The World of Tapas & Jerez

Our culinary culture is changing - So why NOT our drinking habits too? So, what is tapas?

La Gitana in Vineyard

The word "tapas" is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, ‘to cover’ or you could say ‘Lid’. It is said the original tapas was a slice of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian bars used to cover their glasses between sips.

As time went on a little cheese, maybe an anchovy or some Serrano ham was added until in the end the landlord would set a number of small terracotta cazuela filled with a variety of meats, olives, cheeses, fish & breads on the bar-top and a tradition was started.

What to serve with TAPAS?
The answer is easy! SHERRY - delicately dry with a hint of salt on the palate.

A filled copita [Spanish sherry glass] of Fino or better still Manzanilla are the true classics, offering an elegant, delicate taste that is exquisite with tapas. Both should be light, fresh & dry with a hint of saltiness on the finish.

FINO- Ideally this is a pale straw colour & served quite cold. You should be able to smell the saltiness and sometimes there is a refined nuttiness too - think of salted cashews. The palate should 'politely' answer back with a 'nudge' to austerity but once it wins you over you can become a slave to its distinction and style.

MANZANILLA. - It's a Sherry that could be a wine as it is only 15%. At its best it is almost white in colour, with a delicate bouquet and almost ethereal flavour that is soft, yet still with an elegant salty tang. With olives or white anchovies - WOW! To me the best is La Gitana - 50cl £7.46 - a steal!

Sherry is aged in a Solera [see diagram below] being a 'system of fractional blending' where there is a layer of yeast, or flor, that floats on the top of the wine. When wine is needed a portion is taken from the bottom row by siphoning from under the flor, which keeps the air away and so keeps the wine fresh. This is then filled from the one above, and the one above that, until at the top where the wine is youngest. By this method, over the years, the wine is blended to a consistent style as in every cask there will be a little of the older wines.

Sherry is aged in a Solera
Today the Tapas Bar is an institution and the choice of dishes is vast. A visit to a traditional bar is worth it for the atmosphere alone. You will probably be standing, maybe 4 or 5 from the counter, all around are chatting, eating, sipping and then they drop their napkins and wooden forks on the floor and start again. Bizarre but the buzz and excitement is such fun, and soon the floor is swept so all is in order ready for the next 'wave' of customers.

So, why not try at home and think you are in Spain? Mind you, perhaps it best you put the napkins in the bin - ha ha. ENJOY!

Hasta la próxima vez [see you next time]