It was in December when Chef Seamus Mullen and Sommelier Roger Kugler (of Suba Restaurant and Boqueria) edged out the adroit competition (wd-50 and Michy’s were among the top seeds) at the Copa Jerez food pairing semi-finals. Last week the duo was in Jerez, Spain, representing the US in this international competition that featured talents from Belgium, Germany, Spain and England.
But unlike the ubiquitous food and wine pairing competitions, the secret ingredient at this gala was Vino de Jerez, otherwise known as sherry, the under prescribed and far more often misunderstood fortified wine that hails from the albariza soils of the southern Mediterranean town.
Sherry, diagnosed as a grandma’s elixir or represented by a cob web encased bottle at the back of the cabinet, recently, has achieved new found appreciation among educated imbibers and wine critics.
With styles ranging from dry and pale to nutty and rich to full and creamy, versatility is sherry’s trademark characteristic.
This characteristic is why press and critics flocked to Jerez for the Final Internacional 3ª Copa de Jerez. Among the table of judges was Juli Soler, the sommelier of the renowned El Bulli in Catalonia.
Each team had to present three courses with pairings, with judgment on food, presentation, selection and explanation.
As expected – as witnessed with the semi-finals in December – competition ran fierce and unfortunately for Mullen and Kugler, the team from Holland was chosen “Best Overall”.
However, Kugler did pick up the award for “Best Sommelier”, a masterful achievement considering the Spanish competition.
Chef Mullen’s and Sommelier Kugler’s final menu.
Sardina Ahumada y Ajo Blanco ~ dish
González-Byass “Tío Pepe” Fino ~ wine
Salmonete y Pata Negra ~ dish
Hidalgo Amontillado “Viejo” VORS ~ wine
Torta de Queso de Oveja en Flan ~ dish
Gutiérez Colosía Moscatel Soleado ~ wine