This summer, M had developed a new wine obsession for sherry. At first, I was not at all in on it. My memories on sherry are sweet and boozy, so it took some time before I got into the whole thing. However, when you are in it, sherry is a fantastic obsession to have. It has wonderful fresh and oxidized flavors, and its relatively inexpensive. If you love Jura whites or port wine, you will love sherry. So, here is a bit of basics to get you started.
Sherry is a fortified wine. It comes from Andalucía, Spain, from the town of Jerez and its surroundings, where ships used to take off on long journeys on the Atlantic. Sherry was born as sailors fortified their wines (added a neutral grape spirit), to endure and long and hot trip.
In Jerez the soil is white and chalky, the sun is warm and the winds are ideal for growing grapes. Three main grape varieties can be used for sherry: Palomino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez. Palomino is a high yielding variety which is good at expressing the coastal minerality of the soil. Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez are used to produce sweet sherries with the same name.
Our obsession is mainly on the dry sherries, so a bit of a deeper look at them. There are two types: biologically aged sherry, which matures under a layer of flor (closed from oxygen), and oxidatively aged sherry which is aged without the flor, interacting with oxygen. Biologically aged sherries are called Fino and Manzanilla, and the oxidatively aged sherry is called Oloroso.
There are also two mixed types of dry sherry, where the wine loses its flor during the maturing, letting oxygen in and changing the process. These sherries are called Amontillado and Palo Cortado. Sweet cream cherries are made by adding sugar to sherries after maturation. This is the type of sherry I remember from my past – Bristol Cream – I don’t need to go back there.
Sherry is aged in oak casks and are made as soleras. A solera means that old barrels of wine in a sherry bodega are refreshed with young wine each year, and then the oldest blended barrel is bottled. The oldest wine in a solera can be up to 100 years old. I’m not kidding. That’s one of the reasons sherry has such complex and refined flavors.
Sherry can be served in regular wine glasses, but generally in smaller quantities as it is a bit stronger than a regular wine (15-20% ABV). Fino and Manzanilla are like regular wines, a bottle will last in the fridge a few days after opening. Other types of sherry that have undergone some oxidation in the production process are more stable and can be kept longer, even in an open bottle. Sherries pair well with desserts and cheese, and they are pretty awesome just on their own as well. I especially love the nutty and toffee flavors of Amontillados.
Sherries are wonderful as aperitifs as well as dessert wines. You can find them on the wine lists of many wine focused restaurants. One great place in London for example is our favorite tapas bar Jose on Bermondsey Street. Good and interesting Sherries are not that easy to find in shops, however online there is a fantastic selection. I found this article and link to Sherry Notes-blog that I recommend checking out if you are interested in buying some bottles. The article is a bit old, but I think the list holds.
That was my quick introduction into sherry. The next step is to start tasting. Its sherry o’clock…