Not so long ago, Sherry was usually seen as a sweet tipple that granny had at Christmas and the same bottle was resurrected year on year from the back of the cupboard for the odd glass or two. But recently things are a changing, we have been pleased to see how many people are visiting The Wine Buff shops for Sherry and how knowledgeable they are about the different styles. It really is time more people knew just how good Sherry is. And bear in mind, contrary to popular belief, Sherry, once opened does not keep forever.
Some Sherry Facts
Sherry (from the Moorish Sherish, name that later evolved into the current Xerez or Jerez) is a lightly fortified dry white wine produced in and around the town of Jerez de la Frontera, in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, known as the Sherry Triangle.
Only three types of grapes are used in its elaboration: the indigenous Palomino grape and the very sweet varieties of Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel.
All sherries are aged in American oak casks.
Types of Sherry
Sherry can be categorised into two main groups, depending on whether they have been aged under Flor or not
The Flor is a yeast-like layer that grows inside the cask, on top of the Sherry, protecting the wine from oxidation. That is why wines ageing under Flor are dry and clear, whilst wines ageing without Flor develop darker colours and flavours caused by the oxidation that happens when the wine is in direct contact with the air.
So which Sherry to drink? If you like a drier, light style try a Fino Sherry, this is the driest and the palest of the Sherry wines. Straw-coloured, soft, intense and very light. It is best served chilled. There is also Manzanilla which is essentially a Fino Sherry aged on the coast in the town of Sanlucar de Barrameda (not far from Jerez where all other Sherry is made). Manzanilla develops a slightly salty, taste along with the usual Fino Sherry notes – this makes it a great aperitif, try both these Sherries with salted almonds, olives and Manchego cheese or, in fact, any sort of Tapas.
Amontillado Sherry (normally medium dry) this wine goes through an initial ageing phase under Flor, followed by another phase of oxidative ageing, with no Flor and in direct contact with the air. The result is an amber-coloured wine, darker than Fino and with delicate hazelnut and herbs aromas. Great with smoked salmon.
Oloroso is a much more aromatic style of Sherry, made from Palomino grapes and aged without Flor, this wine is oxidised from the start. It has a darker colour and a nutty bouquet that reminds of walnuts, toasted aromas and balsamic notes. and has characteristics of oak, walnuts and dried fruits on the palate. Goes well with hard cheese, game dishes, pork and Chorizo.
If you like a sweeter style wine, try a Cream (sweet), this is obtained by blending different wines aged by oxidative process (no Flor). Usually a base of Oloroso is blended with a naturally sweet wine. The colour varies from chestnut brown to dark mahogany and its appearance is way syrupier, like a dense ‘cream’, hence its name.
Pedro Ximenez also known as (PX) is a grape variety that is used to make very sweet Sherry. The grapes are dried under the sun until turning into raisins which increases their sugar levels. Pour it over vanilla ice cream or if you are a cheese lover try with a chunk of Cashel Blue.
Perhaps the sweetest of the sherries, Moscatel undergoes a similar process to Pedro Ximenez. Aged for up to 15 years it produces a mahogany colour, with flavours of dried fruit and raisins and unique aromas of jasmine, orange blossom and honey. Great with sweet desserts