If You Knew Sherry Like I Know Sherry
on 23/02/11 at 8:55 amWine
If goodwill alone could make a wine popular, then Sherry would outsell all the Merlot in the world. I’ve yet to encounter a wine professional who hasn’t professed great fondness for this fortified wine from Spain. For example, when I complimented Erica, a saleswoman at Chelsea Wine Vault in Manhattan, on the store’s Sherry selection, she told me, “People don’t really buy Sherry, but we like it.” She gestured to her fellow salespeople, and added, “We stock it for us.” I can’t think of another wine with this singular combination of die-hard fans and dismal sales.
Some date the decline in Sherry’s popularity to 1833, the year of the first oceangoing steamship. “Once you could cross the ocean in less than two weeks, you didn’t need to drink wine that was fortified,” said Dan Davis, wine director at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.
Commander’s Palace goes through some 60 liters of Sherry a week in the making of the restaurant’s famous turtle soup, according to Mr. Davis. By contrast he sells about a liter of Sherry a week to customers who drink it by the glass. Mr. Davis professed puzzlement at his customers’ lack of interest. “I love Sherry,” he (predictably) said.
It’s hard to find a wine that’s been unpopular as long as Sherry has. Even the much-maligned White Zinfandel had a bigger heyday and a broader constituency. Of course, Sherry has been around much longer than White Zinfandel or the steamship—thousands of years, in fact. It’s a wine with a rich and interesting past, not to mention a singular means of production.