What springs to mind when Sherry is mentioned, my guess is memories of that bottle that sits in the sideboard for years only brought out a Christmas when your grandmother fancies a little tipple, served in those awfully old fashioned shaped glasses.
Today, it seems everyone is talking about sherry and its many different styles even attracting a younger consumer, suddenly sherry has become cool and trendy.
Below is a quick basic summary of the popular styles how I understand them with a basic introduction to what Flor is …..
Flor is a film of yeast on the surface of wine, important in the manufacture of some styles of sherry. During the fermentation phase of sherry production, the flor yeast works anaerobically, converting sugar into ethanol. It is also essential to keep young wines away from exposure to air by sealing (covering ) the surface of the wine in airtight barrels, to avoid contamination that tend to spoil it.
Fino – Clear, bone dry with aromas of bready dough and almonds, aged in barrels with a covering of yeast on the surface which is referred to as Flor to prevent oxidation. Best drunk young. Typically around 15 -17% abv
Manzanilla – the driest sherry and clear, very similar to Fino (still with layer of Flor) with perhaps a sharper taste and slightly salty. Typically around 15 – 17% abv
Amontillado – Aged under Flor initially then fortified again with alcohol again this time at a higher level (16 -18% abv) which breaks up the Flor allowing for oxidation, creating a darker colour wine with a more pronounced nuttier caramel like flavour although still on the dry side.
Palo Cortado – One of the rarer sherries, starting out as a Fino under a layer of Flor, when the Flor dies off naturally it starts to resemble an Amontillado style then for some unknown reason begins to develop a richer more complex flavour like that of the next darker style, Oloroso. 16-18% abv
Oloroso – No Flor here, still quite dry, darker browny amber gold colour with more pronounced flavours, still nutty with prunes, raisins and butterscotch. 16-18% abv
Pedro Ximénez (PX) / Moscatel – Extremely sweet style, made with PX grapes that have been dried out in the sun to increase sugar levels. Usually dark brown in colour thick and syrupy and very sweet with flavours of figs, raisins, toffee, chocolate and liquorice. Moscatel is similar, both styles labelled under their grape variety. Normally around 17-17.5% abv.
A chilled glass of dry sherry on a hot summers day is something everybody should try. Beautifully fresh and smelling of the salty sea, try drinking it with a selection of almonds and olives and as in this Palo Cortado it transforms even the dreariest of days into a sun drenched utopia.
Lustau – Almacenista Palo Cortado
Firstly all dry sherries should be served well chilled (very important)
The first thing that struck me about this sherry is the uniquely different smell that you get when you stick your nose in the glass, straight away there are aromas of dried apricots, dates, caramelised roasted nuts, caramel, beeswax and lastly that smell of freshly polished cedar wood.
On first sip it almost seems sweet but that is quickly followed by a dryness with a salty tang along with dried herbs, hazelnuts, creme caramel and freshly roasted coffee. It finishes with a nice mineral tang again with that saltiness.
Be careful though as the alcohol creeps up on you very quickly with its 21% abv.
For me this was a stunning example of how good dry sherry can be but don’t take my word for it seek out some of the drier styles, the Fino’s, Manzanilla’s and even the Amontillado’s and of course Palo Cortado.