One great way to enjoy this momentary relief from grey skies and perpetual damp is with a nice glass of Sherry. Not the Bristol Cream reserved for Granny at Christmas, which usually has a good 5 years of bottle ageing following its first use. Scrummy!
No, I rather prefer a chilled glass of dry Sherry and try my best to think I'm soaking up the sun and sea of Jerez, in deepest Andalucia, where this wondrous wine originates. Using the Palomino Fino grape, which loves the chalky albariza soils surrounding Jerez that retain the water needed for the 363 days of baking sun, Sherry producers craft incredibly varied styles using a complex ageing system. Google 'solera system' for visual aids.
Each style is distinguishable by colour and smell, depending on the ageing process. Fino is the driest and palest and hibernates under a layer of yeast, known as the 'Flor', which maintains it's light colour and fresh, zingy character. Amontillado is essentially a Fino that is allowed to oxidise once the Flor dies off giving it a copper hue and nutty aroma.Oloroso is a different animal altogether, however, as it never touches the Flor, instead it's subjected to an early fortification and, thus, longer oxidative ageing. The result is dark brown in colour with luscious aromas of dried fruit and hints of caramel.
The beauty of dry Sherry is that it partners food with aplomb. Unsure what to pair it with, I leave you with a lovely bit of gastronomic logic I've pinched from Jeremy Rockett, UK Marketing Director for Gonzalez Byass;
If it swims, drink Fino.
If it flies, drink Amontillado.
And, if it walks, drink Oloroso.
Salud to that.