The Greater China Sherry Wine Association held its inaugural Beijing event one month ago. A dozen Beijing-based wine writers, distributors and academics attended a wine dinner at Aria hosted by Cesar Saldana, president of Jerez-Xeres-Sherry DO, and John Isacs of Enjoy Gourmet, who is a certified Sherry educator and a writer for this blog.
Sherry, which like Champagne is tied to a geographical area, is little known in China. Saldana aims to change this. Projects under consideration include training Chinese wine professionals in Spain, tastings for local media, and pairing the promotion of Sherry and traditional Spanish culture, including food and Flamenco dancing.
“When you read the classic book on wine, Sherry has a chapter of its own,” said Saldana, and notes the biggest challenge to promoting the wine is its diversity – “from salty to sweet to structured and powerful, variety is what defines Sherry.” He also noted Sherry’s unique history and production process.
Dinner attendees tried six Sherrys against five dishes and provided feedback not only on the food and drink, but also on the prospects for selling Sherry in China. This feedback included:
– Sherry shouldn’t be sold as a sub-set of grape wine, which represents a mere 2 percent of China’s alcohol market, but as an alternative to baijiu, maotai, Cognac, and other spirits. Several attendees described the aromas in some Sherrys as comparable to those found in Chinese spirits.
– Emphasis should be placed on Sherry’s long history and its difficult production method.
– Emphasis is also needed on the versatility of Sherry in terms of food pairing – after all, Spain is famous for its tapas.
– A strong focus is needed on packaging and branding for the China market, including launching rare old sherry in beautiful bottles with a knock-em-dead brand name. “Armada” popped into our heads – well, it’s a start…
As for the Sherry and food pairings, here is the lineup:
Lustau Puevto Soleva Reserva, with Campania-style seafood salad (octopus, mussels, prawans, and parsley lemon sauce)
Gonzalez Bayss Tio Pepe Fiue Muy Seco, with duck and pistachio sausage, bitter leaf salad with game jelly, and beetroot vinaigrette
Bodegas Arguzso San Leon Manzanilla Clasica, with steamed sea bass with lemongrass, and truffle congee with port reduction
Garvey Oloroso Ochavico Jevez Seco, with over-roasted pigeon with truffle and foie gras mous
Ream Capatas Andres Solera Reserva and Pedro Ximenez Romate, with chocolate truffle cake with Mandarin compote and vanilla ice cream