César Saldaña (centre) with, l to r: Darren, Maurice (Wine Alliance), Mary and Mike (Curious Wines)

César Saldaña, Consejo Regulador, Sherry, the great ambassador for the drink, gave a smashing talk to about 100 people at last evening’s delightful tasting  in the Grain Store at Ballymaloe.

After a hearty welcome from Ballymaloe’s wine expert Colm McCann, César got down to business with a smile and a talk cum screen show on the area and how the different styles of sherry are produced.

Then he enthusiastically took us through six different tastings ranging from very dry to rather sweet, from Fino to Dulce Viejo. Even showed us how to read the label. Take Lustau Papirusa Manzanilla for instance. Lustau is the house, Papirusa the brand and Manzanilla the style.

He explained the way Sherry is made, most of it via a system called “criaderas y solero”, basically stacks of casks. The  row on the floor contains the oldest wine and is called the solero, the rows above (the top one contains the youngest wine) are called criaderas. Also fascinating insights into how the temperatures within the high buildings are controlled.

And then he had a tip. When drinking sherry with your meal you should always have a glass of water at hand. When you want to “wash” down the food use the water and then take “a few drops” of the sherry as it goes a long way!

Many people are surprised that you can use sherry throughout your meal and César gave a few food matches in his talk.  My favourite from the first three was the Lustau Gran Reserva Oloroso Emparatriz (Mitchells). This has an ample palate and I was not surprised to hear him suggest Manchego cheese but was surprised when he also suggested meat (oxtail) and game dishes. So now you know!

I also enjoyed the Valdespino Amontillado Tio Diego (Classic Dinks) which again is ample on the plate with “a very clean dry finish”.  César:” ..this is a true amontillado. They drink this in Jerez. They like it there.” If it’s good enough for Jerez, then it is good enough for me.

César kept giving out great information as the tasting went on and touched on topics such as how long to keep your sherry after opening the bottle (keep Fino in fridge and use within days), the kind of wood used, the importance of the Flor, the 1st Yeme, serving temperatures, biological and oxidative ageing and so on.

If you want to dig a little deeper into this fascinating subject then check out this site
as it contains a massive amount of information on the Sherry region (and why the wine is called Sherry), the diversity of sherry, its history and the Consejo Regulador itself.

 There will be another great sherry event in Ballymaloe this evening but you’ll have to hurry:
Thursday 26th May, 8.00pm – Sherry Dinner at Ballymaloe House
Sherry Dinner with César Saldaña in association with The Irish Times Readers Evening, and John Wilson, wine writer, The Irish Times, and also in association with Wines of Spain. A specially selected menu will be matched to specially selected Sherry at each course.
Please note that booking for this Sherry Dinner, on Thursday 26th May, at Ballymaloe House, will have to be made directly through The Irish Times Readers Evening office.