezana Rich Cream Sherry, made by Lustau.

Sadly, we don't have any Sherry bars or places that specialises in Sherry that I'm aware of in Cambridge, but I think it's only a matter of time.

The Punter on Pound Hill has held a couple of Sherry dinners and Hotel du Vin does a number of very good Sherries by the glass.

But to experience a real Sherry Bodega without flying to Andalusia, you just need to pop down to London - which a lot of Cambridge people do every day (I'm one of them) - and just next door to Kings Cross station is Bar Pepito.

If you imagine a little authentic bodega lifted up and transplanted from Spain, then that's Pepito's. It has Jamon Iberico carved off the bone to order and does plates of meat and cheese with a range of Sherries.

What I especially like about it is that the Sherry list is very good indeed, but not unnecessarily long, so choosing does not become too complicated.

They also serve cooked food and wines if you want to make a meal of it, but for me it is just a great place to meet friends after work on the way home.

Richard Bigg who runs Pepito emailed me to give me some more background on the place:

"I’d always loved sherry, and one day thought that with the tiny space we had available across the courtyard (the sunny side!) from Camino we could create something very special, taking arguably the world’s least cool drinks category as the focus. Whilst there are plenty of very good Spanish places with some fine sherry lists, Bar Pepito was created as Britain’s first dedicated Sherry bar, proudly hanging its hat on this most fabulous drink.

We have a purposely short list, with the widest range of styles. The idea was to make it accessible, not to stock 100 different sherries to show how clever we are, which would only confuse the customer. Despite the 3 towns and 3 grapes varieties, the permutations are many, so simplicity was the key.

In addition to the core list we have specials on from time to time. Currently we have a little of the Las Palmas range left. These are fabulous old finos from González Byass, made without filtration in the En Rama style.

There is a series of four, with ages of 6, 8 10 and 40 (!) years old, selected from barrels in the dark corners of the bodega by wine-maker Antonio Flores, this year with the assistance of Jancis Robinson. The flor has remained longer than usual due to particular levels of humidity, though the No. 4 version is strictly speaking an amontillado. And mighty fine they all are too, the extra depth of flavour and wonderfully long finish marking them apart from other sherries of similar age."

If that's got you interested in Sherry, I think an entry-level version of the paler styles is perhaps the best place to start - Tio Pepe would be perfect. And although it involves a trip to London, visiting a Sherry bar is a good way to try it if you're unsure of serving temperatures or food matches.

From there, you can move onto older, darker more complex and expensive sherries.

Other related articles
Some Sherry Talking
The Great Sherry Tasting
Hidalgo Sherry Dinner at The Punter
Tio Pepe - date stamped
Bar Pepito - King's Cross
Tio Pepe En Rama
Dehesa in Soho

Tio Pepe - website, twitter
Lustau - website
Waitrose - website, twitter
The Punter - website
Hotel du Vin - Cambridge, twitter
Pepito - website

Main image credit - http://www.designmynight.com/london/bars/bar-pepito-london

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