Inside the Sherry Triangle

top pairing
by Heather Sperling with photos by Antoinette Bruno
Vol. 4
December, 2006   
Near the southwest corner of the famed Sherry Triangle of Jerez, Sanlucar de Barrameda and Cadiz, lies a small tangle of streets and plazas known as Puerto de Santa María. The town’s busiest thoroughfare is the palm-lined Avenida de la Bajamar (street below the sea), along which lies the El Tambuche, the unassuming 30-seat restaurant of Chefs Angel Leon and Daniel Torres. Leon and Torres are natives of Andalucia, and their restaurant is imbued with its character: family-friendly and sociable, with elegant and forward-thinking cuisine that acknowledges the region’s interlaced Arab, Northern African and Spanish histories. Seafood from the Bay of Cadiz and meat from the inland’s rolling hills are spiced with aromatic, sweet and sour Maghreb flavors, and paired with the natural accompaniment, Sherry, by Sommelier Miguel Monje, a viniculture student at the nearby University of Cadiz.
Restaurant
  • El Tambuche
  • Avenida de la Bajarmar, 2 El Puerto de Santa María
  • Cadiz, Spain
  • +(34) 956 051 154
Who
Sommelier Miguel Monje Monje demonstrates the versatility and personality of the fortified wine with a menu that progresses from lightest to heaviest, beginning with crisp, dry Manzanilla and finishing with the unctuous, palate-coating, intoxicatingly rich Pedro Ximenez.
Wine
Manzanilla – “Aurora”, Bodegas Pedro Romero
Dish
Salmorejo con migas manchegas y jamon (Salmorejo with Jamón Iberico)
Pairing Note
Manzanilla is the light, refreshing specialty of Sanlucar de Barrameda. Like the better-known fino, it is light straw in color, almost clear, and bone-dry; the distinction comes from Sanlucar’s sea air, which makes the blossom of the plant larger and more aromatic, adding a slight bitterness to the final product. It is a classic pairing for the region’s tapas, from the sweet, rich and oily Jamón Ibérico to steamed shellfish. The dry, subtly oaky Manzanilla proves a refreshing counterpoint to the rich Salmorejo, a classic gazpacho-like soup of roasted peppers, herbed breadcrumbs, and jamón Ibérico. It cuts through the rich, creamy soup and jamon, cleansing the palate and preparing for the next bite.
Wine
Amontillado Seco, Bodegas Lustau
Dish
Atun rojo con miel, migas manchegas, couscous y cebolliatas (Red Tuna with Honey, Maghreb Spices, Couscous and Scallions)
Pairing Note
The Amontillado Seco is slightly bitter with oak on the nose and a toasted, honey flavor on the palate that matches and rounds out the spiced and honey-marinated tuna.
Wine
Palo Cortado “Marqués de Rodil”, Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo
Dish
Choco plancha con butifarra de Chiclana y alioli de pera (Cuttlefish with Butifarra from Chiclana and Pear Aioli)
Pairing Note
Light gold in color, Palo Cortado is slightly sweet on the nose but crisp and dry on the palate. It is a dexterous, mid-bodied Sherry that pairs with both meat and seafood, making it the perfect match for this dish featuring a cube of butifarra sausage and sautéed cuttlefish. The Palo Cortado stands up well to the rich, sweet pork sausage without overwhelming the flavor of the creamy cuttlefish. A delicate aioli with pear segments binds the two components on the plate.
Wine
Dry Oloroso “Bailen Oloroso”, Bodegas Osborne Santa Maria Cream, Bodegas Osborne
Dish
Pastel árabe con puré de hierbabuena (Arab Pastel with Quail, Mint Cream and Pedro Ximenez)
Pairing Note
Oloroso is the classic pairing for meat, deep golden-brown, aromatic and slightly sweet and spiced on the nose and the palate. Cremoso is a blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez that, according to Monje, many outside the region prefer for its sweetness. Oloroso was hands-down the better pairing of the two; the mix of sweet, savory and spiced notes in the glass mirror the luxurious Pedro Ximenez-glazed quail without overwhelming. Monje prefers to serve Oloroso in a deep, wide red wine glass, at room temperature, to better release the multi-layered flavors and scents.
Wine
Pedro Ximenez “Romante”, Bodegas Sanchez Romante
Dish
Tiramisu “crocant” con helado de moro y vinagre de Jerez (Tiramisu with Blackberry Ice Cream and Jerez Vinegar)
Pairing Note
Pedro Ximenez is the thickest, richest and sweetest of the sherries. It is a dark, impenetrable brown with golden highlights, unctuous and raisin-y in flavor. It is generally served with, or as, dessert, though it's the undisputed favorite cooking sherry of regional chefs. As a sauce and as a vinegar it pairs beautifully with local beef, pork and fish, and is commonly found in the desserts it accompanies. It is a logical pairing for the sweet blackberry ice cream drizzled with Pedro Ximenez vinegar, and a faultless one.