Summer drinking for the illuminati

Right, let me make one thing entirely clear from the start: Sherry is a fortified wine that comes from the Jerez area of Spain. There is definitely no such thing as British Sherry, Cyprus Sherry, Wodonga Sherry or any similar variety of filth that the mendacious purveyor of sordid dross might try to coerce you into buying on the grounds of it being a meretricious alternative to something that you would enjoy drinking! The EU did well to protect Sherry’s noble moniker from those horrors that shamefully tried to purloin a bit of its cachet: British Sherry and its nauseating compatriots can no longer hide behind a respectable name and have to admit to being mere fortified wine of lesser provenance. Alas, outside the borders of the EU people are free to name their beverages as duplicitously as they like. This means the poor consumer might think their hard won fun tokens are being spent on real deal when all that is in that bottle is a base pretender that cannot even manage to sell itself based on its own merits. Sherry comes from Spain; it is as simple as that.

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There is another bit of perfidiousness when it comes to Sherry; sadly this is on the part of we the consumers. There are endless customer surveys that have been performed asking about Sherry consumption and the vast majority of us claim to only drink dry Sherry. If you look at the sales figures the amount of dry Sherry we buy is dwarfed by that of sweeter versions – no one wants to admit to drinking naff sweet Sherry of the type that makes their dear old granny a bit jolly on Sunday afternoon. Well, now I’ve got the vitriolic ranting over with it is a particular dry Sherry that I want to urge you to try as it is not only a marvellous drink of energy, refreshment and character but also one of the greatest bargains it is possible to find when buying wine. This wine is Manzanilla La Gitana from Hidalgo.

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The brilliance of Manzanilla La Gitana was made abundantly clear to me when Javier Hidalgo, owner of the operation, came to give a tasting in Oxford. Alas, most of the members of the wine society were misguided enough to think that Sherry was simply outre- only 20 of the 50 members showed up. This select band of enlightened attendees were perhaps unprepared for what was to come. Javier had brought enough Sherry to get a good hundred people totally newscasted and he made it abundantly clear that we should consume all he had provided.

The very first wine we drank was Manzanilla La Gitana, the lightest, most refreshing and vivacious Sherry I had ever tried up until then. It is fiercely dry, with a savoury tang to it. Manzanilla is quite similar to that other light, dry style Fino Sherry, although the grapes are grown in a slightly different location and the wine maturation warehouses are by the sea – this, we are told, is why it has a salty character. Clocking in at a positively slimming 15% this is far from a heavy, over-whelming wine. Indeed, when Javier presented this wine I just wanted to drink it all night so invigorating and delightful were its charms.I did drink a lot of it that night and those memories are etched in my mind with a slightly befuddled intensity.

Manzanilla La Gitana is a wine you can drink as a stimulating, enlivening sharpner on a hot summer’s day and not feel that you are being taxed too heavily by the demands the wine is making of you. However, whilst superficially it seems a simple quaffer it is made by using laborious and involved process which gives the wine a pronounced degree of complexity and style that make it worthy of engaging one’s tasting faculties even if you just fancy a quick drinkie. Even some people one might hope would recognise the class of La Gitana can miss the point entirely. I once purchased a bottle in a branch of Oddbins and as I was paying the deranged loon behind the counter said “Sherry? Best to mix that stuff with ice and soda water.” Naturally I corrected his gross idiocy by popping the bottle there and then and talking him through the tasting experience. He was bowed and chastened.

There are some things you need to know about the drinking procedure. Firstly,it is fine to serve it at fridge temperature – indeed this is preferable. The wine has enough character to survive a real chill. Secondly, this is a wine for drinking soon after it has been bottled. Always buy from a shop that seems to have a good turn-over of stock and drink your bottles within a couple of months of purchase. If you try to age it you are throwing your money away. Money is my final point. My online supermarket is selling this at £8.79 a bottle. A truly obscene bargain. Since the wine is so delicious and so affordable I am sure I have now addressed your summer drinking requirements so you can safely avoid those insipid rosé wines that appear with woeful frequency at this time of year. You will not go wrong with La Gitana.