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We’re Sherry Educators

Sweet SherriesAnd…..we’re back after 5 days and 4 nights in Jerez de la Frontera, the defacto capital of all things sherry related. As many of you know, we were in Jerez to learn all about Sherry. The D.O. of Jerez for the past 3 years has been working to educate writers, wine educators, wine lovers and sherry nuts about this elusive and mysterious beverage. Sticking to the policy of full disclosure in blogging, the rules to participate were simple. You find a way to get there and they in turn, took care of lodging, food and transportation. Seeing that this was a great way to deepen our understanding about Sherry, while becoming certified as Sherry Wine Educators, we took the opportunity and booked a flight to see what the excitement was about. Turns out we were glad we did.

We flew down on Tuesday night, a day before the seminar, so that we could explore a bit of the city. This was a great idea because our first dinner showed us why this seminar is so important to the region and its wines. After wandering the city, we sat down and ordered a few of Jerez’s infamous seafood treats alongside a bottle of Fino sherry. We thought it was a perfectly reasonable request seeing that we were in the capital of the sherry world. To our waiter, however, it seemed as though we had martian antennas sticking out of our heads and funny space suits on. His response was simply, “Do you mean a white wine?” To which we, somewhat confused, replied, “Yes, we want a white Fino sherry.” The volley continued, “Do you know what a Fino is? Are you sure you don’t mean a white wine?” It was at this point I began to notice that the company we shared at this small outdoor terrace included tourists of every ilk and nationality, all of which seemed to be nursing beer from large wine glasses. We were beginning to understand. It became clear that this poor waiter had more than once, served a Fino to some unexpecting tourists only to have them shocked at the beverage put before them. As we later found out, only locals order a bottle of Fino with dinner(or two!). We may speak Spanish but our accents are far from stealth when trying to blend in; whereby prompting the staff to inquire of our nationality. They didn’t expect us to be from the States and were happy to have a cold bottle of Tio Pepe sitting before us. At this point the evening moved forward with more smiles and conversation as the wait staff realized we did appreciate the fresh bottle that quickly emptied itself into our glasses.

Sherry is plagued by this scenario, day after day, and within its own home town. It’s just not fair. I know some of you are rolling your eyes and about to click away, because we relentlessly write about a drink we love, but humor me with one more short story.

It was about 2 years ago when my old wine buyer friend from my previous US based employer was in Madrid fresh off a whirlwind tour of Spanish vineyards. He had tasted wine non-stop for one week and had 2 days left to explore Madrid on his own. Meeting up with him one night, we found our way into a bar for a few drinks where I asked him if he had tried any sherry during his travels. He responded that he had not and we quickly asked the waiter what he had to offer in the way of a Fino. His response was that all they had was a bottle of Tio Pepe. My friend being a person who has tasted more wines than most replied, “Oh that’s ok. I have had Tio Pepe many times before.” Nonetheless, I sent the waiter away with an order for two glasses. I explained to my friend that it might be different this time. Now the part I relish to this day. When my friend picked up his glass and, as any wine lover is wont to do, shoved his nose into it inhaling its aroma, his eyes began to light up. “This isn’t Tio Pepe!” It was, but it was something that he had never known before, FRESH. Fino needs to be drunk fresh, and sadly in the USA, it’s hard to find the freshest example of this Iberian treat(though this is changing!). At that time, I obviously had no idea that in two years time, I would be learning about sherry in the hopes of educating others, but I did know that I needed to spread the word about this misunderstood beverage.

I want to end this with a final word about sherry. What we learned this past week was very enlightening, and at the very least has wet our appetites to learn even more. So many styles and variations, there is absolutely something for everyone. We tasted the most delicate Finos and Manzanillas, thick unctuous PXs and nutty, yeasty Amontillados. The result is that we feel like we only have spotted the tip of what is a oenophilic iceberg of flavors. We’ll try not to overdo it, but we do ask that you follow us as we recount some of the fun things that we have learned and people who we met.

Also, we want you too know that we are now available for classes. Both Gabriella and I are available if you find yourself in Spain to help you learn about Sherry. I know we sound like an advertisement, but we mean this with heartfelt honesty: we love this wine!

