The word ‘sherry’ is derived from the name of the the town of Jerez in Andalucia, southern Spain, formerly spelled Xeres and pronounced ‘sheres’. This year International Sherry Week, a celebration of the town’s most famous product, ran from 8th to the 14th November and I happened to be there for much of it.
And, this year, the biennial Copa de Jerez 2021 coincided. An industry conference, promoting sherry but also hosting discussions about the latest in the world of sherry production, marketing and the rules governing it, it includes a competition for chefs and sommeliers from across the world, the winners being the most successful at pairing sherry and food. This competition has been going for six years and is getting a very good reputation. The entrants come from the best restaurants in Europe. This year the UK’s entry was a team from The River Cafe – Mattia Mazzi was the sommelier and Vincente Raffone the chef.
It’s a high pressure competition, with national heats, before the grand final in the Teatro Villamarta in Jerez and it’s all done against the clock. This year’s judges include Josep Roca, the sommelier and co-owner of the triple-Michelin-starred El Cellar de Can Roca, London restaurateur José Pizarro, Quique Dacosta, owner and chef at his eponymous three-starred restaurant, Andreas Larsson, named the World’s Best Sommelier in 2007, Peer Holm, President of the German Association of Sommeliers and leading Spanish food critic, José Carlos Capel. Not an easy bunch to impress.
The winners were the Belgian team of sommelier Paul-Henri Cuvelier and chef Fabian Bell of Paul de Pierre in Maarkedal, who also won the awards for best sommelier and best chef. Their menu began with mackerel, dashi, chorizo, artichoke, pak choi and lovage oil, paired with Fino Viña Corrales from Bodegas San Francisco. For the main course, lamb, hazelnut, celeriac and sesame purée, zucchini flower stuffed with Manchego, shiitake mushrooms and rosemary-infused potato confit was matched with an Oloroso from Bodegas Gutierrez Colosia. The pud, of pear in tobacco and spice syrup, lemon cream and goat’s cheese ice cream, accompanied by Medium Old Harvest from Bodegas Ximénez-Spinola sounds amazing. Actually, the whole meal sounds amazing.
Please note, I wasn’t invited to any of this – the photos are from the PR. Yet this didn’t stop me from tasting, though not the super dry finos and manzanillas, for me the Autumn is a time for amontillado or, my current favourite, oloroso. (N.B. readers should note that my favourite changes from day to day.) So, meeting friends before going to lunch – a cafe solo and an oloroso goes down very nicely thank you. Some ice cream and a coffee after lunch, what better to accompany both than an oloroso ( though Pedro Jimenez poured over good vanilla ice cream is a delight ).
I was also pleased to discover that the ‘international’ element of Sherry Week was going strong with over 1,750 tastings world wide, including in Vancouver, Sydney, Colombia, Greece and in the UK. So here’s a shout for The Tapas Room in Peckham, Ambiente Tapas, York, Bar44bristol, Bar Estaban, Crouch End, Rincon Bar Espanol, Richmond, Curado Bar, Cardiff, to name but a few. Now where did I put that bottle of Palo Cortado?