Friday, September 10, 2010

The importance of sherry

My wife has been away. Wednesday evening, she sent me an sms to say that she was drinking a nice fino. Dear that took me back.

Growing up, my parents used to have a nice dry sherry before dinner every night with a few biscuits. Later, I was allowed to join them. It became a tradition.

I very rarely drink sherry now, and found myself wondering why because I am still very fond of it. When did it happen?

Thinking about it, sherry went into decline in the eighties. It wasn't the only tipple to do so. Gin and tonic, another drink that I am very fond of, went into decline at the same time. Eldest works part time in a pub. Now nobody there orders it. Indeed, most pubs don't seem to serve it at all. 

Part of the reason for the decline lies in the rise of other drinks. Wine, for example, is now drunk before dinner as well as at dinner. There is a far wider variety of wines and of mixed drinks, including the pre-mixed. In fact, more spirits are drunk now and in a wider variety of forms. However, I think that it is a little more than this.

The type of alcohol drunk was directly related to perceived social status; both dry sherry and gin and tonic were drinks of the "genteel" middle classes; wine, too, was a middle class drink; by contrast, while the ubiquitous beer spanned classes, it was especially a working class drink.

I suspect that the changing drink patterns can be directly linked to the blurring of previous social distinctions, the collapse of previous social structures. The form of alcohol drunk has become a less reliable indicator of social group.

8 comments:

Frank said...

Actually the recent rise in popularity of Spanish food, in particular the tapas style of eating, has also meant a rise in interest in sherries. I too grew up drinking sherry (in my mother's case it was sweet) and still enjoy it when I can find one; the cheap stuff is easy to find, but you need to hunt for a good one.

Jim Belshaw said...

How fascinating, Frank. I hadn't thought of tapas and any recent changes in the popularity of sherry. It does seem to be hard to find a nice sherry now.

tikno said...

For me... the art of drinking alcoholic beverage is the sense of togetherness with friends. It's more than the bottle's class.

Jim Belshaw said...

I agree, Tikno. Still, its interesting how changing drinking tastes can refelct social changes.

Anonymous said...

Jim, a small correction to your blog; Sherry is wine, a fortified wine actually. One of Australia's best exponents is Pennyweight Winery at Beechworth

cheers
James

Jim Belshaw said...

True, Jamie, but we didn't see it that way. Sherry was distinct from wine as was port.

Jim Belshaw said...

And thanks, Jamie, for Pennyweight. I will look it up.

sherry wine said...

Sherry has a long history of serving the likes of Christopher Columbus to Shakespeare.