February 8, 2016
Wine of the Week - Sherry
Jerez, in Spanish, is a small wine-producing region in the south of Spain. Located in Andalucía, home of flamenco and tapas, Jerez is a small coastal wine region famous for its namesake fortified wine, Sherry.
There are seven styles of Sherry, all of which fall into one of two major types: fino, and oloroso. Fino Sherry has four sub-styles: Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, and Palo Cortado. Oloroso has three: Oloroso, Cream, and Pedro Ximénez (PX). Each style is unique, with its own hallmarks, flavors, and food pairings.
Fino: the driest Sherry, usually made from high-acid Palomino grapes. These are best served very chilled, and won’t last very long once opened (a good occasion to consider using your Coravin). Drink young!
Manzanilla: this style is basically Fino made only in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Manzanilla incorporate the same winemaking and aging-under-flor techniques, to preserve freshness and salinity. They pair best with raw seafood as they are the lightest style of Sherry. Just like Finos, Manzanillas will lose their appearl if kept in an opened bottle for too long.
Amontillado: an aged fino that has lost its flor in the cask aging process. Its deeper amber color and richer and nuttier flavors (rather than the crisp and saline flavors of previous styles) distinguish it from the Fino and Manzanilla styles. Serve slightly cool and finish the bottle within a week.
Palo Cortado: this Sherry, rarest of all styles, starts out as a fino with a flor, to then develop as an amontillado, losing its flor. It eventually grows similar to a richer, more regal and fragrant Oloroso style, with the elegance of an Amontillado. Enjoy it on its own, at room temperature.
Oloroso: this one is dry, but full-bodied and complex with rich aromas and a deep color (dark gold/brown). While the flor breaks up naturally in the Amontillado winemaking process, with the Oloroso, the cellar master intentionally destroys it in order to promote oxidation. Olorosos are either sweet or dry: when the wine includes Moscatel, it takes on extra sweetness, whereas it will be dry if made strictly from Palomino grapes. Serve at room temperature.
Cream: Cream Sherries are rich sweetened Olorosos. They are generally made with sweet grapes blended in – such as PX or Moscatel. Depending on the quality, this style can improve in the bottle with age.
PX: and last but not least… Pedro Ximénez are dark brown, very sweet, syrupy dessert Sherries, with lower alcohol levels. These complex wines are made from sun-dried grapes to concentrate sugars and flavors, giving them their unctuous viscosity.
Seafood. Tapas. Jamón. Cheese. All things Spain does incredibly well. Depending on the style of Sherry you’re drinking, you’ll want to pair it with a different food. Karen MacNeil, in The Wine Bible said this, of the perfect sherry-pairing: “In Jerez, there is no more traditional pairing than a glass of bone-dry fino along with a small plate of thinly sliced serrano ham…It’s an unbeatable match. Until you consider gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) and a glass of Manzanilla, which together just might constitute the single most satisfying appetizer/aperitif combination in the world.”
Shrimp and other Spanish-style seafood seems to be the go-to pairing for Sherry, although it also seems that you cannot go wrong with sherry ever – it’s a truly underrated wine that deserves to be brought back into the spotlight!
Fun Facts and tips
A few fun facts about Sherry and tips to keep in mind:
- Manzanilla: be careful about ordering Manzanilla while in Spain. In most parts of Spain, Manzanilla will get you a cup of tea, as that word also means Chamomile. Only in Andalucia, especially Jerez de la Frontera, will ordering “Manzanilla” produce a glass of Sherry. Make sure you ask for a “copa de manzanilla” or “manzanilla de Sanlúcar” to get the good stuff.
- Cooking Sherry: this is a different type of sherry altogether – usually not very high quality, you can find this in any grocery store. Don’t confuse this with true Jerez – there is barely a resemblance between the two. Try cooking with actual Sherry instead.
- Look for Fino and Manzanilla at alcoholic levels as low as possible. Spaniards themselves drink them at 15%.
- Remember: authentic Sherry is made only in the Jerez region of Spain (similarly to Champagne in the French region) and carries the official name, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry on the label.