"Sherry? That's what my grandmother used to drink!" It's a well-worn sentiment that MoVida owner and executive chef Frank Camorra has heard countless times. Along with MoVida's sommelier Liz Carey, Camorra has made it his job to lead an endless stream of curious Melbourne diners down the cobbled, previously unexplored laneways of Spanish food and wine, bringing us to the point where at least some of us know our crianza from our chorizo. Sherry, on the other hand, still remains a bit of a mystery.
Widely and, many would say, unfairly considered unapproachable and deeply unfashionable outside of its native Andalucia, sherry is gradually coming of age in Australia and elsewhere around the world, thanks largely to the tapas boom of the past decade. UK wine expert Jancis Robinson calls it "the world's most neglected wine treasure", and though it may have shrugged off its long-held image of fustiness in educated wine circles, we reckon the average curious wine fan still requires a bit of a friendly nudge to uncover the joys of this feisty and versatile fortified wine.
When he first started out at the Carron Tavern back in 2001, Camorra admits that sherry was "a tough sell". A decade or so later and sherry sales have skyrocketed at MoVida and it has become a drink that now features on the wine lists of venues all over Melbourne – from a pre-dinner fino at Vue de Monde to Manzanilla-based cocktails at The Everleigh (check out their 'Up to Date', a Spanish riff on the classic Manhattan).
When Camorra was approached by World Sherry Day co-founder Chelsea Anthon to get behind an event here in Melbourne, he jumped at the chance to showcase what he reckons is "the perfect drink to have while eating".
From May 20 to 26, sherry lovers in Spain and from as far afield as New York and Tokyo will hold events to celebrate all things sherry for the very first time, with the Melbourne chapter set to take place at MoVida Next Door on Sunday May 26. Camorra, Carey and a team of local Spanish wine importers will be on hand to lead guests through a range of classic examples and to share their knowledge of one of Spain's most famous wines. Naturally, Camorra will match each wine with one of his classic tapas dishes to illustrate what works well. While many will know fino sherry as a classic aperitif or accompaniment to tapas, Camorra is keen to introduce folks to a versatile range of sherries that can work as a match for main dishes and dessert too.
To get us primed for the May 26 event, Camorra and Carey had us along for an exclusive masterclass at Movida Next Door. Here's what we discovered:
Fino: pale golden or greenish in colour, delicate, ethereal bouquet and a light, fresh, slightly nutty palate. The quintessential Spanish aperitif can be consumed on its own or matched with shellfish and tapas.
Manzanilla: characteristics are similar to fino but with aromas of mature fruits and a distinctive maritime influence. Salty, oceanic tang on the palate. Needs food. Great with oysters, seafood, cheese, olives, salty almonds.
Palo Cortado: fuller-bodied with deep, complex aromas of roasted nuts, aromatic herbs and dark tobacco. Dark chestnut/mahogany in colour. Good match for jamon (and other smallgoods), oily fish such as sardines and rich braised lamb or beef dishes.
Pedro Ximinez: known as ‘PX’, this sweet and luscious dessert-style sherry is deep mahogany in colour, with intense raisin and fig flavours on the palate. A perfect match with anything chocolate, or do as Frank does and just drizzle it straight onto good quality ice cream.
World Sherry Day at MoVida Next Door
Tickets ($70 per head) can be purchased from MoVida (03) 9663 3038 (bookings essential).