Specific to the Spanish region of Andalusia, sherry is a sweet wine which has been produced by small and largely family-operated vineyards in Spain since the eleventh century.
Loved by wine writers, sommeliers and the elderly alike, sherry is a misunderstood and underrated fortified wine.
It is traditionally served as a before dinner aperitif and depending on the blend of grapes used, can range from very dry, to viscose and sweet.
Rather like Port, sherry is only produced and grown in a single small region of Europe and is made with predominantly Palomino grapes.
Unlike Port however, sherry is a little more versatile and easy-going in regards to its vintage, the varying ages of grapes that are used in each bottle, and the different ways that the grapes are aged which are used to create sherry’s wide ranging styles and tastes.
Sherry throughout History
The earliest whisper of fortified wines known in History can be found as early as 1100 BC, where it was introduced to Spain by the Phoenicians, however, there are records of fortified wine styles like sherry in other areas of the ancient world, such as throughout the Roman empire and even in ancient Iran.
Popularized throughout England by Francis Drake after his destruction of a famous Spanish seaport in 1587, sherry was discovered amongst other goods due to be exported before the attack.
One of sherry’s attributes was its durability as it travelled, and rather like Port, it fairs well when packed into the cargo hold of ships used for export.
Because of this durability, sherry was upheld as a good quality export and did well throughout Europe throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century.
However, as sweet dessert and fortified wines began to fall out of fashion during the mid-twentieth century, sherry was still popular throughout Andalusia and surrounding Spanish wine regions.
Fino is the driest and lightest style of sherry and is arguably the most popular variety enjoyed throughout Europe today.
Fino uses Palomino grapes, which are fermented and matured in tanks that are allowed to grow a cap of flor yeast across the top.
This is the natural way that the sherry can protect itself from oxidising and turning a darker colour.
The drier the sherry, the higher the alcohol content so expect a good Fino to weigh in at around 15-17% ABV.
Manzanilla Fino is specific sherry varietal which gets its name from its likeness to chamomile tea. These lighter styles of sherries are best served with semi sweet biscuits or fresh green olives.
Manzanilla Fino is largely dry and crisp, with hints of cider apples, zesty citrus notes and a definite saline saltiness, creating a very distinctive flavour.
Find your favorite Sherry
Barbadillo – Cream Sherry 6x 75cl Bottles€65.66 Find merchant
Harveys – Pedro Ximenez VORS 50cl Bottle€32.98 Find merchant
Gonzalez Byass – Superior Range Nectar Pedro Ximenez 75cl Bottle€15.24 Find merchant
Gonzalez Byass – Elegante Fino 75cl Bottle€11.22 Find merchant
Gonzalez Byass – Superior Range Alfonso Oloroso Seco 75cl Bottle€15.68 Find merchant
Gonzalez Byass – Leonor Palo Cortado 75cl Bottle€15.64 Find merchant
Harveys – Palo Cortado VORS 50cl Bottle€30.34 Find merchant
Gonzalez Byass – Rare Old Soleras Noe 37.5cl Bottle€26.38 Find merchant
Barbadillo – Palo Cortado Obispo Gascon 6x 75cl Bottles€185.82 Find merchant
Amontillado sherry is a slightly darker varietal, and it’s the most common type of sherry that we see collecting dust in granny’s drinks cabinet.
Its fermentation style is slightly oxidised owing to the flor yeast cap that limits the sherry’s exposure to the air when being produced.
Because of the only slight oxidation, Amontillado is slightly sweeter than Fino sherry, and its alcohol content slightly lower at around 13% as it is aged for slightly longer.
Tasting notes include a fruity and nutty flavour, commonly tasting of apricots and peachy stone fruit which make Amontillado perfect to enjoy with fruit tartans and other baked desserts.
The darkest varietal in the sherry family is the sweet and viscose Oloroso. Aged for the longest period and exposed to full oxidation, Oloroso is the lowest in alcohol and bears a very sweet and very rich flavour.
It is because of this robust taste that Oloroso sherry works well in baked desserts and sponges.
Serve in small amounts with bitter, chocolate desserts and flourless sponges which works well with Oloroso’s darkly nutty and rich flavour: think maraschino cherries, plums and overripe autumn berries.
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