Ryan Opaz
Certified Sherry Educator

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  • Bill

    Well, I finally decided to pop open that bottle of Lustau Amontillado I bought in July, for Catavino Sherry Month. Maybe it was your trip that inspired me. Maybe it was the futility of watching the Vikings play the national game of the week against our hated rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. In any event, I found a slightly chilled glass of sherry in front of me. It was a nice deep, oxidized color. As a port lover, the brain is anticipating something rich and complex, with a sweet payoff at the end. Well, the rich and complex came through but the finish was dry. Of course, I knew it was going to be dry, but everything else about these characteristics screamed "sweet". The end result is that I believe I can achieve a level of appreciation for this beverage, in finely meted out doses. I drank my sherry without food. I think food is probably required if one is going to drink more than a glass or two, simply to counter the effects of the alcohol content. In conclusion, I can no longer say that I don't like sherry. I know, not a great endorsement, but it's a start.

  • Jack

    One thing I've noticed (but my sample size is small) is that wine geeks are practically afraid of drinking sherry. Beer? No problem. But sherry? It's, "I'll pass on that." This only changes at the end of the meal when they suddenly become willing to drink a sweet sherry as a dessert wine. But paring dry, quality sherry with food? No way, Pepe!

  • Jack

    I wonder if sherry simply suffers from the "you need to try something 20 or so times before you get to like it" rule?* Before delving seriously into wine, I drank a lot of Harvey's Bristol Cream. With food and by itself. Did you get a sense of people at the end of this wine class that most or all who didn't like sherry before do now? *Besides people not getting the ones that are supposed to be fresh/very young actually getting it that way – and thanks for reminding me about this – something I knew before but had forgotten.

  • Bill

    Well, I finally decided to pop open that bottle of Lustau Amontillado I bought in July, for Catavino Sherry Month. Maybe it was your trip that inspired me. Maybe it was the futility of watching the Vikings play the national game of the week against our hated rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. In any event, I found a slightly chilled glass of sherry in front of me. It was a nice deep, oxidized color. As a port lover, the brain is anticipating something rich and complex, with a sweet payoff at the end. Well, the rich and complex came through but the finish was dry. Of course, I knew it was going to be dry, but everything else about these characteristics screamed “sweet”.

    The end result is that I believe I can achieve a level of appreciation for this beverage, in finely meted out doses. I drank my sherry without food. I think food is probably required if one is going to drink more than a glass or two, simply to counter the effects of the alcohol content.

    In conclusion, I can no longer say that I don’t like sherry. I know, not a great endorsement, but it’s a start.

  • Troy

    and given the language in which we are writing, we might have a residual British predilection for drinking it in the afternoon. must admit, it never occured to me to have a bottle of it with a meal… by the way, Bill, eight carries for Peterson? you deserved to lose. ;-)

  • http://www.ForkandBottle.com Jack

    One thing I’ve noticed (but my sample size is small) is that wine geeks are practically afraid of drinking sherry. Beer? No problem. But sherry? It’s, “I’ll pass on that.” This only changes at the end of the meal when they suddenly become willing to drink a sweet sherry as a dessert wine. But paring dry, quality sherry with food? No way, Pepe!

  • http://www.ForkandBottle.com Jack

    I wonder if sherry simply suffers from the “you need to try something 20 or so times before you get to like it” rule?* Before delving seriously into wine, I drank a lot of Harvey’s Bristol Cream. With food and by itself. Did you get a sense of people at the end of this wine class that most or all who didn’t like sherry before do now?

    *Besides people not getting the ones that are supposed to be fresh/very young actually getting it that way – and thanks for reminding me about this – something I knew before but had forgotten.

  • Troy

    and given the language in which we are writing, we might have a residual British predilection for drinking it in the afternoon. must admit, it never occured to me to have a bottle of it with a meal…

    by the way, Bill, eight carries for Peterson? you deserved to lose. ;-)

