A book review of “Sherry: A Modern Guide”

by  |  02-12-2015

This book has me conflicted and suffice to say, which is probably why it’s taken me so long to get around to reviewing it. But in brief, at no point did I really feel like it makes Sherry more accessible to the public nor is a re-defining moment for the drink like the Liem & Barquin book Sherry, Manzanilla and Montilla was. If you want something even briefer, read my thoughts on drinking Sherry because if there’s one thing that the author, Talia Baiocchi and I agree on is that Sherry is a massively under appreciated wine and the prices are currently ludicrously cheap for the quality you get.

My main problem with this book is that it essentially strives to be a primer on Sherry, offer up some bodega profiles, Sherry cocktail recipes, and then a bit of food pairing. This has been painted as the ultimate modern guide to Sherry but what it feels like was that Ms. Baiocchi went to the publisher (who also publish her main gig “Punch”) with a rather solid idea to do a book about Sherry cocktails. That would have been sound, but it seems like 10 Speed Press didn’t think it adequate enough to make a full book and kept asking her to create additional sections.

I mention this as the book is heavily disjointed as if several different authors wrote it, much like how the screenplay for Armageddon feels if you managed to sit through that whole cinematic travesty. The “What is Sherry” part is extremely wordy and doesn’t appear edited in the least. It’s as if the publisher figured that as she works as an editor, someone doesn’t need to go over her text.

At times the narrative comes out very thin despite its verbosity. It feels like all these personal accounts are based on spending a week or two there at most and there is no ownership of the material at hand. Other times there are these attempts to link in various cultural icons of the region like Flamenco in with the drink and they just really don’t work.

The bodega profiles have an air of being pulled from the producer’s websites or marketing material. They are very superficial and show no command of the region save for a few recommendations of Sherries that I overall agree with being of note. But it’s ridiculous that there aren’t more given that there are just 47 bodegas producing Sherry in total.

The cocktail recipes are the best part as I’ve tried several of them and they’re good. The food part I can take or leave as honestly, Sherry pairs with nearly everything (this is one of its great gifts) and this versatility isn’t explored.

There are also factual inaccuracies like saying that the venencia was made of a whale bone in the past. It wasn’t, it was a whale whisker. This probably comes from the author’s grabbing that factoid from Wikipedia where the translation from Spanish was incorrect for some time. This also makes me wonder if the author speaks sufficient Spanish to write such as book as you have to be reasonably fluent in the language to explore Andalusia.

In closing, this book is too dense for those looking to get started in Sherry. But then it’s not enough for those looking to geek out. Then again, it’s too much (not to mention impractical as a hard cover) to be a travel companion to the region.

I’ve spent a little time in the region but in no way would consider myself and expert at the level to attempt a book such as this despite attending and passing the Sherry Educator course put on the denomination of origin. I was really hoping this would have been a great deal more than it was as the region needs to be more approachable but as it sits, while it looks great visually, this was not the book for the task.

If you’re curious, here’s another review that’s more gentle than I am, but also takes issue with a number of the same points.


Review copy supplied by publisher


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