Sherry might be one of the most traditional drinks on a back bar or wine list, but for many drinkers, both young and old, it is also something new to discover. The Copa Jerez competition that invites both chefs and sommeliers to come together and create specially devised menus to be both cooked and served with sherry is just one of the initiatives that is looking to take sherry to more people, both within the on-trade, and their customers.
Copa Jerez is an opportunity for restaurants and hotels to bring their chef and sommelier teams together in a competition designed to demonstrate the versatility and diversity of sherry for both back and front of house teams.
In an ideal world we would all be able to travel the world and visit the countries and regions where the wines and spirits we work with every day are made. But the reality is somewhat different to that. The closest even the most experienced and award wining sommeliers and trade buyers get to the products they source, buy and sell can often be at trade tastings or when visited by sales reps, or, if you are very lucky, a producer, winemaker or distiller themselves.
So how about this for an opportunity for sommeliers to really bring sherry to life in their working lives? A competition whereby you work with your chef and your restaurant to create a three course menu paired with the sherries you feel are best matched to each dish.
It’s all part of the international 2018 Copa Jerez that is putting on similar competitions in key sherry markets around the world. This bi-annual competition, organised by Sherry Wines, is now into eighth year, and will once again unite the skills of chefs and sommeliers to work together to create a menu that best demonstrates just versatile sherry wines can be in the premium on-trade.
Sherry for all occasions
A chance also to prove to yourself that sherry is not a drink just to be served as an aperitif or to go with a specific dessert or cheese, but is diverse enough to be matched with a whole range of styles of food and cuisines.
Not only do the competing teams have to pair each of the dishes with a different sherry, they also have to include it is as key ingredient in at least one course. That’s the basic challenge, but teams in previous years have taken the theme on to different levels.
All entries will be judged by a panel of food and wine experts, with the five top teams invited to take part in the ‘live’ Copa Jerez Final, which is being held in the Competition Theatre at the Restaurant Show at Olympia London, on October 1. The 2016 UK judges were award-winning sommelier, hotelier and restaurateur, Gerard Basset MW MS, wine writer and sherry expert, Sarah Jane Evans MW, Carlos Martinez, executive chef and previous UK winner of Copa Jerez and broadcaster and critic, Joe Wadsack.
Here, the teams will be required to cook their sherry-inspired menu in front of a panel of judges and an audience. The winning team receives a £500 cash prize, and an all-expenses paid trip to the sherry region of Jerez so that they will get the chance to see and experience how and where sherry is produced.
Here’s a flavour of the 2016 finals in this video from the event.
They will also be invited to represent the UK at the International Competition of Gastronomy and Sherry Pairing, which will be held in Jerez de la Frontera in Spain in 2019. There they will compete alongside finalists from similar competitions being held in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Holland, United States and Spain. So no pressure.
Beltran Domecq, international chair-judge and president of the Consejo Regulador de Jerez y Sanlucar de Barrameda, said of the competition: “We are very fortunate to attract an extremely high calibre of entries every year that we have hosted Copa Jerez in the UK, and I know this year will not be different. The food pairings always delight us, and show how well our competitors understand Sherry and its culinary versatility. I can’t wait to see what we discover this year.”
Last year’s winning team were Giovanni Ferlito, head of and senior sous chef, Michael Nizzero from The Ritz. Ferlito said of the competition: “As a sommelier, I really love to spend time with the chef to learn more about his philosophy behind each dish as well as to share my passion for wine with him. Copa Jerez was the perfect opportunity to strengthen our relationship even more and it was really a team effort.”
Their winning menu was as follows:
- A first course of Langoustine, broad beans and mint matched with Manzanilla Pasada from Bodegas Hidalgo. Here the team wanted to show how the lush, light richness of the langoustine was a perfect match for the rich saltiness of Manzanilla Pasada, offset by the crisp, bit of the broad bean and mint.
- Their second pairing brought together a fillet of veal, sweetbread, wild mushroom, truffle and Oloroso sauce with a 20 year old, Oloroso, “Antique” from Fernando Castilla. For Felito the philosophy behind this dish was “the texture and the creaminess of the sweetbread together with the earthiness of the truffle and the thickness of the Oloroso sauce needs a sherry which has a round and mellow first mouth but at the same time a strong body and character to support the veal. The combination with the mushrooms puree is an explosion of flavours in the palate and the oxidative notes of the sherry, help to leave the mouth clean and dry for the next bite.”
- Finally, the Ritz team chose the Noe VORS 30 year old Pedro Ximenez from Gonzalez Byass to match with a hazelnut and fig Semifreddo. For the chef this dessert is all about the combination of textures and flavours, whilst Ferlito the Noe offers “liquid hazelnut and fig semifreddo!”
The overall worldwide winning team came from Dutch restaurant Podium onder de Dom, with chef Leon Mazairac and sommelier Goos van den Berg creating a menu that comprised:
- a starter of oysters with green olive gelée and sardine crème, dressed with Madame Jeannette oil and Iberian ham sauce, paired with Manzanilla Pasada La Goya
- the main course consisted of a Dutch rabbit crépinette seasoned with massala spices and carrot and orange cream, matched with Oloroso El Cerro
- while for dessert, they presented caramel and porcini flor ice cream with a Sherry vinegar and Jerez brandy reduction on aged Oudwijker cheese, which was paired with a Medium Mons Urium.
- Full details of Copa Jerez 2018 can be found on www.sherry.wine/copa-jerez
- The closing date for entries is August 31, 2018
- You can follow the activities and who is taking part at @SherryWinesUK #copajerezUK
- If you want more information on the Copa Jerez 2018, contact: Angeline Bayly, Campaign Director, Sherry Wines UK on firstname.lastname@example.org