RICHARD ESLING: Sherry can make an interesting picnic wine

Make the most of the sunshine by enjoying sherry with your picnic
Make the most of the sunshine by enjoying sherry with your picnic

With mid-Summer’s day just around the corner, it’s time to make the most of the sunshine, find the picnic rug at the back of the cupboard, put the folding chairs and table in the boot and pack the picnic basket.

The composition of the picnic varies considerably depending on taste and practicality and has changed over the years.

A pork pie and a thermos of milky tea has now been replaced by smoked salmon and a bottle of bubbly. There are now so many interesting deli products available from all over Europe, that a tasty meal in a basket is easily put together, and a bottle of chilled rosé or white wine adds the finishing touch to a great Summer’s meal ‘al fresco’.

But why not ring the changes and be a little more adventurous with the contents of your picnic hamper? Sherry Wines UK have some great ideas, combining the best of English charcuterie with some well-chosen fortified wines from Jerez in Southern Spain.

Sherry is often overlooked by us Brits when it comes to pairing it with food, which is a shame since the flavours and characteristics of well-made dry sherry are ideal with many foods and it can make an unusual, refreshing and flavoursome picnic wine.

The Spanish have been drinking sherry with their meals for centuries and here in the UK there is a growing revival of sherry drinking, particularly in the tapas bars of London.

Manzanilla is the driest style of sherry, and well chilled in the wine cooler is a wonderful accompaniment to some smoked salmon, cured ham or perhaps some fresh anchovies. One of the best is Sacristia en Rama 2016 made by the top sherry bodega Antonio Barbadillo. ‘En Rama’ is a relatively new style of sherry, which is bottled direct from the cask, with minimal filtering or other treatments. The wine is thus dated and should be consumed within about six months of its availability on the market. This wine has a deep golden colour, with aromas of almonds, camomile and hints of sea-air. Bone dry, the palate is fresh, elegant and unctuous, with salty hints and a long finish. Available from the specialist wine company Lay and Wheeler at £18 per half bottle.

Another sherry which is an ideal picnic wine is dry Oloroso and a perfect example is Pedro’s Almacenista Selection by Viniberia, £13.99 per bottle from Majestic.

Oloroso is the traditionally aged sherry most popular in the town of Jerez, from which sherry originates. Almacenista sherries are rarer, more individual wines, sold directly from the warehouses where they are matured, in this case from Juan Garcia Jarana, one of the oldest almacenistas, producing exceptional wines. With the decline in sales of sherry in recent years, the number of almacenistas has dropped from 50 to around 20. Here again, the wines are subjected to minimal filtration to preserve maximum flavour expression, although this can result in some natural deposit forming in the bottle.

Exquisite, intense aromas of toasted walnuts and Autumn leaves, with a profound and expansive, dry palate. Excellent pairing with English hams, salamis and other charcuterie, chicken liver paté, pasta salads and even a well-seasoned pork pie or black pudding scotch-egg.

So, when packing the picnic basket, think ‘dry sherry’, choose some of the interesting examples available, such as those above, and add a new dimension to your outside dining experiences.

Don’t forget, that due to their fortified nature, sherries are stronger than other wines.

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.

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