Sherry Wine Part III
Sherry Types and Styles
Fino is the lightest and brightest of the entire range of Sherry wines available. Completely dry, fortification packs a punch at about 15% abv. Typically aged biologically under flor for its entire maturation cycle in Solera, Fino gains most of its flavor from the acetaldehyde which is a byproduct of the aging process. As the wine ages and reduces the abv can increase up to 18%. Dry with high acidity and a bright lemon or straw yellow color, the aromas and flavors or usually bitter almond, salty tang, and bread dough. A fantastic aperitif, Fino shines with traditional Spanish tapas. Manzanilla Fina is the equivalent Sherry wine while being made aged in Sanlucar de Barrameda.
When a Sherry wine does not develop flor it is entirely exposed to oxygen which slowly breaks down the wine over time in color, aroma and flavor. This second path at the first classification defines the Sherry wine as an Oloroso. Tangy, a touch sweet, spicy and savory all at the same time, Oloroso are fortified to a higher degree of abv at a minimum of 17% to eliminate any possibly of flor developing after the classification has already been made. Over time as it ages in the Solera Oloroso will concentrate in flavor and increase in abv up to 22% as the wine evaporates from the angel’s share. Orange peel, walnuts, salt, and caramel are common aroma and flavor attributes. Served as an aperitif or a finisher to a meal, Oloroso excels in flavor concentration and complexity on its own or with hard Spanish cheeses and salty tapas. It can pair with dessert as well but must be carefully paired to a less sweet food than the wine. Manzanilla Olorosa is the equivalent Sherry wine from Sanlucar de Barrameda.
Amontillado Sherry starts out as a Fino but at the discretion of the winemaker or for reasons not befitting the wine to be a Fino, it is classified a second time as an Amontillado-Fino before the wine is put into Solera as the wine has a deep enough character to be fully exposed to oxygen in Solera. Therefore we have a Sherry that has attributes of both biological and oxidative maturation. Amontillado is less common than Fino and is more expensive to produce because of the laborious process. The wine also is higher in abv at 16-22%. Manzanilla Pasada is the equivalent to this wine but only from Sanlucar de Barrameda.
The rarest of all the Generoso Sherry, Palo Cortado is similar to Amontillado as it starts out as a Fino and is deemed to be a fine and deeply complex Fino that can withstand further oxidative aging. The character is more complex and contrasting between the biological and oxidative impacts to the wine’s style, showing heightened character differences in one wine of both Fino and Oloroso character.
Sweet Sherry – “Vinos Dulces Naturales”
Most people in the USA associate Sherry with sweetness, mainly because that is what was most common here for many years. It is entirely wrong and that image is starting to change. However, there are a few kinds of sweet Sherry of premium quality and they are mostly made from PX or Muscat. These sweet Sherry are made from grapes dried on straw mats in the hot climate of Andalucía to dry the grapes which concentrates the sugars.
Vinos Generosos de Liqor
These are Sherry wines that blend dulces naturales and Vinos Generoso Sherry such as Fino, Oloroso and Amontillado. Pale Cream is a base of Fino, Cream is a base of Oloroso and Medium is a base of Amontillado.
The best way to get a better understanding of the different styles of Sherry is to taste them in flights or at a large tasting like Sherryfest. A great place to start is at an authentic Spanish restaurant that has a serious wine program as they will have a few Sherry and offer them by the glass and even in flights. Order up some salty and savory tapas or pintos and you are all set to immerse yourself in one of the better harmonious food and wine pairings that exists.