Sherry has made a big come back just in time for winter, shedding its old tannie image in favour of something far trendier.

Sherry originally comes from Spain,  but because we have similar climate and terrain (terroir) in South Africa – especially in Paarl with its wet, frost-free winters and sweltering, dry summers – we produce some delightful local versions on our very own doorstep, though we can’t market them as sherries. Only the ones made in Spain’s C’adiz Province’s ‘sherry triangle’, between Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria, may officially use the name.

One of Paarl’s oldest ‘sherry-style wine’ producers is Monis, who have been fortifying the delicious stuff since 1906, when they were headed by the industrious Italian Roberto Monis, who did a lot to establish the reputation of fortified wines in South Africa. Other local producers of sherry-style wines include KWV in Paarl and Orange River Cellars in Upington.


Sherry is made by fortifying, i.e. adding a distilled spirit to, a ‘neutral-flavoured’ white wine. Because Chenin Blanc is such a common grape variety in SA, it’s often used for our sherry-style wines, but so are Columbar, Semillion and Palamino. The grapes are gently pressed once to extract the must (juice, skins, seeds and stems), which is then used in the making of fino. This process is called primera yema. A second pressing is called segunda yema, and the must from this process is used for oloroso. The resulting must from each process is fermented in stainless-steel tanks. The wine from the fermented must is then fortified by adding distilled wine. This wine is stored in oak casks, which are filled up to five-sixths of their capacity. The remaining space is left for the flor yeast, which gives the sherry much of its flavour, to naturally grow above the wine (it needs the oxygen to grow).

Next follows a rather complicated process called solera, which basically results in wines of different vintages being blended together to give a uniform taste and quality.

Finally the sherry can be sweetened (in which case it’s called ‘cream’) or left dry, giving a range of different flavours, tastes and colours from pale lemon to rich, dark brown.


Sherry – and sherry-style wines – should be stored upright in a cool, dark place and, once opened, in the fridge. And don’t keep it too long – finish the bottle within the month, otherwise it will go stale. Pale, dry sherries and sherry-style wines are at their best served chilled, whereas medium and full cream versions go down a treat both chilled, or at room temperature.

The fortified wine is full of wonderful, complex flavours, so serving it in a white wine glass will give it room to show off its charms as opposed to the traditional small sherry glasses or schooners. But remember, it does have higher alcohol than normal wine so don’t go filling that glass to the brim! A serving of around 75ml is perfect.


Sherry adds a delicious flavour to everything from roasts to soups and sauces, and can be enjoyed with a variety of foods, especially of the cocktail party variety, like spicy prawns, parmesan shavings, biltong and nuts. And sherry trifle is a good example of how this fortified wine can do wonders for puds. When


Not surprisingly, sherry is the perfect pairing partner with Spanish tapas. Garlic-marinated olives go well with a glass of chilled sherry, and this pairing is a popular dish in many Spanish tapas bars. Meatballs int tomato sauce, another tapas classic, pairs well with strong cheese, which loves sherry. Then there are Spanish omelettes – OK, we know that drinking sherry for breakfast might seem a bit much, but when in Rome (or Spain in this case)… Braaied mini ribs or costillas, as they’re called in Spain, have a marinade made with sherry, tomato puree, Tobasco, sugar and salt. The ribs need to be braaied until slightly charred. Try this Spanish- style Braai moment for a bit of cross-cultural ‘pollination’. Are you liking sherry yet? We think it’s growing on us!

ALL SHOOK UP – Cocktail Ideas

Sherry’s not just for straight sipping, anymore. Some bars, have made it the star of cocktail hour. Try these:



Light in colour, it’s crisp and refreshingly dry with subtle citrus and nutty (mainly almond) flavours. Serve chilled and enjoy on its own or as a pre-dinner sipper, with a snack platter of biltong, nuts, Parma ham and strong cheeses, or with a dinner of spicy prawns or fresh seafood.


Offering the perfect middle ground between honey sweetness and crisp dryness, medium sherries and sherry-style wines have a golden colour, fruity, spicy flavour, and creamier mouthfeel than pale dry. Serve chilled or at room temperature alongside rich, flavourful foods like pates, creamy mushroom soup, or four-cheese pizza.


Dashingly dark, with honey-nut flavours, full cream sherry and sherry-style wine pairs well with crackers, mature cheddar and cashew nuts, and is robust enough for spicy Asian dishes. it also loves desserts, so do serve those brownies with a glass or two of this.

*This article was repurposed from FRESH LIVING MAGAZINE

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