The wine buff: Sherry's resurgence
My first taste of alcohol was sherry. It was before I even hit 10. That's what happens when you grow up with teetotal parents. My mother's trifle was, and still is, legendary; so yes, I've always had a soft spot for Harvey's Bristol Cream. But apart from that, I always considered it to be a bit old fashioned.
That all changed when I visited Barcelona for the first time 18 years ago. The Spanish food scene was starting to make waves, with a slew of creative chefs influenced by Ferran Adria of elBulli; so as well as some top end restaurants, I had a few casual spots on my list - Quimet I Quimet, a standing-only tapas bar that specialises in serving montaditos, tapas topped with conservas (foods that have been preserved in cans or jars); and Cal Pep, a casual tapas bar which had managed to land on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list. As a result, it had queues down the street, but it was worth the wait.
Run by the inimitable owner Pep, the accepted wisdom was, when it comes to ordering, say that you 'eat everything' and let him bring the plates. When it came to wine, Pep suggested a bottle of fino to have throughout our meal, and although dubious, I thought, who am I to argue with the man in charge? And from there started my love of sherry.
In case you haven't picked up on it from my long intro, sherry pairs insanely well with food and you should really give it a go. It has been an insider's favourite for years, and is quietly making a comeback.
In London, top tapas restaurants like Barrafina have had it on their wine list since they opened, but now sherry bars like Sack in Shoreditch and Bar Pepito in King's Cross have moved it resolutely onto the cool hipster list.
In Dublin, Uno Mas, the new Spanish restaurant from the people behind Etto, have sherry and sherry cocktails on their wine list, so when I visited recently, I decided to repeat my Barcelona experience and have a bottle to drink throughout the meal. Fino and Manzanilla are pale coloured, bone dry sherries which are deliciously savoury, and although they are fortified, at 15pc alcohol, they are about as strong as a new world red wine. A bottle of Callejuela, a Manzanilla sherry was a wonderful match for the tapas, which included a gilda (the small olive, hot pepper and anchovy tapa), jamon, cockles that had been cooked in fino, squid a la plancha, morcilla with piquillo pepper and pork with Romesco sauce.
Other restaurants that serve sherry by the glass include The Port House, Tapas de Lola, and The Fish Shop in Dublin, Cava in Galway, and specialist off-licences include The Celtic Whiskey Shop and 64 Wine in Dublin. Why not get a group of friends together, get everyone to make one tapas dish, and try tasting them with a fino-style sherry?
€15.99-€16.99, 15pc, from O'Brien's, The Celtic Whiskey Shop, winesoftheworld.ie
From Jerez, this is one of the world's most famous sherries. With zesty grapefruit, lemon and apple flavours that lead to a more saline slightly bitter finish, this is great with roasted almonds and seafood.
UBE Miraflores 2017
€23, 11pc, from Loose Cannon, Green Man Wines, 64 Wine, Martins Off-licence, Jus de Vine, Blackrock Cellar
I tasted this amazing wild yeast sherry when Ramiro Ibáñez visited Dublin recently. Unfortified, so lower in alcohol than a usual fino sherry, it has a floral note with citrus and pear, and a touch of white pepper, truffle and herbs.
Lustau Manzanilla 'Papirusa'
€24, 15pc, from Mitchell & Son, CHQ, Sandycove, Avoca Kilmacanogue and Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com
Bone dry with fruity notes, this light, crisp sherry has a hint of sea salt on the finish from its aging in American oak casks in Sanlúcar de Barrameda on the estuary of the Guadalquivir river.
Wine Australia are running a wine tasting on January 30 in The Round Room at the Mansion House in Dublin. With more than 250 wines from across 30 regions, you get a chance to taste an impressive range of grape varieties and styles. Tickets are €16.87, available from Jean Smullen at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have three sets of free tickets for Weekend readers - email Jean to be in with a chance of winning. Terms & conditions apply.