A few days ago I embarked on one of my fleeting food adventures and trifled with Spanish cooking. However, what I discovered in a Spanish cookbook changed my lowbrow view of sherry for good – Pedro Ximenez and the Sherry Triangle of Andalucia.
While sounding like a Tintin adventure, the Sherry Triangle, I read, lies in a distinct part of southern Spain, in Andalucia. Here folk passionately brew and age large barrels of this sweet, fortified liquid. In Australia, sherry is largely thought of as a cheap drop best reserved for desperate nights of debauchery. Although, as I found out, it’s not really sherry unless it comes from the Sherry Triangle.
Only three towns in Andalucia qualify to produce this exquisite drop – Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa Maria, and Maria Sanlucar de Barrameda. Heading down to my local, which fortunately has a proprietor that’s interested in quality alcohol (the Great Northern bottle shop), I picked up a bottle of Pedro Ximenez, which comes from Jerez de la Frontera.
Getting back home I supped a glass of Pedro and found it to be smooth, fruity and sweet, with a Christmas pudding-like aftertaste. Definitely a desert drink, great with chocolate, but so much better than the sherry I was accustomed to.
The production of sherry in the triangle is supposedly quite complex, which involves aging fairly ordinary white wine and exposing it to the arch enemy of all other wine, air. The wine is oxidised to enrich the flavour and colour of sherry before it’s finally fortified with brandy.
The main varieties of sherry in this region are fino – which is taken chilled and as soon as it’s ready; amontillado – a fortified version of fino; olorosso – a darker, more aged sherry, and finally Pedro Ximenez.
Who would have thought there’s a passionate army of brewers in southern Spain churning out barrel after splendid barrel of a modest and often misunderstood drop?