Ahead of this year’s International Sherry Week, we took the chance to sit down with the owner of our prized Sherry agency, Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla, and find out more about what makes this house stand out from the rest.
Seated in the underground dining room of a London steakhouse, the rest of the Boutinot team tucking into rib-eyes and a selection of hearty reds, I am deep in discussion with Jan Pettersen, owner and export director of Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla.
With a name like Jan Pettersen it doesn’t take a gritty Northern TV detective to deduce that the man sat in front of me isn’t a native of Jerez, but you would be hard-pushed to find a greater ‘sherry romantic’.
Norwegian-born Jan first arrived in Jerez after completing his studies in Barcelona in 1983. At the time working for Osborne, he admits himself that it wasn’t love at first sight! As many in the wine trade know all too well, Sherry’s unique savoury and oxidative style can take some getting used to, but persevere and, in no time, you can learn to love it like no other.
Who said Jan was the only Sherry romantic in the room?!
Our conversation is put on hold as he’s asked to taste an unknown sherry that Craig has brought along and whose age is a mystery to everyone; “I’ve never even heard of this stuff and I live in Jerez!”. Relief. It’s fine. There’s ‘plenty’ of life left in it yet…
Jan tells me that despite his initial reservations, it didn’t take long for him to fall in love. In 1999 he acquired Fernando de Castilla and set about writing his own chapter in Sherry’s long, distinguished history. Focussing solely on producing high-end, complex sherries, Fernando de Castilla has built an unrivalled reputation in Jerez for being masters of their craft – as the stacks of awards and medals will attest. But aside from quality, what is it that makes his house unique?
“Sherry used to be one of the greatest wines on the planet, and I think that it’s smaller producers like Fernando de Castilla that are bringing quality sherries back into focus and teaching people how you should use sherry [and] what food pairings work well.”
Jan is keen to reiterate that in Spain sherry is not seen as an aperitif, but as a wine to be paired with food like any other. Whether he approves of this pairing of an ancient Fino with medium rare T-Bone is another question, but he insists that his Palo Cortado is the perfect match to a mushroom dish. Try it, you won’t be disappointed.
When talking to Jan, it’s hard not be drawn into the magic of Sherry and Fernando de Castilla in particular. Taste his wines, and it’s impossible. Listening to him tell tales of his years in the industry, the successes and failures of friends, I get the impression that here’s a man who’s quietly proud of what he’s achieved at Fernando de Castilla; understated, but confident in the abilities and reputation of his bodega.
Whether it’s his Classic range: younger, vibrant and versatile; or the more premium Antiques, with their complexity and sophistication, Jan’s wines are a Sherry-lovers’ dream. We’re extremely proud to have worked with Fernando de Castilla for the last 15 years and are delighted that sales continue to go from strength to strength.
Sherry isn’t for everyone, there’s no denying that, but head down to the local deli counter for the Jamón and Manchego, chill down a bottle of Fernando de Castilla’s Fino (preferably on the terrace, with a sea view, in the Andalusian sun, but we’re not being picky!) and you’ll struggle to fend off her inarguable charm. I know I did.