For your information I am a FYW; A French Young Woman. And believe me, when these three words are that neatly strung together it means that I’m as far as one can be from Sherry.
Because I’m French, sherry is either chéri or cherry but sherry… What on Frog’s sake is that? If you’re talking about that brownish syrupy liquor some vintage folks drink for aperitif then I would know it as Jerez or Xeres (which by the way I could never tell apart from Port or even, shame on me, Pineau des Charentes).
Because I’m young and neither time nor sherry have a hold on me, my imagination has to wander to distant memories of black & white movies for picturesque illustrations of the S word. And because I’m a woman I feel terribly far from these illustrations: dark, smoky parlors, important men in suits idly sipping a dark juice in small glasses while discussing the state of the world or the latest political scandal. Women then would probably be drinking tea or lemonade in separate boudoirs. But sherry? It didn’t seem so.
There, sitting on a stool by the soft polished wooden bar, I tasted a deliciously toasty and bitterly hazelnutty Amontillado. It was gold, it was sharp and it warmed my heart and bones. What a comforting feeling! It was as if I belonged to a small club of people who had discovered something that others hadn’t and it made me certain that there had to be special moments to properly taste sherry. (You know those: chilled out places, leather armchairs and epicurean wine connoisseurs.)
Time proved me wrong. There is no set-in-stone unique sherry ceremonial but many oh so many sherry occasions!
For instance, last week I had something to celebrate (and an article on sherry to write) but no time whatsoever to sit, drink & relax in the above mentioned leather armchair. So I went to my favourite wine cellar in Paris where Jean-Denis recommended an Alvear Pedro Jimenez 2004 from Montilla Moriles. He opened the bottle for me and I took it in a plastic bag to a Thai restaurant next door for a quick exotic bite with two good friends. There, in the middle of the lunch rush, I poured it hurriedly into our plastic glasses when the waitress was busy elsewhere. We tasted it with a green curry & coco fish dish and, best surprise match of the day, with a pineapple cheesecake. It wasn’t perfect but my ‘chéri’ hold its own rather well!
Two days later I finished the bottle in my parent’s old garden. The dazzling sun and the overwhelming smell of the irises somehow made it a perfect environment for a luscious sherry moment. The Alvear Pedro Jimenez had a thick and brown texture discreetly highlighted by darting orange sparks. Its ravishing nose brought back childhood memories of my grandmother’s Alsacian fruit cake and as for the mouth… mmmmh it was soft on the tongue, it tasted of raisins, dates, figs, caramel and lingered for ever in my mouth and mind. Sherrylicious is the word I’ll use from now on.
And that’s only the start of my education!