Copa Jerez is back

The search is on to find the UK’s best sommelier and chef team to win the UK Copa Jerez 2022 competition

Chefs and sommeliers at restaurants across the UK are invited to enter the world’s top competition for Sherry.

To take part you both need to work together to create an inventive three-course Sherry-themed menu that will amaze the judges at the UK heat of the 2022 Copa Jerez.

The winning UK team will receive an all-expenses paid trip to the Sherry region of Jerez, and will represent the UK at the International Competition of Gastronomy and Sherry Pairing, to be held in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain in October 2023, where they will compete alongside other finalists from the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Spain.

Deadline for full menu entries: 18 September, 2022

Three teams will be selected to compete in the UK finals and will be notified by email before Friday 30 September.
The UK Finals take place on Monday 17 October, 2022.

For more information

Contact competition organiser by email for full details and register your application today.

Submit your entry now: http://www.sherry.wine/copa-jerez

Copa Jerez is organised by Consejo Regulador Jerez y Manzanilla.

It Was Like The Champions League…

After taking part in this year’s Copa de Jerez, Collective member Mattia Mazzi is already dreaming of next year’s competition.

The Copa is a real three-day immersion into the world of sherry

This year’s Copa de Jerez [held on November 9th and 10th in Jerez] was incredible. Really unique. For me and my chef Vincenzo it was something else – and not what we expected.

We were there to represent the UK, and thought it would be more like what we did in the regional heat in London, which was quite formal. But you get there and it is like Masterchef meets The Final Table: the Dutch team brought carriages of trolleys with all the silverware and chinaware, the Russian had massive beautiful trays. It was incredible.

It didn’t feel like a competition – more like a World Cup or the Olympics – everything was bigger and more spectacular.

Mattia Mazzi

You watch the videos and it looks amazing, and you go ‘wow, I was part of that’.

I’d recommend it to anyone who’s thinking of taking part, but be aware: we’ll probably take part too – and now we know what you need to do to win!

You get a taste for it. You see what the rest can do. London is big and international, but being able to challenge other countries and the approach that they have is just crazy. It’s very inspirational.

The Belgian team were sheer class. Paul-Henri Cuvelier was best maitre d’ in Belgium three years in a row and Fabian Bail was a Bocuse d’Or finalist. Particularly in terms of presentation, there was definitely inspiration there from the other teams.

No shortage of media and audience
The classy Belgians in action
A truly international event

Inspiring visits

While I was there I also learned from the producers who gave me great ideas on how to pair sherry. Fernando de Castilla gave me a really good insight into the way the negotiant world works over there.

El Maestro Sierra, who provided my chosen sherry match for the main course, gave me a great historical snapshot into how sherry evolved.

I hadn’t planned to see them. But the oenologist, Ana, approached me at the competition and told me to come and visit. They don’t do tours or accept many visitors, and their bodega has a life of its own – with no electricity! It’s a place of silence and love.

A trip to Barbadillo was one of our scheduled visits

Top-class pairings

During the Copa there were some great masterclasses. On the afternoon after the competition, there was a debriefing of some of the sauces that we used. There are little samples circulating on the stage and you get to try it, which is really clever – it’s not just someone talking you through a pairing; you’re actually experiencing it.

Matteo Mazzi
Tasting and matching on stage

Ex El Bulli super-somm, Ferran Centelles

Throughout the competition there were masterclasses and food pairings. For instance, I went to a talk by Ferran Centelles, who was the sommelier at El Bulli. It was really geeky, but really digestible, and eye-opening.

Matteo Mazzi

While I was there I also did a tuna ronqueo where you try cuts from nose to tail moving from those with less blood to those with most blood, then fat and finally the cheeks. It wasn’t part of the Copa, but someone invited me, so I went, and it was amazing; the perfection of the pairing with the manzanilla was stunning, and they only used three ingredients per dish.

Preparing…
Presenting…
The judging panel

No regrets – well, just one…

From this year’s competition, I’ve only got one regret: I wish I’d gone to the region before the Copa, doing these kind tastings and visiting the wineries. It would have taken my presentation to the next level.

