Authentic Sherry is a product of Spain, with grapes grown in a specific area of the country, the Jerez triangle (pronounced ‘he RAZE’ but in the U.S. we usually say ‘he RETH’). Jerez de la Frontera is a municipality in the province of Cádiz province, in the Andalucia region. Jerez is all about Sherry wine, Adalusian horses and…flamenco dancing.
There are three types of Sherries, all three dry (little to no sweetness – but all can be sweetened by the juice of currents and other grapes or naturally sweet Sherries (but the Andalusian government has new restrictions on sweeting the product they are so proud of – details below). All three have been through the complete fermentation process”
Fino (aperitif – before dinner): These are light-bodied and very dry (little to no sweetness). Finos are generally pale, rather straw-colored, must be consumed young – about a year after bottling, and soon after the bottle is opened.Finos are not vintage wines, but you’ll find the bottling date on the label. The date is often difficult to figure out. Ask a wine professional in your retail store if the date isn’t clear. Alcohol level of 15.5% to 1%. Sweet Finos are generally Pale Cream Sherries. Serve slightly chilled.
Amontillado: Light, smoother than Fino, dry with a slight hazelnut nose, amber in color and 16.5% to 22% alcohol. Amontillado can be kept in a cool, dry spot for a couple of years before consuming. Once opened, stash it in the fridge, corked, for up to two weeks. Amontillados can no longer be sweetened and retain their Amontillado designation.
Oloroso: Full-bodied and dry, smoother than Amontillado, with rich color ranging from amber to mahogany, with a nutty fragrance . ‘Oloroso’ means “scented,” so expect a lovely bouquet. Alcohol content is 17% to 22%. Serve at 53 – 57℉. Any Sherry labeled “Rich Oloroso” or “Sweet Oloroso” are banned by the Andulusian government. Olorosos can legally be blended with sweeter Sherries and labeled “Cream Sherry of Oloroso.” The “Medium Sherry” label is acceptable and is generally 15% to 22%.
Manzanilla: Manzanilla Sherries can only be produced in the town of Manzanilla, Spain. They are very dry and if aged long enough, can take on the qualities of an Olorosa. Alcohol is 15% to 22%.(The transformation of a Fino to an Amontillado is a story for another time).
Sweet Sherries (serve slightly chilled):
Pale Cream: Slightly sweet, pale color, 15.5% to 22% alcohol
Cream: Sweeter than Pale Cream, dark with fragrant bouquet, 15.5% to 22% alcohol.
Pedro Ximenez: Sweet, made from the Pedro Ximenez grape, raisiny in the best possible sense.
Moscatel: Made from the Moscatel grape, a sweet raisiny essence, dark and rich in color.
The above are not the complete list of Sherries, but are the most common.
Storage: Uncorked, Sherries can be stored for years in a cool, dark spot. Once opened, aged Olorosos might be drinkable for a year. Younger Oloroso, once opened might last one or two months in the fridge.
Glassware: The glass above is a tulip shape, which will direct the fragrance right to your welcoming nose. It’s not the traditional Sherry glass that you will find in Andalusia, but it or a traditional white wine glass is the perfect glass for Sherry – about 8 oz, and fill it no more than one-third full.
Serve With: Finos and Manzanillas are excellent food wines – if you like Sherry. Try them with good olives, cheeses, fresh pasta salads dressed with wine vinegar and olive oil. Heartier cheeses, egg dishes, and cream soups pair well with Amontillado. Olorosos are served like a red wine, good with beef, aged cheeses or serve as dessert, drizzled over ice cream…get to know the wine and let your imagination soar.