I love the idea of fortified wines. That someone felt that wine by itself was just not strong enough to be satisfying. Sherry is a perfect example of this, a Spanish drink certainly but also a very British one. In the 19th century when everyone was looking down their noses at the hoi polloi in the gin palaces, the great and the good were knocking back barrels of sherry before dinner in some sort of vain attempt to be sophisticated. At least gin is honest, sherry is wine with more alcohol added.

The ubiquity of a certain brand of sherry in the UK – Harvey’s Bristol Cream – means that to most people this blue bottle is the start and end. The ubiquity of certain kind of sherry drinker that probably equates to the grandmothers of this isle makes this drink an even less popular. But the first time I had some Amontillado I was blown away. My mother, whose previous sherry knowledge was sweet or nothing was equally impressed. I was at a food and drink fair, the same place my mother fell on her arse due to the quality of a fifty year old bottle of port, and the stall was trying to make the world of sherry more attractive and relevant to a new audience. Sounds horrific doesn’t it.

Every year CAMRA try and make real ale more attractive and relevant to younger (and often female) audiences. The problem is that the key to enjoying ale is often appreciating the complexities of the various flavours in its taste. These complexities are often what it taste less nice. With Sherry this problem is not as pronounced. You like wine, but wish it were a bit stronger? You’ll like sherry. Of course there are fabulous complexities to the flavour but the tag line is already there. Sherry: Like wine, but stronger. Even now I get strange looks when I take a bottle to a party. Said strange looks usually mean I get to drink most of it too. Which means that me on sherry is like me on wine, just drunker.

A side note. The word Amontillado looks a bit like the word Armadillo. If you are from Devon. I’ll say no more.