The Copa de Jerez is like the Champions League: it’s a thrill, a journey, doing something you love with a friend, the back-stage stories…

You have to be a bit of a performer – it’s not like service – but now we know how much we can push it. And we’re already thinking about our idea for 2022.

Vincenzo and I hope to be back again next year!

Find out more at http://www.sherry.wine #sherrywinesjerez

If you’d like to take part in one of the many sommelier competitions visit our COMPETITIONS page for more details.

Copa Jerez

A chilled glass of Fino, a complex Palo Cortado, the warm sun on your shoulders, a tasty tapa to set your taste buds tingling, a view of the Alcázar de Jerez…is this a holiday you’re on?

No, it’s what you can get to do in between sessions at Jerez’s most famous sommelier and chef competition: Copa Jerez. Seems like a dream right now but plans are afoot to hold the ninth edition of the competition in Jerez at the end of this year.

Sounds too good to be true but gaining a place in the bi-annual final of the Copa de Jerez in Jerez , not only allows you to learn more about one of the world’s most diverse and fascinating fortified wines in situ, but it also gives you time to explore and learn about the enchanting, historic city of Jerez.

International Final Copa Jerez 2019

Copa Jerez judge and MW, Sarah Jane Evans explains, “The Copa Jerez is a sensational event – for judges and contestants. The final takes place in the heart of the glorious old city of Jerez. This means there’s the chance to visit a bodega and enjoy a tapa with a glass of Sherry in between the hard work. As such it has to be the most fun destination of any sommelier competition.”

The Copa Jerez is a sensational event – for judges and contestants.

Sarah Jane Evans MW

She continues, “One of the pleasures of the international final is the way it celebrates the diversity of Sherry. Whatever the course, or ingredient, there’s a Sherry style to match. Copa Jerez acts like a reset or jump-start: it’s a whole new way of looking at the wine, and raises the game.”

Sherry, of course, is the focus. Food, the palette, which lets you and your chef to explore a world of taste and sensations as you discover the very best paring to set off the flavours in your dish and maximise the delicious nuances of your chosen wine from Andalucía’s most famous wine producing region, in southern Spain.

The ninth edition of the Copa de Jerez has just been launch by Sherry Wines and organisers are looking for chef and sommelier teams from across the UK to devise a three-course meal which will complement and showcase the versatility of Sherry wines. It’s a test of your knowledge of Sherry wines as a sommelier and your skill in food pairing based on the fabulous dishes you chef team can produce.

2021 UK Judges (left to right): Sarah Jane Evans MW; Anna Haugh; Mattieu Longuere MS

But it’s not just about the final, the preparation and creativity is also key to taking part. The regional heats in one of 8 different competing countries are a thrill to be involved in too. As former participant Owen Morgan, owner and founder of the Bar 44 group describes, “It is an incredible experience to be part of. Firstly for us as a chef and sommelier team, plotting and planning, experimenting and balancing, plus of course, how much can be achieved in the time frame.”

It is an incredible experience to be part of.

Owen Morgan, chef patron, Asador 44

He continues, “Getting to work with an exceptional level of ingredients and world class wines to taste and pair is an exceptional experience. Then there’s the experience of competing on the day – nerve wracking, yes, but is certainly honed our skills as professionals by getting to work alongside high levels pros in the UK business. We also made some great friends, who we are still in touch with today. We got so much out of the competition – learning, experiences and new colleagues. I’d recommend taking part to anyone who loves food and wine and especially Sherry.”

Participants agree that taking part is not just a learning experience but it is also about innovation and using your imagination, as Evans points out, “In this competition you can step outside the traditional pairings, and the regular choices of Finos and Manzanillas as aperitifs. The most exciting match for the judges in the last competition, for instance, was a very old PX paired a dessert. The Copa Jerez is a brilliant opportunity for sommelier and chef to work together to be really creative. It’s not just wine-pairing, we also score the quality of wine preparation and service, and the way the sommelier and chef work together as a team. “

A tasting menu is a story that you are going to tell via the food and sherries – you have to a catchy beginning, and interesting main part and sweet, happy ending!