  • Gabriella

    Allow me to start by saying that I was by no means sherry obsessed before this seminar. I was wholeheartedly curious, but hesitant. Hesitant because my experiences have felt disjointed, tasting a few sherries here and there, but nothing that ever truly caught my attention. Now, I can honestly say that I am officially addicted. Our first evening sipping an entire bottle of Tio Pepe under the star studded sky amongst children playing inside an empty gazebo was enchanting. Visiting wineries dating back to the 1800's containing barrels stacked from floor to ceiling, slowly evolving and collaborating among themselves in complete silence. If you listened carefully enough, you could almost hear the stories from the drops remaining in the solera from hundreds years ago. To be there, to physically taste from a barrel knowing that there are trace amounts of wine from god only knows how far back, is indescribable. I get chills every time I think about it. Couple the almost mausoleum like environment to tasting a flight of wines so exciting, so radically different in every possible characteristic, you can't help but to fall in love. We place Sherry in its own category, a wine for special occasions. Yet it's a wine that can be drunk at all occasions. Like Cava, we think it requires a specific glass, very specific food, and a damn fine reason to drink it, but that's not the case. We also pigeon hole it into one category: sweet or dry, white or brown. One cannot have both, right? We want consistency and ease, but sherry is flexible. One can find a style for any food and for all occasions. I'm committed to changing sherry's stereotype. Find me any wine geek that will permit someone to say, "I prefer white wine to red." I guarantee that they will jump to their soapboxes and scream to the heavens that one can't dislike "red wine" nor like all "white wine" when there are hundreds, if not thousands, to experience. "All" is a loaded word and can rarely be used casually. I guarantee there is a style of sherry for just about everyone.

  • RichardA

    Congratulations to both of you for gaining your Sherry certification! It is always good to learn more about a subject of which you are passionate. And I certainly agree that Sherry has received a bad rep and much more is needed to spead the word of the joys of Sherry. The problem is not just the consumer but many wine stores as well. They rarely have much of a selection of Sherry, and its freshness leaves much to be desired.

  • Gabriella

    You're absolutely correct Richard, hence the chicken and egg effect. Because retailers know little about sherry, they tend to both store and educate consumers poorly. Equally true is that consumers tend not to try sherry, and consequently, make bottles sit well past their "expiration date".

  • Ryan

    In truth i asked all 23 or so individuals about their preferences to sherry before we started, and all said they liked it. No surprise, the DO probably planned this, but I did find that as time went on more and more people started to fall in love with it. REALLY fall in love with it. One thing I just thought of is that I wonder if people don't put sherry in a category with real wine. In fact I assumed this, but the one thing they stressed is that sherry is a WINE, not a "special" wine, doomed to short bus status for eternity. It should be drunk with meals, and it's alcohol levels are not that outlandish when compared with other wines found in today's markets. Finally, what is the next article you want us to write on sherry? We have other stuff to jab on about, but I want to know, for real. What is the next article on sherry going to be titled. A challenge, please give us your ideas. The best title(s) will have articles written on the titles subject…Who's first?

  • RichardA

    What are the best sources for Sherry in the U.S.? –By this, I mean which importers/distributors have the best Sherry portfolio, which wine stores carry the best selections, etc. Fear of Sherry –How do we initiate newcomers into drinking Sherry

  • Dr. Debs

    Congratulations! I was encouraged to have a glass of sherry and some Marcona almonds at a tapas bar recently. It was really good, and a nice change of pace for a pre-dinner drink. I will definitely be following these wines more, and will continue reading the great articles you post here.

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella

    Allow me to start by saying that I was by no means sherry obsessed before this seminar. I was wholeheartedly curious, but hesitant. Hesitant because my experiences have felt disjointed, tasting a few sherries here and there, but nothing that ever truly caught my attention.

    Now, I can honestly say that I am officially addicted.

    Our first evening sipping an entire bottle of Tio Pepe under the star studded sky amongst children playing inside an empty gazebo was enchanting. Visiting wineries dating back to the 1800′s containing barrels stacked from floor to ceiling, slowly evolving and collaborating among themselves in complete silence. If you listened carefully enough, you could almost hear the stories from the drops remaining in the solera from hundreds years ago. To be there, to physically taste from a barrel knowing that there are trace amounts of wine from god only knows how far back, is indescribable. I get chills every time I think about it.

    Couple the almost mausoleum like environment to tasting a flight of wines so exciting, so radically different in every possible characteristic, you can’t help but to fall in love.

    We place Sherry in its own category, a wine for special occasions. Yet it’s a wine that can be drunk at all occasions. Like Cava, we think it requires a specific glass, very specific food, and a damn fine reason to drink it, but that’s not the case. We also pigeon hole it into one category: sweet or dry, white or brown. One cannot have both, right?

