If we look back a decade, Sherry was totally ranked as an afterthought or strictly a dessert wine, nowadays, it has a slot on wine lists. This is wine a lot of people are yet to discover. Its complexity and diversity is not reached by any other wine in the world not to forget its amazing value for money. Surprisingly Sherry hails from Spain’s oldest wine-producing region in the South-West corner, the triangular Cádiz region. The Cádiz region splits into (3) Districts; Jerez de la Frontera to El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlúcar di Barrameda. At Serrano Manchego Tapas Bar we serve Sherry from the oldest family-owned winery in the Jerez and Sanlúcar di Barrameda districts. The Delgado Zuleta have produced sherry for more than two and a half centuries since 1744. Just like white, red or rose wine Sherry comes in many different styles, it’s difficult to generalize. The only thing all Sherries have in common is the location that they are produced in. Jerez de la Frontera is known for its great tapas scene. As to the other two districts which are a little more industrial with a Spanish seaside charm.
A start to understanding sherry more would be to pop down to Serrano Manchego where you can ask for a glass of different styles we stock, by so doing you should expect: Fino and Manzanilla are white sherries, they are what you would get if you just ask for a sherry as they are the least challenging in flavor and lowest ABV at only 15%. The typical flavors and aromas you can expect from them are apple, camomile, lemon and fresh bread. The base wines are aged in old wooden barrels that are only part full, this allows growth of the flor (Spanish for ‘flower’) on top of the wine which protects the wine from oxidation, and also adds a subtle yeasty flavor giving it its distinctive flavor. The flor is a natural and unique process in Cádiz. If the flor does not appear naturally, the Sherry becomes either Amontillado, Oloroso or Palo Cortado (producers would then chalk mark barrels to differentiate each sherry from others) we will touch up on shortly. The only difference is that Manzanillas have more of a salty, yeasty palate. Whilst they are made the same way, they can only be called Manzanilla if they are made in Sanlúcar; Fino is more neutral. Both recommended with seafood, nuts and olives. Best served chilled also this way they last longer. Amontillado, Oloroso and Palo Cortado are all brown sherries, things start to get a little complicated; aromas multiply, flavors deepen more concentrated and we start to get what I call ‘the bomb’ (in Spanish la bomba) as things get more gripping. Amontillados and Palo Cortados are at first white Sherries, however during their maturation in barrel a splash of grape spirit is added, which kills the flor. This gradually opens the wine leading to its oxidation, which creates a more complex flavor. An Oloroso on the other hand is fortified with spirit as soon as it enters the barrel, so it never grows any flor. This makes for a fuller-bodied, very nutty wine. All brown Sherries are always dry, however you do get sweetened versions called ‘Amontillado Medium’. Slightly higher in alcohol (usually between 17% and 21%) than their white cousins. They all have drier fruits (raisins, figs, dates) spices, nuts aromas and are best served at room temperature. Amontillados are a light brown, toasty and fragrant whilst Oloroso is dark with a more luxurious feeling in the mouth. Palo Cortados are the step-brother with the best of both worlds. Amontillados and Palo Cortados would be amazing with our mushrooms ‘Setas con salsa de Gazpacho’ Oloroso is recommended with the tender ceviche like ‘Ensalada de Pulpo’ all served here at Serrano Manchego. We would also recommend one tries all with Manchego with walnuts and raisins with any of the brown Sherry.
Sweet knowledge for you; There is nothing like the sweet Pedro Ximénez which is the most diverse of the Sherry family tree, it comes from the Canary Islands, it also has little in common with the classic white and brown ones described above with higher sugar content. After harvest its grape is spread outside and is sun-dried, pressed then a very concentrated grape juice is added and fortified with grape spirit then aged for years. Pedro Ximénez (aka PX) is very sweet, orange/peach flavored wine that works well with fruity desserts. PX is a thick, heavy, black syrup that is intensely sweet, often more akin to a sauce than a drink. It tastes of liquidized dried fruits – figs, dates, prunes, sultanas and raisins, sometimes with a hint of licorice or sweet spice. It’s a good match for desserts that contain similar flavors, it can even be poured over ice cream. Pedro Ximénez, just like brown Sherries, can keep them for at least a month if refrigerated after opening without much trouble; although it is best served at room temperature. We at Serrano Manchego also put a drizzle of PX on our tasty goat’s cheese with walnuts and raisins; flavors like no other. Another way to enjoy your glass of PX would be with Manchego, Membrillo and grapes; the ultimate cheese-head dessert. In the summer try vanilla ice cream with dried fruits and PX, it’s a dessert like no other.
It is safe to say Sherry is some of the best wine in the world, Do not knock it until you try it. So let’s raise a glass or dos and toast to one of the world’s greatest wines yet to be discover by many. –Salud!