It was Pliny the elder, who in the first Century AD said "Ex Africa semper aliquid novi" – from Africa there is always something new.
One wouldn't think that in the established and sadly underrated world of Sherry there could ever be anything new. Yet, this is Africa remember, there is – a brilliant fino Sherry made in the Monis Sherry Bodega in Paarl by one of the most unassuming winemakers in the Cape, Dirkie Christowitz.
Monis, one of the oldest and most respected names in fortified wines in South Africa, last year released their stunning new look for their 750ml bottles. A really attractive sleek bottle with stylish "see through" label that minimizes the word Sherry. This is in preparation for 2012, when South Africa must phase out the term Sherry on its Sherry style wines. From that date, by law, Sherry must come from the triangular area of the Spanish province of Cadiz between Jerez, Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria.
So the three old favourites are now termed Monis Pale Dry, Monis Medium Cream and Monis Full Cream.
I am – and always have been – a great proponent of Sherry not only as an aperitif, but also the sort of wine you can drink with snacks. Tapas, is after all the name for the "lid" on a glass of Sherry as served in Spain. The Full Cream is a great tea time drink – after all Madeira cake was invented to make it respectable for ladies to drink in the afternoon!
I believe Sherry needs to be served chilled, to the same sort of temperature at which you would serve a Champagne or Methode Cap Classique. You'll find the Monis Pale Dry has aromas of nuts and is crisp and so deliciously dry. The Monis Medium Cream is silky smooth and has an edge of sweetness for those who don't like their Sherry really dry. The Monis Full Cream is generous, rich and creamy, looking like a piece of amber – just yummy with steamed winter puddings and even ice-cream.
There is no-one in the Cape who has the expertise of Dirkie who personifies the comment in C de Bosdari's 1950's book Wines of the Cape, "...it is possible to produce at the Cape something remarkably close to the wines of Jerez."
Low in alcohol and bone dry the Monis Fino is the most versatile of wines. The Monis Fino can be enjoyed like a dry white wine, savoured ice cold as a stylish drink for any occasion and used very successfully in cooking.
Sam Clark of Casa Moro in London once cooked me a plate of prawns during a visit to Cape Town. He used and spoke of Sherry as 'wine' which of course it is, though somewhat ennobled. Sam has a knack of using Sherry and olive oil to create rich emulsion sauces filled with the vibrant flavours of Spain and in particular of Sherry.
There is only one way to make Sherry and that is the traditional Spanish way – in racks of oak barrels called a solera. Dirkie grows his own flor yeasts which he uses to ferment the Chenin Blanc grapes used for the fino and then allows the wine to mature under a blanket of flor for three years in 500 litre French oak barrels.
The result – a yeasty bone dry wine, nutty and biscuity, almond and hazelnutty and utterly and deeply delicious.
Serve well chilled!
Michael Olivier trained at The London Cordon Bleu Cookery School and is a well known food and wine fundi. He convenes the Diners Club Wine List of the Year Awards with his friend Michael Bamfield-Duggan. To find our more about Michael and tap into his vast knowledge go to www.noshnews.co.za