    We want consistency and ease, but sherry is flexible. One can find a style for any food and for all occasions.

    I’m committed to changing sherry’s stereotype. Find me any wine geek that will permit someone to say, “I prefer white wine to red.” I guarantee that they will jump to their soapboxes and scream to the heavens that one can’t dislike “red wine” nor like all “white wine” when there are hundreds, if not thousands, to experience. “All” is a loaded word and can rarely be used casually. I guarantee there is a style of sherry for just about everyone.

  • http://passionatefoodie.blogspot.com/ RichardA

    Congratulations to both of you for gaining your Sherry certification! It is always good to learn more about a subject of which you are passionate. And I certainly agree that Sherry has received a bad rep and much more is needed to spead the word of the joys of Sherry. The problem is not just the consumer but many wine stores as well. They rarely have much of a selection of Sherry, and its freshness leaves much to be desired.

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella

    You’re absolutely correct Richard, hence the chicken and egg effect. Because retailers know little about sherry, they tend to both store and educate consumers poorly. Equally true is that consumers tend not to try sherry, and consequently, make bottles sit well past their “expiration date”.

  • http://www.catavino.net Ryan

    In truth i asked all 23 or so individuals about their preferences to sherry before we started, and all said they liked it. No surprise, the DO probably planned this, but I did find that as time went on more and more people started to fall in love with it. REALLY fall in love with it.

    One thing I just thought of is that I wonder if people don’t put sherry in a category with real wine. In fact I assumed this, but the one thing they stressed is that sherry is a WINE, not a “special” wine, doomed to short bus status for eternity. It should be drunk with meals, and it’s alcohol levels are not that outlandish when compared with other wines found in today’s markets.

    Finally, what is the next article you want us to write on sherry? We have other stuff to jab on about, but I want to know, for real. What is the next article on sherry going to be titled. A challenge, please give us your ideas. The best title(s) will have articles written on the titles subject…Who’s first?

  • http://passionatefoodie.blogspot.com/ RichardA

    What are the best sources for Sherry in the U.S.?
    –By this, I mean which importers/distributors have the best Sherry portfolio, which wine stores carry the best selections, etc.

    Fear of Sherry
    –How do we initiate newcomers into drinking Sherry

  • http://goodwineunder20.blogspot.com Dr. Debs

    Congratulations! I was encouraged to have a glass of sherry and some Marcona almonds at a tapas bar recently. It was really good, and a nice change of pace for a pre-dinner drink. I will definitely be following these wines more, and will continue reading the great articles you post here.

  • Ryan

    Great to hear Debs! Glad you found a way to enjoy! Richard, great Title's, now to think about what we want to use…hmmm…research needs to be done…

  • Jill

    Congrats! Now I need you to teach me! I will also be reading closely…

  • http://www.catavino.net Ryan

    Great to hear Debs! Glad you found a way to enjoy!

    Richard, great Title’s, now to think about what we want to use…hmmm…research needs to be done…

  • http://domaine547.com Jill

    Congrats! Now I need you to teach me! I will also be reading closely…

  • Frank Haddad

    Congratulations! How often do they run this courses?

  • http://blanc-de-noir.blogspot.com/ Frank Haddad

    Congratulations! How often do they run this courses?

  • Ryan

    Frank, it's a once a year event. One class in English and One in Spanish

  • http://www.catavino.net Ryan

    Frank, it’s a once a year event. One class in English and One in Spanish

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  • Anneloes

    Dear all, I can only say that I totally agree with Ryan and Gabriella. We had a great time in Jerez and although I was already obsessed with sherry before joining the course, I'm now more or less addicted to it. I will do my utmost in promoting these terrific wines in Holland! Regards, Anneloes Certified Sherry Educator, Holland

  • Gabriella

    Anneloes, we loved having you with us in the class and trust you will do a fantastic job promoting sherry wine! Hopefully, we'll come visit you one day in Holland and see your course up close and live :-)

  • Anneloes

    Dear all,

    I can only say that I totally agree with Ryan and Gabriella. We had a great time in Jerez and although I was already obsessed with sherry before joining the course, I’m now more or less addicted to it.
    I will do my utmost in promoting these terrific wines in Holland!

