Spain, Andalusia, Various Sherries

May 1, 2006
2006 / May 2006

Many winemaking countries produce a sherry. But only Spain makes Sherry — with a capital S. It was in Andalusia, in the southern corner of Spain, that Sherry was born, evolving over centuries to become, by the early 1800s, the fortified wine we know today. And although its type is copied throughout the world, its inimitable character is found only in the original.

Sherry is made from three grapes — palomino, pedro ximénez and moscatel — in styles that range from crisp and dry to honeyed sweetness and in shades, from pale straw to dark mahogany. Unlike table wine, Sherry is fortified with alcohol after fermentation. And unlike table wines, Sherry does not carry a vintage date. Why? Because over a period of years, in a system called solera, a young Sherry is blended with a number of older Sherries while it slowly matures.

Although Sherry is made in dozens of variations, most fall within two basic styles — fino and oloroso.

Within the fino style, manzanilla is tangy and crisp, the driest, palest and most delicate of all Sherries. Fino, which is both the name of the style and the name of the classic within that style, is racy, refreshing and dry, although less austere than manzanilla. Amontillado is a longer-aged fino, deep amber, dry to medium dry, fuller, more complex and lightly nutty.

Sherries of the oloroso style tend to be fuller-bodied, darker and mellow with a pronounced nutty fragrance.

Palo cortado is a rich, textured wine that falls between amontillado and olosoro — elegant, mahogany-shaded with an aroma of hazelnuts.

Dessert and cream Sherries are dark, rich and lusciously sweet.

Which producer makes what style? Virtually every producer offers Sherry in every variation. In other words, all of them make everything. So choose from Pedro Domecq, Delgado Zuleto, Gonzalez Byass, Williams & Humbert, Emilio Lustau and Sanchez Romate, all prestigious, established brands.

Store Sherry in a cool, dim place. Chill dry Sherry. Enjoy oloroso and dessert Sherry at room temperature although, on a hot day, dessert Sherry takes well to an ice cube or two. Any way, any time, there is a Sherry to match the moment.

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