A blog and review on all things Sherry. It is about tasting, enjoyment and learning more about the World’s Finest Wine. "Sherry is a thoroughbred" as Javier Hidalgo rightly puts it. Included are the amazing local Brandies and the remarkably good table wines also produced in the province of Cádiz.
An excellent programme had been organised for President
Barack Obama for his recent visit to Sevillawhich he was forced to cancel at the last
minute after the shooting of five police officers in Dallas. It consisted of
local gastronomy and lots of Sherry, a drink which has found favour at the
White House since the first President, George Washington.
In the XVIII century New England received a
great many shipments of Sherry at its ports of Boston, Philadelphia, New York
and Baltimore. It was often taken in the form of “sack posset”, a hot drink of
milk curdled with Sherry and sometimes spiced, which fortified the body without
coddling the brain. The puritans of the day drank it at weddings, baptisms and
funerals having adopted Sherry drinking from their British cousins.
A posset cup
Spending Christmas at Mount Vernon, George
Washington used to prefer an egg nog made from a quart of cream, a quart of
milk, twelve tablespoons of sugar, a pint of brandy, half a pint of rye whisky,
a half pint of Jamaica rum and a quarter pint of Sherry. He was also fond of
his wife Martha’s Sherry crab soup. This dish would later be revived during the
presidency of Gerald Ford.
Benjamin Franklin, considered one of the
founding fathers, was able to give plenty of sage advice to Thomas Jefferson
and John Adams on European wines. Seeking French support for the young nation,
Congress sent him as ambassador to the court of Versailles. One of his first
preoccupations was to ensure a good supply of the best wines, and it is known
that two years later his cellar contained over a thousand bottles, many of
which were Sherry.
Before his tenure as second President, John
Adams visited Spain, where he was well looked after en route to Paris, and
wrote in his diary that of all the wines he tried, Sherry was among the best.
Franklin was later ambassador in London which gave him the opportunity to
familiarise himself with the wines drunk during the reign of George III, a
great Sherry drinker. Just before his return to America, Franklin’s wife,
Abigail, wrote to a relative asking them to pay the freight on a shipment of
Sherry to share with him when he got home.
As we have seen with Martha Washington, the
first ladies played an important role in the use of Sherry in White House
cuisine. Abigail Adams’ beggar’s pudding with sack sauce is considered something
special even now. Abraham Lincoln, while more moderate in his wine consumption,
still loved two dishes involving Sherry sauce: chicken fricassee and escalope.
From the beginning of the XIX century the
temperance movement grew, culminating in Prohibition between 1920 and 1933 and
naturally presidential consumption declined, yet Warren Harding enjoyed a filet
mignon in Sherry sauce prepared by his wife Florence. By the 1950s things were
back to normal and Mamie Eisenhower served green turtle soup reeking of Sherry at
state banquets, while Sherry was the aperitif for the visit of King Paul of
Greece in 1955. Jackie Kennedy brought glamour to official dinners in the 1960s with her
boula-boula soup, well-seasoned with Sherry.
Among his many other virtues, perhaps the most
knowledgeable of US Presidents about wine was Thomas Jefferson, who knew about
vine cultivation and a great deal about Sherry, which he loved. In a letter
dated 10th May 1803 he confessed to the American Consul in Cádiz,
Joseph Yznardi, how much he had enjoyed the Sherry the latter had sent him and
that not having a glass every day would be a “privation”. Yznardi supplied
Jefferson with important quantities of wine, among which were Pajarete,
Tintilla de Rota, old Pedro Ximénez and exquisite Pale Sherries.
Other Presidents who succeeded Jefferson were
also enthusiastic about Sherry, if less passionate. The fifth President, James
Monroe, enjoyed a Sherry cobbler, while seventh president Andrew Jackson liked
a syllabub infused with Sherry. Fifteenth President James Buchanan, however, was more passionate.
One of his close friends wrote “the Madeira and Sherry he has consumed would
fill more than one old cellar.” But the good image of White House Sherry would
be marred by Jimmy Carter who used Californian “Sherry” from Paul Masson and
Almadén, presumably for patriotic reasons, but by now Sherry was a DO wine.
This is translated from an article by Jose Luis Jimenez in today's Diario de Jerez.