    Regards,
    Anneloes
    Certified Sherry Educator, Holland

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella

    Anneloes, we loved having you with us in the class and trust you will do a fantastic job promoting sherry wine! Hopefully, we’ll come visit you one day in Holland and see your course up close and live :-)

  • Mark V Marino

    Hey Ryan, I just linked to you and Alder linked to me, cool, the brotherhood continues. Sherry is very old and least appreciated, it stems back to fortified wines in general which were originally created to survive long ocean voyages. I have used sherry since I was introduced to chinese cuisine in the early 1980's, good sherry like good wine improves a dish when used in cooking. At the same time qualitity sherry is always a nice aperitif while waiting for the dinner to finish. Whoa, I am thinking now of aged maderia as an alternative, do you know maderia ages best of all wines, hmmm they are so nutty. My point is that these wines are wonderful for drinking and for cooking! Never cook with bad wine, nor drink it! Thanks Ryan!

  • Ryan

    Two points Mark, "good sherry like good wine improves a dish when used in cooking" Sherry is Wine. This is a point the DO stressed during the whole seminar. Sherry is a wine like any other. Also Madeira is a wine that really doesn't age. It lasts a long time, but from what I've read an the people I've talked to it doesn't really change once it's in bottle. You can have a 200 year old bottle that tastes the same as the day it was put in bottle. Truely amazing stuff! Thanks for the comment! Cheers,

  • http://winelimo.typepad.com/ Mark V Marino

    Hey Ryan,

    I just linked to you and Alder linked to me, cool, the brotherhood continues.

    Sherry is very old and least appreciated, it stems back to fortified wines in general which were originally created to survive long ocean voyages.

    I have used sherry since I was introduced to chinese cuisine in the early 1980′s, good sherry like good wine improves a dish when used in cooking. At the same time qualitity sherry is always a nice aperitif while waiting for the dinner to finish.

    Whoa, I am thinking now of aged maderia as an alternative, do you know maderia ages best of all wines, hmmm they are so nutty.

    My point is that these wines are wonderful for drinking and for cooking! Never cook with bad wine, nor drink it!

    Thanks Ryan!

  • http://www.obiscoito.com Ryan

    Two points Mark, “good sherry like good wine improves a dish when used in cooking” Sherry is Wine. This is a point the DO stressed during the whole seminar. Sherry is a wine like any other.

    Also Madeira is a wine that really doesn’t age. It lasts a long time, but from what I’ve read an the people I’ve talked to it doesn’t really change once it’s in bottle. You can have a 200 year old bottle that tastes the same as the day it was put in bottle. Truely amazing stuff!

    Thanks for the comment!
    Cheers,

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  • Anneloes

    Dear Gabriella, Hope everything is ok with you and Ryan. I just saw the pictures of the Seminar in Jerez, fantastic! Brought back all the sweet memories. We hope to return to Jerez sometime this year, after our marriage in May. I'm really busy promoting the Vinos de Jerez in Holland and things look positive. People are really curious to learn more about these superb wines. We surely hope to see you soon, be it in Holland or in Spain. Lets keep in touch. Sweet regards, Anneloes

  • Anneloes

    Dear Gabriella,

    Hope everything is ok with you and Ryan. I just saw the pictures of the Seminar in Jerez, fantastic! Brought back all the sweet memories. We hope to return to Jerez sometime this year, after our marriage in May.
    I’m really busy promoting the Vinos de Jerez in Holland and things look positive. People are really curious to learn more about these superb wines.
    We surely hope to see you soon, be it in Holland or in Spain. Lets keep in touch.
    Sweet regards, Anneloes

  • Gabriella

    Hey Anneloes! We would love to see you and fiance again, whether that be in Spain or Holland. Although to be honest, we've been dreaming of enjoying Holland, so hopefully, you'll see us there! We'll most likely be in Jerez in May, but we'll keep in touch and see if we can't plan some time together this year!

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella

    Hey Anneloes! We would love to see you and fiance again, whether that be in Spain or Holland. Although to be honest, we’ve been dreaming of enjoying Holland, so hopefully, you’ll see us there! We’ll most likely be in Jerez in May, but we’ll keep in touch and see if we can’t plan some time together this year!

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