Sherry or Jerez refers to the fortified wine produced from authorised grape types and vineyards in the area between Jerez de la Frontera and Lebrija inland and Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa Maria on the coast of Andalusia, Southern Spain. Production is regulated by the governing body of the “Denominación de Origen Jerez”
Fortified means that a little extra added spirit -alcohol also obtained from wine- is used to produce sherry.
Sherry styles as we know them originate towards the end of the 18th century. Prior to that Andalusian wines in this area were fortified as a preservation method for export shipping. Wine production and commerce were introduced in the area by the Phoenicians one thousand years B.C.
Sherry styles from lighter to darker
Fino and Manzanilla
Palomino Fino local white grapes are vinified into a base white wine that is then put in oak butts with a little added extra wine alcohol. Butts or criaderas are not totally full and the wine surface develops a kind of yeast layer that over the years transforms the base wine into a crisp, fresh, dry, yeasty, nutty and tangy Jerez. The longer it is aged, the more complex, less fruity it becomes. The difference between Fino and Manzanilla is that Fino is made around Jerez de la Frontera and Manzanilla is made in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, close to the seaside where the soil is more mineral, salty. Manzanilla is the Spanish word for chamomile because of its aroma reminiscence together with notes of almonds and dough. Usually drunk chilled, Fino and Manzanilla are great with olives, ham, salt marinated fish dishes and tapas in general.
It is made from a Fino or Manzanilla sherry that is later aged in oak butts for years without any yeast layer. Amontillado has an amber colour and features aromas of hazelnut, aromatic herbs, spices, dark tobacco and wood. It is pungent, complex, spicy, and elegant. There are different opinions as to its ideal consumption temperature. Not as common as Fino or Manzanilla but it can also be drunk with food.
A rare type of sherry that results from a Fino or Manzanilla that naturally starts a spontaneous oxidative ageing process. The result is similar to Amontillado. Not all sherry wineries produce Palo Cortado.
Palomino Fino base white wine is directly aged in oak criaderas for years without any prior yeast ageing process. Oloroso is velvety, concentrated, complex, warm, spicy, woody, elegant, with notes of toast, walnuts, noble wood, golden tobacco, autumn leaves, spices, truffle and leather. It is normally drunk on its own at room temperature, like brandy.
PX or Pedro Ximenez
It takes its name from the type of white grapes it is made from. Grapes are first dried, traditionally in the open air, under the sun. Once turned into raisins they are crushed and vinified into a dense, sweet wine that is then aged in oak butts for years. The result is a velvety, very sweet, unctuous, complex, warm sherry with notes of toast, raisins, dry figs, dates, honey, must syrup and fruit compote. It is drunk on its own, ideal with desserts and often used in cooking to prepare sauces.
Cream is not really a sherry style but a blend of a dry sherry, usually Amontillado but may be Oloroso too, with PX. It is an easy drinking wine.