Alan Bednarski, UK Winner Copa Jerez 2018

Alan Bednarski, head sommelier at Annabel’s, has participated and won the Copa de Jerez UK final and he was inspired to enter the competition by his love of the simplicity of tapas and Sherry. His real discovery was his time at Texture when he has the opportunity to work with unusual combination of flavours and ingredients that Chef used for tasting menu. He explains, “Wines from Jerez works perfectly with such a challenging combination of fusion Icelandic-British cuisine and Asian flavours. Working with Chef Karl O’Dell was so creative when it came to creating dishes, trying single components and looking for THE SPECIAL sensation when you taste food and Sherry and smile after each bite.”

left-right: Karl O’Dell, head chef and Alan Bednarski, head sommelier, Texture Restaurant competing at the International Final of Copa Jerez in 2019.

His top tips when entering the competition is “Less is more when it comes to ingredients,” says Bednarski, “Team work is also so important and easy to forget that this competition is about the Chef and the Sommelier. “ He adds, “A tasting menu is a story that you are going to tell via the food and sherries– you have to a catchy beginning, and interesting main part and sweet, happy ending!”

Most importantly he mentions is that “the competition is about the journey not about winning it. If you put enough effort in to make it the most special and memorable experience for you, it will pay back.”

Interested in entering Copa Jerez 2021?

Click here to find out more and start your Copa Jerez journey.

Deadline: 30 April, 2021.

Sherry webinar – March, 2021

To learn more about Sherry and competing in the Copa Jerez competition, members of The Sommeleir Collective were invited to join a webinar hosted by Charlotte Hey, with special guest Cesar Saldana, president, Consejo Regulador Jerez y Manzanilla.

Be Daring With Your Pairing

We all know about the classic, easy ‘safe’ wine-matches. Well, this article is meant to share and suggest my approach to daring pairings, based on my personal experience.

Although daring is often associated with rebels and anti-conformist behaviour, in this case I didn’t go down the ‘daring’ route because I was trying to shake things up. I had to take risks and think outside the box because the classic and safe options weren’t working.

Earlier this year, I was working at a restaurant, Cornerstone, that served umami-driven dishes that had high counterbalancing acids, sweetness and spices that defeated traditional matches. 

I went on the look out for residual sugar to tackle different types of salinity; lower alcohol and acids to offset spice; savoury and nutty flavours to sweeten umami. Then I cherry-picked those beverages that would fit within my allocated budget. It was important to me not to go crazy on the prices, but otherwise I kept an open mind.

And ask yourself this: have you ever thought of serving an old oloroso with mackerel?

The results were surprising, but educational. I learned a lot from the process, and I’d love to share my thoughts for three of the matches with you because there are some fascinating lessons for all of us.

‘Sea-cuterie’

A very British take on fish – but not without its challenges.

TREACLE-CURED SEA TROUT WITH SALMON PASTRAMI AND SMOKED COD ROE PATÉ

This was the first dish in a Nathan Outlaw tasting menu, and I paired it with a Cerdon du Bugey. It’s the aperitif wine they drink in Lyon – a low-alcohol (8%) off-dry sparkling red. A blend of Gamay and Poulsard, it’s Méthode Ancestrale, so not too fizzy.

They eat a lot of charcuterie and salty stuff in Lyon, and the reason I chose this is because I thought the sea-cuterie is a very British take on fish. The salt and oiliness are pushed right to the max – really savoury – so I felt the food needed a touch of sweetness, and red fruits rather than something lemony.

I discarded champagne and prosecco as options right from the start. But British people can struggle with off-dry wines, so I did try a cava to see if it would work. But it just didn’t have the sugar you need to balance the salt of the fish. The way the fish dishes were prepared, they were veering towards umami, and that just clashed with the high acid in the wine.

With the Cerdon du Bugey, the bubbles, rather than acidity, acted as a palate cleanser, and the sugar went against the umami. The sweetness was camouflaged under the bubbles. When I presented it to customers, I made sure to tell them ‘Please make sure you have a mouthful of the fish first, followed by the wine’. That way you don’t notice the sugar.

Renardat-Fache Cerdon du Bugey 2018, £13.75 ex VAT, Raeburn Fine Wines

Best bit of all, this wine was only £13. If I’d wanted something from Champagne to do the same job it would have been three times the price.

