Spain and Portugal’s fortified heritage wines … the comeback!
Sherry, Port and Madeira are again trendy as younger customers are changing the image of these wines. Whether in London or New York, a new generation is responsible for slowly but steadily rising consumption. Clichés are still around. Port is the Christmas drink and wine for family gatherings, Sherry, grandma’s preferred sweet afternoon drink and Madeira, the one used for refined cooking! But today’s Ports, Sherries and Madeiras are getting more experimental when used in the cocktail world, one of several reasons for the sustained comeback of all three in many parts of the world.
Sherry enjoys special momentum in New York for some time already, dry styles above all, fresh and chilled. The whole range of finer Sherries is much in demand, the Finos and Manzanillas, biologically aged by their own yeast resulting in wine with delicate but marked saline flavours. Manzanillas in particular have this incorporated sea breeze, the much appreciated seaside saltiness on the palate, the pleasant feeling of freshness so typical for the wines of the Sanlúcar de Barrameda vineyards.
Though any Sherry is exceptional on its own, they match extremely well with many types of food. It’s the case with Spanish cuisine, the tapas. But it is equally a perfect match for food pairing with more spicy cuisines, from the Japanese with fresh fish to any other Asian cuisine with more fried food. Or simply drink it with any artisan cheese and some bread.
For Port the story is not less interesting. The prestigious wine is a raison d’être for new bars inside and outside Portugal and their trendy Port mixes are the link for young consumers to get to know the wine. Port Tonic, the mix of White Port with Tonic Water, a blend of sweetness with bitterness, is already a classic. CaipiRoyal, the extra dry White Port on crushed ice, mixed with lime or any other fruit juice such as strawberry or pineapple, is another fashionable cocktail. These are drinks for any occasion, unpretentious and fun.
Standard Ports, Reserve Tawnies, Colheitas and Vintage Ports, whether drunk on their own or accompanied by cheese, truffles or other delicatessen, are as special as they always were. Powerful, elegant and with unique flavours, the wine produced from grapes grown in the intensely sloped vineyards hanging over the Douro river is more than ever appreciated as the flagship wine for a country well-known for its rich wine legacy.
Madeira wine is making a come back of its own. The many different kinds of it seduce at any age and are a many connoisseurs favourite. It’s as well a hot ingredient in the cocktail world, where its wide range of aromas and flavours, from slightly saline, spicy or kind of citrus to richer and sweeter notes of nuts and figs, are used to create unique drinks.
Lighter and fresher versions of Ports and Sherries, White Ports, Finos and Manzanillas, as Sercial and Verdelho for the Madeiras, are clearly the style favourites in the cocktail world. They match the dryer contemporary taste and wine producers are honouring that. But the slow revival of the integral range of fortified wines could represent more. There is some nostalgia in the air, a tendency of valuing timelessness, traditional values not for the sake of tradition but for their authenticity. Associated with them also those precious moments of conviviality, the time to enjoy them, as may be the end afternoon of a hot summer day rewarded by a fresh Sherry, Port or Madeira in the company of friends. Interesting to know that in all wine regions efforts are made to produce them again organically, meaning that some of the wines will soon be like they still were some fifty-sixty years ago.