When I ask my friends whether they’ve had the pleasure of tasting Fino sherry, the look of blankness spreads over their face. The majority of them know about sherry naturally but photos of English ladies who are of a certain age drinking the sweet drink before eating is the first thing that is in the your mind. The blank expression soon changes into curled lips.
It’s even more troubling that the majority of establishments across the U.S. (even Spanish ones) do not bother to include sherries on their wine lists. I’m hoping that this changes in the near future, because, in my opinion sherry is among the most delicious and fascinating wines available.
Sherry is only produced in Jerez located in southwest Spain located around cities like Sanlucar de Barrameda, Jerez de la Frontera and Puerto de Santa Maria. The Phoenicians founded Jerez in the year 1100 BC, Jerez is one of the most storied wine-producing regions in Spain. Jerez has endured a turbulent history of invasions and wars which was accompanied by numerous economic cycles of collapse and boom. In light of all this, it’s amazing that the intricate method of making sherry has been able to endure for so many centuries.
There are a variety of types of sherries, ranging from sweet and thick to dry and bone-dry, but these days it’s dry sherries I would like you to try. These wines, referred to as Finos (or Manzanillas, if they’re made near to the city of Sanlucar de Barrameda), are as dry as wine could get. However, they’re also incredibly rich and provide an unforgettable tasting experience.
The incredibly resilient and flexible Palomino is the wine of choice to make sherry. After the grapes have been pressed into juice, the free-run juice gets fermented like similar white wine. However, once fermentation has occurred the wine that is chosen for Fino is enhanced to an alcohol strength of 15%, which is just enough to stimulate the development of the indigenous yeast, known as the flor (at more alcohol levels, valuable flor would die).
To stimulate the flor growth, the barrels are only filled with fortified wine. The empty head space in barrels is where the oxygen is what the flor requires to develop. The yeast also feeds upon the alcohol as well as the glycerine contained in the wine and will eventually create a film of foam over the top of the bottle. It is believed that this “blanket of flor” shields it from the effects of oxidation, and assists in developing the distinctive yeasty, nutty flavour from Fino sherry.
However, that’s not all! Sherry is distinctive in that it’s blended from multiple barrels. Young wines are blended with older ones using a sophisticated method known as solera or fractional blend. Without going into too much detail I’ll just declare the the solera is the reason that lets Bodegas (wineries) to create sherries that remain uniform in their style every year.
That leads my attention to the Bodega Valdespino. The large Bodega has been producing sherries since 1264. Think about this! In 1883 Valdespino had begun to supply with the Royal Houses of Spain and Sweden with exquisite sherries. In 1999, the Bodega was sold to a new owner. It is now run by Grupo Estevez. The newly appointed owners aren’t cutting cuts; they’ve preserved the style of the house and the standards that Valdespino has been praised for.
Let’s try two of Valdespino’s most delicious dry sherries.
Valdespino Inocente Fino
Producer: Bodega Valdespino
Region: Jerez D.O.
Grapes: 100% Palomino
Unique Fino sherry is produced using grapes sourced from one vineyard in Macharnudo one of the highest and top locations located in Jerez. In Macharnudo, the grapes plant their roots in the distinctive extremely sought-after the albariza soil (a chalky, white-colored soil with a high limestone content) that makes one of the finest wines from Jerez. Sherry is then bottled within American oak casks, and then washed for a period of more than eight years (most Fino sherries are aged for a period of 3 to five years) This gives it incredible richness and depth.
The result is a distinctive sherry that is awash with the aromas of almonds and citrus peel, and notes of floral, floral as well as mineral notes. The wine is lively and fresh. It’s lively and vibrant.
In your mouth the food you take in expands to a great extent! Almonds, lemon peel and green olives pop out. Sublime green herbal notes are followed by delicate green-herbal notes. This wine has a mineral taste salty, briny, and sharp. The yeasty notes that come from the flor infuse every molecule of the wine, but without causing it to become overwhelming. The mouth is salivating and begs for another sip, but the flavor is so long that you are tempted to sit back and enjoy.
Valdespino Deliciosa Manzanilla
Producer: Bodega Valdespino
Region: Sanlucar de Barrameda D.O.
Grapes: 100% Palomino
This town, Sanlucar de Barrameda is famous for its mild sea breezes, mild temperatures, and humid air. This allows to allow the Flor to thrive throughout the year, and to form more of a layer on the wine. This results in sherry that ages more slowly, but with less alcohol and a little more acidity.
From the first time you scent the Valdespino Manzanilla is true to its name. The aromas are “deliciosas.” It’s more delicate in the nose than Inocente However strong notes of citrus, peach unripe and yeast. Almond saltiness and fresh herbs come out of the glass.
On the palate, The citrus notes are soft, while the nutty notes are more prominent, recalling toasty hazelnuts. The yeasty notes are subtle and have a bready flavor. This Deliciosa Manzanilla feels fuller, larger, and more dense in the mouth than Inocente Fino. It’s fresh, refreshing, and packed with an earthiness that makes you imagine the sea breeze that swells from Sanlucar. Sanlucar coast.
Both of these sherries make excellent aperitif wines. Their refreshing flavor perfectly matches salty snacks, such as Marcona almonds, succulent green olives, delicate seafood dishes, or even sushi. If you want to showcase these exceptional wines, you should serve them with appetizers such as tapas or charcuterie. Open a variety of Finos and Manzanillas, and then create at least four or five dishes that complement the wines. Your taste buds are getting a real treat.
Other Finos and Manzanillas to try
- Colosia Fino
- Pedro Romero Aurora Manzanilla
- La Guita Manzanilla
- Bodegas Hidalgo, La Gitana Manzanilla
- Emilio Lustau Sherry Fino Jarana Light
Where to buy
- There are big Bodegas like Lustau sherries in nearly every boutique wine shop in the U.S. However, if you’d like to try the hand-crafted Finos made by smaller Bodegas If you reside near New York, try 67 Wine & Spirits in Manhattan. The selection is fantastic and their staff is extremely knowledgeable. (In the course of analyzing sherries for this article I purchased a few Fino sherries under the guidance of an expert, the gorgeous Melissa Sutherland.) If going to their shop isn’t an option browse their website. I’d only suggest to browse and call the store if you require some help.