JEREZ, Spain – Sherry is enjoying a rise in popularity across the globe and a new generation of wine lovers is now able to enjoy these flavorful wines in places as far flung as Tokyo and Sydney thanks to bars dedicated to showcasing a broad range of these products from the southwest of Spain.
According to experts who have gathered at the second Jerez Forum in southern Spain, it is the alcoholic beverage’s versatility, which can be served as an aperitif or a dessert wine, which lends itself to this booming business which has generated a sturdy global fanbase.
Key to the success of the new sherry bars is the fact that waiters are trained in depth on the qualities and nuances of each type of sherry, thus ensuring guests enjoy a top quality wine tasting experience.
Punters sit among bullfighting posters and wooden barrels as they sip on Finos (the dryest and palest variety of sherry made from palomino white grapes), Amontillados (darker than a fino and crisper than the nutty oloroso) and Olorosos (the darkest of the three due to an oxidative aging process) at the Sherry Club in Tokyo or Kioto.
But the star of the show is the Palo Cortado which starts off its aging process as Fino or Amontillado but spontaneously and inexplicably loses its veil of yeast and begins aging oxidatively as an Oloroso. The result is a crisp full-bodied wine with often fruity and nutty aromas.
When Japan’s first Sherry Club launched in 1986 it nearly folded, but a growing fascination with Spanish culture and gastronomy following the Seville Expo and Barcelona Olympics in 1992 catapulted the venture into a budding market, Momoko Izumide, of the Sherry Club Ginza in Kyoto recalled.
The Tokyo bar sells around 8,000 bottles a year, stocks 300 wines and boasts a client database of 10,000.
Izumide’s personnel consume around 550 liters a year of the wines in order to be able to explain what it feels like to drink it, and the bar offers wine tastings and sessions pairing sherries to food.
“Some of our employees become independent and launch their own bars with a similar philosophy: only wines from Jerez and the odd beer,” Izumide added at an event alongside other international cooks and sommeliers who were set to compete to create the best food and sherry pairing at the VIII Copa Jerez.
Miguel Angel Gomez, a Spaniard living in Australia, launched the Tapavino Bar Group in 2012 with a bar opposite Sydney’s Opera House.
He now owns four venues and said that his concept bar aims to share Spain’s gastronomy with a 500 strong wine list and an informal and fun atmosphere reminiscent of Spanish bars.
He decided to focus on wines from the Marco region which includes Jerez, El Puerto de Santa Maria and San Lucar de Barrameda, all in Cadiz (south-western Spain), for their “versatility, from the dry ones to the sweet ones and for their heritage, history and territory.”
“In Australia, people don’t even recognize a Rioja, but they do a sherry,” he said.
The Spaniard is in part responsible for the fame sherry enjoys and he holds the annual Sherry Week which includes decadent dinners with well-known chefs who create gastronomic combinations with the wines.
In 2002 the Morgande brothers launched Bar 44 in Wales.
“It’s a tapas bar in which sherry is the perfect accompaniment because they are the best (wines) to combine with foods,” Owen one the three brothers said of the venture which has 150 employees.
“These wines give us a competitive advantage. We are known in London and other parts of the country as the sherry lovers,” Owen added. “They have given us a great identity.”
“We serve it by the glass, this is important because I don’t think many people would buy a Palo Cortado by the bottle unless they were great aficionados,” the entrepreneur continued.
These wines were not well known in his country but they launched the product as an accompaniment to Spanish food and by incorporating it into cocktails for a younger clientele.
“The Spanish food revolution has allowed us to access a broader market, although we still educate customers as these wines need more detailed explanations than others,” he said.