10/06/09 – bringing Sherry back

By Jesse on October 6, 2009

As you may already know, the Young Winos were recently featured on the nationally-syndicated radio show Marketplace (click here to listen). The subject of the program was Sherry — and, more specifically, why young people aren’t drinking any of it. According to this article, Sherry imports are down to 200,000 cases a year, 75 percent off their peak in the 1980s. Add to that the fact that almost no young people I know ever drink the stuff, under any circumstances, and you’ve got a total Sherry Fail.

This week, though, we’re going to buck the trend and see if we can’t introduce some young palates to the pleasures of the Jerez juice. We’ll be sticking to the drier end of the Sherry spectrum, as anyone who remembers our ill-fated attempt to conduct a meeting of solely sweet dessert wines will surely appreciate.

Why is Sherry so stigmatized among the younger generation? I was asked that very question by Marketplace reporter Caitlan Carroll, and my response was this: the only thing that most 20-somethings really know about Sherry is that it’s something our grandmothers drank, and that’s all we feel we need to know. It’s basically a lack of understanding, coupled with the “uncool” factor: unlike something like Pinot Noir, for example, which is fairly straightforward (a bottle from Burgundy may not taste quite like a bottle from Santa Ynez, but at least they’re both essentially the same thing), Sherry takes a little more exploration to fully grasp what it’s all about. The wine is so stylistically varied that it can easily fall prey to seeming to suffer an identity crisis in the eyes of young consumers who are used to being able to understand the essence of something from the first example they ever taste. If you try a glass of Harvey’s Bristol Cream (as many people do, their first time), and you decide it’s too sweet, then you’re done with Sherry forever… even if you would’ve loved a Fino or a Manzanilla.

All Sherry is fortified (brandy is added), but contrary to popular belief, not all Sherry is sweet. There are several different styles, including:

Fino: pale in color, bitingly dry and delicately flavored
Manzanilla: a variety of Fino, produced on the coast, sometimes possessing a tell-tale saltiness
Amontillado: medium-dry, Amontillado runs darker and nuttier than Fino
Oloroso: darker still, and richer in flavor, this high-alcohol sherry is also medium-dry
Pedro Ximenez, Moscatel, and Cream Sherries are all sweet. As we learned last time, they can become a little overbearing when you try to drink seven or eight in a row.

For this meeting, we’ll be sticking to the dry side. Therefore, please bring either a Fino, a Manzanilla, an Amontillado, or an Oloroso. If this goes well, maybe we’ll throw some sweet Sherry (and some tapas) into the mix next time.

We’ll be meeting at Liz’s place in Brentwood. The RSVP system functions like this: if you want in, you click on this link and tell me so (don’t forget your full name, e-mail address, and a cute message conveying to me your intentions). If you’re denied entry due to a meeting exceeding capacity, don’t worry — you’ll be at the top of the list the next week.

Once you’ve gotten your confirmation e-mail, go out and find yourself a bottle of dry Sherry… or simply bring a $10 donation, if you prefer. See you on Wednesday night!