Bars across the UK are preparing for an international sherry festival this week during the last few days of trading before lockdown.
This year’s International Sherry Week, 2-8 November, is the seventh annual celebration of the Spanish drink with sherry-themed events all over the world.
In these times of uncertainty, celebrations like this are the perfect antidote according to Paul Belcher, Owner of The Tapas Room bars in Tooting, Deptford, Brixton and Battersea, as well as Taps and Tapas in Tooting Bec.
He said: “Sherry Week is a great celebration, I think that events like this, and local restaurants in general, are amazing for the community.
“As much as we can keep things normal, keep things happening, and keep a safe place to interact with loved ones, I think that’s an amazing thing.
“I think that’s what we need.”
Belcher, 44, has been a chef for over 30 years and is a huge fan of all things Spanish.
All of his venues are getting involved in the event by running tastings, offers on sherry flights, making sherry cocktails, and even cooking with sherry.
Belcher has implemented many Covid-19 safety procedures and feels that hospitality is more than capable of coping with keeping people safe.
He said: “Hospitality is very good at following guidelines, we follow guidelines every day of our lives whether it be alcoholic licensing, or environmental health: this is what we do for a living.
“Every restaurant you drink sherry in will be safe and fun, I do encourage people to go out and enjoy sherry – or a drink, while we can.”
This year Sherry Week has also adapted its programme due to Covid-19 to include a variety of virtual events, like daily ‘Sherry o’clock’ 6-7pm on Instagram, and a World Dinner Party taking place in four continents over 24 hours.
Graziano Cocco, Group Training Manager at Spanish-themed restaurant chain Ibérica, has organised virtual and in-person Sherry Week events.
Since the start of lockdown Cocco, 34, has run 22 virtual sherry tastings, growing from around 20 people at the first to nearly 200 in June.
Virtual or not, Cocco feels Sherry Week is still an important event.
He said: “It gives people a reason to go out. Sherry Week is a great opportunity to go out and learn about sherry.
“In my experience, we’ve been confined at home for a long time and every time I run these events I am happy.
“I am 100% sure Sherry Week will lift the spirits.”
Sherry, a type of wine that is fortified, has suffered in the UK due to its common association with sweet liquid in sticky bottles lingering at the back of cupboards.
Belcher and Cocco feel this is changing, but education is important.
Belcher said: “Lots of people have sherries sat in the cupboard, warm, but sherry should be drunk in a week and kept well closed, refrigerated, and sat down properly like a wine.”
Cocco said: “The perception of people is not the nicest when it comes to sherries, but I think over the past few years this is changing thanks to restaurants and producers.
“Sherry can’t be seen as a single style of wine, sherry has a tremendous variety of style – you go from the driest in the world to the sweetest in the world.
“So it’s about finding the best style of sherry for you.”