Sherry. It’s a wine loved by the pros and misunderstood by the masses. If you fall into the latter camp, here’s a quick lowdown: Sherry hails from the Andalusia province of Cadiz on the southern tip of Spain, also known as the “Sherry Triangle.” It’s a fortified wine (which means additional alcohol is added) and is aged in above-ground cellars known as bodegas. The aging process is what creates the spectrum from dry to sweet, and it’s all about oxygen—whether the sherry is protected from it by a veil of yeast called flor, or if it allowed the sherry to become oxidized. Another aging process, called a solera system, occurs when young wine is continuously added to old wine in a barrel. Sound confusing? It can be. But here’s the good news: sherry and cheese are a natural match.
“Biological” refers to a sherry that’s aged under flor (remember the yeast cap?) in order to protect it from oxygen. These are light styles, known as Fino or Manzanilla, and you can’t go wrong with a classic Spanish wedge like Mahón or Manchego. Bodegas Grant El Garrocha Fino, a dry wine with notes of white flowers, sea–kissed salinity, and raw almonds, is particularly good with Meadow Creek Dairy Mountaineer, an Alpine style from Virginia. The notes of straw and caramelized onions in the cheese are cut perfectly by the sharpness of the fino.
These are sherries that either start out under flor and then finish exposed to air (Amontillado and Palo Cortado), or are exposed to air the entire time (Oloroso). Palo Cortado Peña del Aguila from César Florido, with notes of toasted hazelnuts, vanilla, and fresh–cut cedar, is a knockout with spicy Spanish blue Valdeón; the richness of the Palo Cortado easily stands up to the boldness of the cheese. Try an Oloroso from El Maestro Sierra—rich and complex with notes of toasted almond skin and baking spices—with Boxcarr Handmade’s Rocket’s Robiola. It’s rich paired with rich, and you can’t go wrong.
Although these days the word “sweet” can be a dirty word when it comes to wine, sweet sherry can offer an amazing experience at the end of a great meal. In fact, Pedro Ximenez (PX) is the ultimate accompaniment to a dessert cheese plate—especially when said plate contains blue cheese. If you’re ready for a super bold pairing, opt for an all-goat’s milk blue like FireFly Farms Black and Blue. Or, if you’d rather skip all the mold, pick an aged gouda—the rich, sweet cheese is an irresistible complement to the wine.
Forx Farm Twelve Month Gouda + PX sherry
FireFly Farms Black and Blue + PX sherry