We love sherry, in fact, we live and breathe sherry! And there's nothing more satisfying than spending time with those who share the same sentiment.
For International Sherry Week 2022 we've touched based with some fellow sherry lovers in the UK market from a variety of different backgrounds.
It's been a great pleasure getting to know a little more about them and their fabulous insights into the wild world of sherry and how we can work together to make sherry as adored by the wider wine drinking population as it deserves to be.
For interview #1, we introduce to you Jiachen Lu, sommelier at Dinings SW3 in London, and one half of the duo who won the UK finals of Copa Jerez 2022 🏆
Where are you from?
I was born in China and most recently moved from the US to London to pursue my dream in wine.
If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be and why?
If anywhere in the world, I would choose two places: Sonoma between April to November so I could witness all the amazing things happening in the vineyard from budbreak to harvest; then London for the rest of the year so I would have access to some of the best wines and restaurants - I can dream, can't I (LOL).
Tell us about a memorable food and wine pairing experience (it doesn’t have to be fancy, and it doesn’t have to involve sherry!)
My father and I went for a father-daughter photography trip to Lyon over a decade ago. One day, we ran into Les Halles de Lyon to take shelter from pouring rain and ended up with a few dozens of oysters and carafes of crispy white wine while standing by a fishmonger. Nothing fancy at all - oysters served on old metal platter and wine in water glass - but it is some of my fondest food and wine memory!
If you could only have one cuisine (including beverages!) for the rest of your life, what would it be?
French, no double about it! In fact, I have been asked this question by many people and my answer has never changed.
Sorry my friends in China, the US and Italy - I just cannot get enough of Choucroute Garnie with Alsace Riesling, Oeuf en Meurette with red Burgundy and Andouillette with some rustic Cahors along with so many other great dishes and wines...
As someone who’s trained as a lawyer, what was it that inspired you to move into the world of wine?
Attending the 6-month Diploma of Wine, Gastronomy and Management program at Le Cordon Bleu London in 2018 was life-changing. Not only did I have the chance to build a nice foundation for further wine and food study, my genuine passion for wine and food was confirmed and I was deeply amazed by the "professional side" of the world of wine such as masterclasses, sommelier competitions and trade tastings. I will be forever grateful for all the knowledge, opportunities and support from Matthieu Longuere, Master Sommelier and other instructors/chefs at Le Cordon Bleu London!
In a world full of amazing food and wine pairing potential, are there any countries or regions that are your favourite for this, and why? (if there is a reason why!)
Besides French food and wine as I previously mentioned, I am particularly fascinated by indigenous varieties from Greece. With over 300 local varieties, imagine how many stories wines of Greece could tell us...
Moving onto sherry..
Do you remember what the first sherry you tried was, and did you have any pre-conceived ideas about sherry before trying it?
Honestly, I don't remember what the first Sherry I ever "tried" was. However, I did have some experience with Sherry paired with starters or desserts at wine dinners before I started studying wines. As I usually keep an open mind for food and wine, I am sure that I was happy to try something new back then although I didn't form a close bond with Sherry back then.
Are there any challenges, or considerations, when pairing sherry with a full menu? To elaborate - we don’t see sherry appear on pairing menus often (except for dessert) so do you think this is because it’s more challenging, or because it’s not as commonplace or popular for consumers?
From elegant to rich, bone dry to luscious, non-oxidative to oxidative, Sherry is a great category of wines to work with different dishes and cuisines - and we just convinced the judges of Copa Jerez that Sherry could pair nicely with a Japanese-influenced meal. To me, to convince the consumers to choose a Sherry-pairing menu is more challenging than pairing Sherry with a full menu. There are unfortunately many consumers with strong preconceptions who regard Sherry - or any fortified wines - as "very cheap" and "very sweet" wine that would "give them a headache afterwards". It will take the wine professionals who understand the potentials of Sherry some time to "educate" the consumers and change the image of Sherry.
If you were speaking to someone who had a negative impression of sherry (perhaps they think of it as overly sweet, or maybe because they associate it with old people or Christmas 😊) what sherry would you give them to change their mind? Would you serve this sherry with food to make it more enjoyable? If so, what would you serve with (can be something incredibly simple, or more complex, completely up to you!)?
In a situation like this, I would first ask why they didn't like Sherry. If they thought it as overly sweet, I would first serve a chilled Fino or Manzanilla with some simple such as smoked almond, croquette or jamón to showcase how dry, elegant and food-friendly Sherry actually can be. If they were still haunted by their grandmas' cloying after-dinner drinks from their childhood memory, I'd go for a bottle such as Apostoles 30-Year-Old Palo Cortado Sherry (the one I served at the competition with the dessert course) or Matusalem Oloroso Sherry in hope that they would realize that high-quality sweet Sherry is complex, balanced and very satisfying.
If you had someone who had NO idea about sherry at all, would you give them a different sherry to the above? If so, what you would you give them? And similar to the above question, would you suggest they try with a certain food to enjoy more?
Sherry cocktails or vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of PX would not be a bad idea for the first-time Sherry drinkers at all. In fact, I vote for any ideas that make people to take the initial sip!
What would be your go-to, easy to make, sherry and food pairing?
A large slice of pecan pie after Thanksgiving dinner with some intensely complex dry Oloroso - a true guilty pleasure!
Lastly, what’s your favourite sherry and why?
I have yet to settle on my favourite Sherry. Frankly, I might never be able to name a favourite - how could I pick one when there are so many Sherry wines of different styles? All I can do is to keep tasting and learning about Sherry and be ready for plenty of pleasant surprises along my journey in wine!