Grey mullet tartare cured in honey, salt and soy, with ponzu dressing, sesame seeds and egg yolk

Savoury flavours in the wine were the key to this particular match

There was a lot to deal with here. There was citrus from the ponzu, sweetness from the honey, which is going to bring down any flavours you have unless the wine is slightly oxidised or savoury, then you had the egg yolk, which covers everything, and lots of salt.

It was a bold dish, and initially I tried sake, vermouth and fino sherry. But they didn’t work. Sherry  was too dry and the alcohol levels in the others were too high – I didn’t want to move from a light sparkling (the Cerdon) to higher fortified levels of alcohol, then back to wine. It would have been a bit clumsy.

So in the end I stayed with wine, but in contrast to the first pairing, here I went richer in body. I was looking for a wine with a bit of sunny ripeness in it, but savoury rather than fruit driven. Because there was a sharp acidity in the dish thanks to the ponzu dressing, I had to drop acidity, too.  All the dishes we had at Cornerstone were really balanced when it came to acidity, so I didn’t want to spoil the balance of the sauce.

Here I was trying to complement the food – like putting prosciutto with melon. Eventually I settled on this weird off-dry 2016 Catalan Chenin Blanc with prolonged skin contact from Raeburn wines.

I was relying on the fact that some styles of Chenin have that kind of bruised apple note – slightly oxidative. And orange wines take on a more savoury note, which was ideal. Add in a little extra sugar, and it all goes really well with umami flavours like we had here.

I picked the most dominant components in the food and tried to match them head to head with similar components in the wine so they cancelled each other out and what was left was something really nice.

This wine would go with anything that’s saline and rich: salted cod, mackerel pate, kippers – any fish that’s been cured or has heavy sauces to it. Even fried eggs with a garnish.

Bodegas Escoda-Sanahuja Els Bassots 2015, £16.00 ex VAT, Raeburn Fine Wines

Mackerel pate with cream and treacle soda bread

Be prepared to be amazed…

The dish is quite rich, and usually, I’d pair this with the Catalan Chenin Blanc, but I’d run out one day, and this guy came in who clearly knew his food and wine – I could tell he was a chef – and asked me for a wine pairing with the dish. I thought maybe a slightly higher alcohol could help with the richness of the dish, so I was looking fortified. Fino wasn’t a good match – again, it was too dry.

I was nibbling on a piece of the soda bread, and it was really nutty and caramelised. And for some reason I looked up on the shelves and there was the Matusalem – a 30 year-old sweet oloroso. I thought ‘why not? I’m going to give it a go.’ I tried a bit with the bread and the paté in secret behind the bar and I was amazed. I let everyone else try it and they were all like ‘fuck, this is great’.

I had to tell the chef not to be scared and to trust my choice, and the moment he put it in his mouth he was like ‘hell yeah – best match of the flight.’ Yet it only came about because I was in the shit and had to improvise.

Flavour wise, those nutty, caramelised flavours worked really well with the bread, and it’s not as dry as a straight oloroso because there’s that touch of PX, which helped the wine to stand against the richness, oiliness and smokiness of the fish – but without smothering it. You could still taste the fish.

As well as fish, Matusalem could work with a rich Moorish lamb with lots of spices. The higher the smoke, the better it would work.  Trust me, you’d drink a tonne of it.

Matusalem 30-year-old sweet oloroso, £18.03/37.5cl at Gonzalez Byass UK

And the customers?

The final question of these Daring Pairings is how you ‘sell’ these left-field matches to your customers.

First of all, you have to watch them carefully. As soon as you see a bit of frowning when the wine arrives, you have to go over and explain carefully to them what they’re about to taste and why you’ve chosen it. Maybe explain to them the order they should eat or drink things in, if that’s relevant – but without being too technical.

Bear in mind that the wine flight is designed as a complement to the food, so basically they should have the food first, then follow it with the wine, not vice versa.

And having taken people away from their comfort zone, I made sure that with the final match of the four I took them back to something more familiar – an aged St Péray. It’s really important that the last dry wine is good. That’s where you put your big budgets. That seals the end of the tasting.

Main image: David Loftus

What’s the weirdest food and wine pairing that you’ve put on your menu? Why did it work and how did you come up with it?

Let us know at by joining The Sommelier Collective discussion group on Food Pairings for the Daring or leave a comment below.