What is sherry?
Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the town of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, Spain. Sherry is produced in a variety of styles made primarily from the Palomino grape, ranging from light versions similar to white table wines, such as Manzanilla and Fino, to darker and heavier versions that have been allowed to oxidise as they age in barrel, such as Amontillado and Oloroso. Sweet dessert wines are also made from Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel grapes, and are sometimes blended with Palomino-based Sherries.
Styles of Sherry
Manzanilla & Fino – The Soprano & Mezzo-Soprano
These two styles are very similar, to be honest. Both incredibly pale, crisp, bone dry and tangy with a salted almond flavour. Unlike Fino which is produced around the town of Jerez de la Frontera however, Manzanilla is produced around the port of Sanlúcar. Here, the saltier air and soils add a more saline tang and as the humidity is higher, more flor grows on the wine which in turn means more Oxygen protection and therefore makes them a touch lighter and fresher than Finos. Manzanilla is the Soprano to Fino’s Mezzo Soprano. These are usually fortified to around 15%.
Amontillado – The Tenor
This is the Tenor of sherry styles. Amontillado is essentially a Fino where the flor has partly died back so more air gets in, allowing it to develop a whole new complexity while staying dry. Aged longer than a Fino and with oxygen, the resulting wines are darker than Fino,amber in colour, nutty and complex.
Oloroso – The Baritone
Oloroso is the result of flor either not developing at all or that has completely died back. As these wines are aged oxidatively from the start, they are darker and richer with dried fig, cocoa and nut flavours. This is the Baritone of Sherry styles! Oloroso sherries are fortified more heavily too.
Palo Cortado – Contralto or Counter Tenor
This rare style of Sherry falls somewhere in between Amontillado and Oloroso in terms of style. It starts off as Fino or Amontillado, but the flor dies off part way and this leaves a wine that has the fresher aroma of an Amontillado, but the oxidative, dark complexity of Oloroso on the palate. Think lowest female voice or highest male voice in the choir: the Contralto or Counter Tenor.
PX – The Bass
The grape used to make PX is not Palomino Fino as it is for all the above styles, but Pedro Ximénez, hence PX. This is a sweet, super thick style that resembles molasses and it’s made from sun dried grapes – raisins essentially! Some natural sweetness remains as is there as additional grape spirits stops the fermentation process in its tracks. As it ages, the blacker it becomes and it develops aromas like coffee, dried fruit, chocolate and Christmas pudding. This is definitely and after–dinner wine. It’s also amazing served over vanilla ice cream.