As sherry increasingly finds itself the subject of modern cocktails – and a part of the revival of some old favourites like Bamboos and Adonises – its role in the bar has gone from an un-opened and oft-dusty bottle to one that needs a lot more understanding. Just like vermouth this is one product that doesn’t always last until the final drop and can’t be left baking in the sunshine.
To find out the best ways of looking after sherry we spoke to Tom Higham, wine manager for the Wine & Wallop group and Barrie Wilson, co-owner of dedicated sherry bar SACK in London.
Across the group, Higham said, all sherry styles are kept in each bar’s white wine fridge, normally at around 6°C and once opened are storied in a cooled ice well, although not actually on the ice itself.
‘Being a warm, busy bar we tend to keep any chilled products below serving temperature to allow for the ambient temperature,’ he told Imbibe.
Rather than stocking large bottles, Higham said the group always try to opt for half bottles for their by the glass sherries wherever possible to keep them as fresh as possible.
‘The lighter un-oxidised style probably last no longer than a few days, the sweet and oxidised sherries you can get a week or so out of. We use wine stopper and ver de vin overnight as well to help maximise freshness. Sweeter wines are naturally preserved and if correctly stored can last a reasonable while - particularly if they are being mixed as opposed to appreciated straight. Oloroso and amontillado styles probably work next best as oxidisation isn’t as much of a concern.
‘Finos and manzanillas really need to be treated like white wines in terms of their storage and lifespan so for low volume I would probably steer clear of them,’ he said.
At SACK the dry sherries are kept even colder - according to Barrie Wilson there they aim for fino and manzanilla to be stored around 2-4°C and serve the wines in frozen sherry glasses.
'We keep our oloroso, PX and palo cortado bottles at around 8°C however if we had the space and capacity I would keep them all at the same low temperature. When served its only going to heat up when your dancing your ass off to disco music,' said Wilson.
'Personally keeping a bottle open any longer than an hour is a disgrace,'he jokes. 'Really simple (as long as they are kept in the fridge), manzanilla and fino last no longer than three days. Oloroso, amontillado and palo cortado around one week although it doesn’t fall off the side of a cliff until about one month. PX can stand up to most things although it will start to go funky after three months.'
It’s worth noting however, before they’re opened even the aromatically delicate finos and manzanillas can be kept for 12 to 18 months. Some aged finos can even develop further in the bottle.
En rama sherry is pretty much as close to sipping it straight from the venenciador in Jerez as you can get in the UK. This sherry is straight from the cask or rather the closest possible to straight from the cask with barely any filtration. The problem is that filtration in all other sherries gives it stability and shelf life. Take that away and you risk re-activating the flor in the bottle.
Most producers who sell en rama do lightly filter taking away the biggest, solid particles. Even with this however, producers do advise us all to open and drink the en rama sherry as soon as we buy the bottle. Well they would wouldn’t they?
London’s Happiness Forgets has been serving its famed Jerezana for the past several years. This mix of manzanilla and amontillado sherries with both sweet and dry vermouths, vanilla syrup and orange bitters has its boozy components pre-batched just like all the other bar’s drinks. As a lower abv drink, and one that’s deliciously balanced, it flies off the menu so keeping the components fresh isn’t too much of an issue for bartenders and owner Alastair Burgess.
‘Our thinking when making our batches and blending in sherry and vermouth is that they are fortified or preserved by the higher alcohol products, but that’s only if the fortified wine is only about 25% of the batch. If it was more then we refrigerate. But when it comes to the Jerezana batch, which is all sherry and vermouth, it is kept cold the entire time – in the fridge for storage, and poured from the ice well during service,’ Burgess told Imbibe.
For bars who don't go through a lot of stock Wilson recommends starting off using an oloroso or palo cortado if you are making cocktails with dark spirits.
'Use them as an additional ingredient in simple highballs and the world is your oyster,' Wilson said.