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May 31, 2020

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Pedro Ximenez with ice cream for epicurean taste of harmony

ICE cream is undoubtably one of the summer season’s most delightful pleasures. So are wines. But can they coexist? Most wines don’t pair well with ice cream, but, when done properly a delightful synergy can be achieved.

Before we endeavor to pair wine with ice cream, let’s take a look at how this sweet treat became one of our most beloved desserts.

Ancient delicacy

Flavored ice treats are indeed ancient. As far back as 2,000 BC, people in China wrapped canned sweet mixture in snow and salt to create what was most likely the first sorbet.

The word sorbet comes from the Arab word sariba, which in Arabic means to drink. By 400 BC the Arabs were using milk and ice to create a semblance of modern-day ice cream.

Another early antecedent of ice cream dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 220) when the emperors and nobility developed a fondness for rice mixed with milk and frozen in packed snow. To satiate their cravings, Han emperors would employ up to 100 men to transport ice and snow from the mountains to the palace.

We also know that Marco Polo brought sherbet recipes back to Italy from China in the 13th century and, by the early Renaissance, Italy became the epicenter of ice-cream in Europe.

By the 16th century, Italians began mixing cream and eggs and the first gelato was born. Throughout most of its history ice cream was difficult and costly to produce so it remained a special treat reserved for rulers and the elite. Then came the Industrial Revolution.

In mid-19th century America ice cream became affordable and an available treat for the masses because of a confluence of technical innovations, including mechanical refrigeration, steam power, electricity and automated packing machines.

The father of the modern ice cream industry was a Baltimore milk dealer named Jacob Fussell. To utilize a surplus of cream, he built the world’s first ice cream factory in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania, and shipped the product to nearby Baltimore. His explosive success incentivized entrepreneurs nationwide and soon ice cream became a mainstay of the American diet. Today, according to various industry reports, global ice cream sales exceed US$50 billion. Walk down the grand avenues and tree-lined streets of our fair city, and you’re sure to see an abundance of premium ice cream brands being sold and lovingly consumed.

A divine way to embellish the ice cream experience is to enjoy it with a suitable glass of wine. There are two simple rules to follow. First, follow the general wine pairing rule that says when serving wine with desserts the wine should be as sweet or preferably sweeter than the dessert. Dry acidic whites and tannic reds don’t work. Also make sure your ice cream isn’t too cold so the creamy texture and flavors’ components can be enhanced by the wine. One style of sweet wine does this better than any other.

Pedro Ximenez

In the extreme southwest region of the Iberian Peninsula lies one of the world’s great wine regions. The Jerez-Xeres-Sherry DO, Spain, is the southernmost wine region of Europe with an average of 290 days of sunshine. During the growing season, the high temperatures are mitigated by cool moist winds coming from the adjacent Atlantic Ocean. This unique climate is home to the indomitable sherry fortified wine.

Sherry is a fortified wine from Jerez, a magical city with over 3,000 years of history and traditions. The region is triangulated by the three ancient city-towns of Jerez, Sanlucar and El Puerto. From the sunbaked chalky white albariza soils of the sherry triangle come some of the world’s most compelling and distinctive wines. Many are dry or off-dry but some are sweet, including our ice-cream champion Pedro Ximenez, which just might be the sweetest wine in the world.

Pedro Ximenez is the name of the grape and wine. The wine is made from overly ripe grapes that are dried in the sun to obtain a must with an exceptionally high concentration of sugar. The wine undergoes a special sherry solera aging method using rows of barrels arranged on three or four different levels with the youngest vintages in the top barrels and the oldest in the bottom barrels. Like Oloroso Sherries, the process is oxidative. This unique method of production results in a wine of prodigious aromatic concentration and complexity. Typically, Pedro Ximenez wines feature aromas and flavors of raisins, figs and dates, honey, coffee, licorice and cocoa. Fortunately, for your palate, the intense sweetness of the wine is balanced by good natural acidity and this is a key factor in making Pedro Ximenez wines remarkably food-friendly. This deliciously extends to the world of ice creams.

The world’s most popular ice cream flavor is vanilla, and gourmets and wine lovers have long embraced the epicurean harmony created when vanilla ice cream meets Pedro Ximenez wine. A delightful way to embellish this sweet experience is to pour some of the Pedro Ximenez wine on top of the vanilla ice cream. This is a hedonistic pleasure for those with a sweet tooth.

I suggest serving Pedro Ximenez wines about 10 degrees Celsius in a Sauvignon Blanc white wine glass. Excellent Pedro Ximenez sherries available in Shanghai are made by the Bodegas Gonzalez Byass, Lustau, Williams & Humbert, Jose Estevez, Sanchez Romate and Osborne.


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