Hailing from the triangular area of the province of Cádiz between Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María in the Andalusia region of southern Spain, sherry is a unique wine in many ways. For one, it’s fortified, or infused with a spirit. Secondly, its typically a non-vintage! Sherry is aged via the solera method, a complex approach to blending wines of different ages. As a result, every bottle of sherry contains a mix of old and younger wines.
Sherry is made in a wide array of styles – Fino, Oloroso, Manzanilla, Palo Cortado and Amontillado.
Sherry is initially classified as one of two wines: Fino or Oloroso. A Fino is intended to be a light, crisp, delicate wine even at its usual alcohol level of 15% or more. Yet the great Finos are delicate. They are aged in barrel underneath a yeast film called flor (or “flower,” though it looks more like pond scum), and the flor protects the wine from oxygen, adding flavors and aromas as well.
Oloroso is aged in the absence of flor, in an oxidative way and starts from a selection of heavier, fuller-more structured than a Fino or Manzanilla. Full-bodied Oloroso can be sweet or dry, depending on which grapes are used.
Manzanilla is ultimately the same as Fino sherry but produced and matured around the city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and the only place where it can be produced.
Amontillado is a delicious example of what can happen to Fino sherry when it is permitted to evolve for a few more years. Amontillado is a Fino or Manzanilla that can be found in all three Sherry towns: Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María.
Palo cortado is the rarest type of sherry, however, it is gaining popularity amongst wine enthusiast. Palo cortado is made differently from Oloroso, though its flavor is often similar – it should have the aromatic refinement of Amontillado combined with the structure and body of an Oloroso.
Pairing Sherry with your favorite meals!
Manzanilla and Fino resemble white wines and are refreshing served slightly chilled as a Summer wine, especially if paired with nuts, cheeses, charcuterie like Jamón ibérico, and even with seafood!
Amontillado is oxidized and has a nutty, caramel-like flavor that some compare to lighter red wines. The more oxidized varieties – Amontillado and Oloroso – are suitable for heartier fare like pork or chicken dishes. For more adventurous palates, Amontillado goes beautifully with Cantonese food and cooked Japanese dishes.
Finally, cream sherries are sweet, and they are not creamy! With Pedro Ximenez (PX) or Moscatel blended grapes, cream sherries can be viscous, molasses-dark and sweet. This sherry is best for dessert!