While Sherry is grown in a relatively small area of Spain, the chalky, limey soil coupled with the unique methods of production produce a surprising variety of Sherries.
Types of Sherry
Winemag.com does a beautiful job of describing each type of Sherry and recommending great food pairings. So I will quote them for much of the rest of this article.
Fino — “The driest, most saline style of Sherry, it’s generally made from high-acid Palomino grapes… Finos are tank-fermented white wines that spend their entire fortified existence under a blanket of yeast called flor, which protects the product from oxidation. Finos usually contain 15–16% alcohol, are best served well chilled, and are dynamite when paired with salty snacks like peanuts, potato chips, cured olives and fried seafood.”
Amontillado — You might know the name from Edgar Allen Poe’s macabre tale of murder called “The Cask of Amontillado.” Once again, according to Winemag.com, “There’s no guarantee that a flor blanket will hold, and in cases where it doesn’t, amontillado is the result. Amontillados take on a brown hue, due to extended contact with air inside the solera barrels. And rather than the crisp, saline flavors of finos and manzanillas, amontillados deliver oxidized notes of nuttiness, sautéed mushrooms and a richness best described as umami. Usually about 18% abv [alcohol by volume], perfect pairings include medium-bodied soups or flavorfully sauced white meats like pork, pheasant or rabbit.”
Oloroso — “Whereas amontillado is a Sherry in which the flor breaks up naturally, an oloroso sees the cellar master intentionally destroy the flor to promote oxidation. Olorosos can be sweet or dry in style, depending on whether the wine includes Moscatel (sweet), or is made strictly from Palomino grapes (dry)… Olorosos can withstand decades in barrel, which creates extra richness and complexity.”
Manzanilla — Especially light. “This flinty style is, in essence, fino made in the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Manzanillas, like finos, incorporate the same winemaking and aging-under-flor techniques, which preserve freshness and promote salinity. Because manzanillas are the lightest of Sherries, they pair exceptionally well with raw seafood.”
Palo Cortado — “The wildcard of Sherry, palo cortado begins its existence under flor, then loses that cover while tracking toward amontillado. Along the way, however, something mysterious happens, and the wine grows richer and more regal, like oloroso. The name, palo cortado, is derived from a cross traditionally drawn on the barrel’s exterior to note that it’s doing its own thing and isn’t amontillado or oloroso, per sé. Palo cortado is an elegant style of Sherry best enjoyed on its own.”
For the final three Sherries, I’m switching my source to Costa de la Luz.
Cream — “This type of sherry is more popular outside Spain. Cream sherry is produced by sweetening oloroso, traditionally with Pedro Ximenez. Pale cream is a sweetened Fino.”
Pedro Ximenez — “A rich, naturally sweet wine from grapes ripened in the sun for longer. Traditionally used to sweeten other sherries. Expensive to produce.”
Brandy de Jerez — “90% of Spanish brandy is produced in Jerez. The wine spirit is matured in old sherry casks. It is sweeter than French brandy and may be classified as solera, gran solera and solera reservada.”
Next time: Sherry’s popularity or lack thereof.