Originating in Jerez in southern Spain, sherry is a type of fortified wine that has additional alcohol added after the fermentation process is complete. Although it has a long history of glorious days, sherry has gradually fallen out of fashion. But help might be on the way.
Most sherry is dry, with pronounced nut, dried fruit and seawater-like, savoury notes that are very different from the wines with which we are more familiar. There is also sweetened cream sherry that’s usually associated with old-fashioned British grandmothers.
Wine is often made to match with local cuisine, and sherry, with its array of umami flavours, is naturally perfect with Spanish tapas, olives and Ibérico ham. I even think it’s great with crisps and Japanese snacks, especially those made with seaweed. I once had sherry with cup noodles, and it worked! Sherry also goes well with the many Cantonese mushroom dishes out there. Hong Kongers love all these types of foods, so one would think dry sherry has a market in our city. Unfortunately, the Consejo Regulador, the governing body of sherry in Spain, is not active in international markets and has missed many opportunities. This is also the key reason why sales of sherry have been in decline everywhere except Spain. London went through a Spanish tapas craze in the 2000s, and wine critics reckoned that sherry would take off along with it, but it didn’t.
Luckily, some sherry enthusiasts want to change the stagnant image of sherry and have partnered with a sherry house to produce a cool, modern-looking “next generation” sherry under the brand XECO. It comes in three styles: fino, amontillado and medium dry. But what’s even more exciting is the brand’s new canned cocktails. XECO Sparkling Fino Sherry Spritz is a summery drink with flavours of prickly pear, fig and cardamom, while XECO Sparkling Monti Sherry Spritz is a richer but still refreshing cocktail made with amontillado sherry, Sicilian orange, rosemary and gentian flower. On XECO’s website, they have also listed sherry cocktail recipes created by professional mixologists.
In Spain, the lighter fino and manzanilla sherries are often served as aperitifs, while the richer amontillado and oloroso styles are enjoyed with equally rich food such as cheese and chocolate.
The taste of sherry is probably new to many, so starting with a cocktail would be a good first step to experiencing this amazing drink. I applaud the founders of XECO, three young women who created the brand in 2016 when they were all still based in Hong Kong. When you look at these women, the cool packaging of XECO and the brand’s clean, modern website, who can say sherry is a drink just for grannies?