By Paul Rudge, Reuben’s Wine Store, Dunfermline

Ever since Sir Francis Drake raided the Port of Cadiz in 1587 and looted more than 3000 barrels of sherry or `sack` as it was known in those days, the Brits have been mad for the famous Spanish tipple. Britain has long been the most important export market for Spain’s most noted fortified wine. During its heyday it enjoyed an unrivalled position as the aperitif of choice. Few formal dinners would begin without a chilled fino and few mid mornings would pass without an 11o’clock sweet sherry. Etiquette and times change though and despite the high quality and relative low price sherry consumption seemed to be condensed into that bottle our Granny used to keep at the back of the drinks cabinet which was only brought out at Christmas or when she was making a trifle for Sunday lunch.

Forget British or Cypriot sherry, real Sherry can only be produced between the area lying between Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda in the province of Andalucía. The region enjoys extremely hot and dry summers and with its white alabaster buildings can be quite dazzling on the eye. Cooling winds from the ocean brings moisture to the vineyards where the chalky crumbly soil retains the moisture which encourages the growth of a coating of yeast which forms on the aging wine. The main grape varieties used in making sherry are Palomino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez and like port sherry is a fortified wine which means alcohol is added to increase it`s alcohol content, which is normally around 15% by volume.

Thankfully today, Sherry is taken much more seriously again and its fortunes have been revived. The old style commercial sherries have given way to the classic Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso, Amontiilados, Cream, Pedro Ximénez and Palo Cortado styles. Considered by many as a serious food wine the possibilities for pairing with dishes are infinite. Try Fino and Manzanilla with fried fish, calamari and shellfish you’ll be amazed how great it tastes together.

With the wind and rain battering against our windows and doors, why not treat yourself to a drop of sunshine in a glass? Oh and keep it chilled its much more refreshing.