Instead of the usual round-up of the year’s best booze and wine books, all recommended without consideration for the delicious drops of liquid to which each tome pays homage, I’ve decided to run a series of reviews that include an appropriate pairing. Because what’s the point of reading about wine if you can’t simultaneously taste it? This is part two of your 2014 wine pairing gift guide.
Today’s topic: Sherry.
Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-Kept Secret (Ten Speed Press, $24.99)
I wasn’t sure how to interpret a conspicuous stack of gorgeous, hardbound books, across which the word Sherry was splashed with bravado in red, white, and gold script, displayed in a Chelsea Market Anthropologie store. Either the author, Talia Baiocchi, hired a savvy PR firm (doubtful), or else modern, young, wine-and-cocktail-educated women who shop the brand, have embraced the increasingly cool and accessible fortified wine from Jerez, Spain.
Of course, the alternative: each handsome book is an intended gift for someone’s stackable coffee table art collection or growing bar books library, likely to be delivered in precious wrapping paper that befits the store. Whatever the reason, Sherry is selling at Anthropologie, and that’s a huge forward step for a wine that’s long been misunderstood, if recognized by a new population of drinkers, at all.
Whether the trendy buyers responsible for Antrhopologie’s artful displays could’ve anticipated a book on sherry one day as a SKU, the rest of the wine industry has awaited the big reveal since Ms. Baiocchi first announced the project in early 2013. The editor-in-chief of hip, online drinks magazine Punch, Sherry provides a needed addition to the woefully small, contemporary library on the topic, that basically includes only the superbly detailed, but textbook-dry prose of the 2012 release “Sherry, Manzanilla and Montilla: A Guide to the Traditional Wines of Andalucía,” by Peter Liem and Jesús Barquín.
Ms. Baiocchi’s book, like any reference guide, fulfills the utilitarian requirement (albeit with a clear, approachable, and at times, off-the-cuff voice) of repeating much of the same technical background information found in Liem’s book. This may be redundant to the scholar who reads both, but not to the curious consumer who will use Baiocchi’s edition as their sole text (and not an addendum to Liem’s).
Plus, she presents information in a personal, experiential way that’s easier for a less academic audience to access; gorgeous photography helps, too. WSET Diploma students read Liem’s book to pass exams; the younger generation of cocktail and wine enthusiasts will read Baiocchi’s book for the dynamic account of historic, exotic Andalucia, likely coming away convinced of their need to see Jerez firsthand to taste the wines she persuades are the world’s best kept secret.
The book covers history, geography, production, wine styles, producers, enticing cocktail recipes, and closes with a collection of regional dishes that serve as natural partners to the wine; because sherry, for those of us that know and love it, really does makes everything better: food, drinks, an engagement, and even heartbreak.
And by the way, spending a lazy afternoon in sunny southern Spain, accompanied by a platter of glittering, fatty jamón and a chilled bottle of Manzanilla, may actually be the best kept travel secret in the world.
Sherry can be purchased, as aforementioned, at Anthropologie, but also on Amazon, if you plan to ship outside of New York.
You’d be remiss to give a book on sherry without a few illustrative wines. Consider a biological Fino or Manzanilla Sherry like the Valdespino Fino Inocente, evocative of salted almonds (375 ml for $17.99) sold at Despana in New York, or the fairly widespread La Guita Manzanilla (375 ml for $10.99), also at Despana. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Oloroso is a completely oxidative wine, filled with flavors of nuts and figs. Astor Wine & Spirits carries highly-regarded Gutierrez Colosia Oloroso (750 ml for $26.99).
Lauren Mowery is a wine and travel writer based in NYC.