Equipo Navazos 'Fino En Rama' Sherry
Jerez, Spain $17
In Andalucia, at the southern extreme of Europe, there's a small city called Jerez, or Xérèz. Say the word, Jerez. The J is nearly voiceless, like an English H, but with a slight glottal sound that confuses the non-native ear. The Brits who first began exporting Jerez's local fortified wine had trouble pronouncing the name, and before long, in the English-speaking world, that wine became known as sherry.
In a sense, sherry has always been misunderstood, especially so in the modern era. The process of making it is long and complicated, nuanced. It defies generalization, demands its own terms. It does not fit neatly into the panoply of European traditions. And there's been decades of bulk crap sold to us under the name, yet another bastardization sherry-makers have had to endure. But in reality, good sherry will take you exactly where you want to go, and great sherry will whisk you off into the glorious unknown.
The short version is this: in the past few years interest in sherry has blossomed, chefs have caught the scent, and today it is widely recognized as one of the great pairing wines of the world. It's always been that, but now we know.
Credit goes firstly to the craftspeople who never gave up on their traditions, those who continued making dry, subtle, nutty wines without regard to outside opinion. But secondly, credit goes to the small group of sherry-lovers who launched the export brand Equipo Navazos, almost singly responsible for the international attention now in play. What began as a local buyers club has become the world's foremost curator of top sherries. Through exhaustive tasting and long-standing relationships with small producers, these folks take the best of Jerez and make it available to the rest of the world.
We have started carrying their Fino Sherry, a dry, delicate thing that can boost everything from Iberico ham and melon to a plate of saucy lamb couscous.
To start to wrap your head sherry--what it is, how it's made, why it's great--I recommend reading Andrew Sinclair's 2010 article in The Guardian. He writes:
...sherry can take a bit of explaining, that much is definitely true. But stick with it and you will find one of the great wines of the world awaiting you.
Once you're there, once you've caught the scent and want more, and more, snatch up one of the two celebrated books published recently on the subject.
Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine-World's Best Kept Secret by Talia Baiocchi
Sherry, Manzania and Montilla by Peter Liem & Jesús Barquín
Both of these are available in the shop, and I highly recommend them. Liem's book goes a little deeper in depth, is drier, you might say, but provides a really comprehensive view of the tradition. Baiocchi's book is more accessible, includes cocktail ideas, but is more about the journey of discovering sherry for one's self than the object history of a place. Choose your own adventure, but please, venture.
And most importantly, drink the stuff.