So I went a little overboard on the Sherry notes, I’ve had to split over two posts. This post will focus on different Sherry styles, and compare biological vs oxidative ageing. [Apols for the crazy long gap in between Sherry posts – life got a little crazy back in May/June and I forgot to set this post live just playing catch up on all things Sherry before dedicating the rest of the month to Spirits.]
Sherrys are wines of their terrior but not terrior as we know it. Where a sherry is aged makes the biggest difference on the end flavour of a wine not where the grapes are necessarily grown.
Sanlúcar de Barrameda enjoys the coolest, most humid bodegas situated on the beaches and in the town where the humidity is trapped by the town’s outlying hills. This humidity encourages the thickest growth of flor, as it can grow pretty much all year round. The wines have more interaction with the flor and are considered all the finer for it. Sanlúcar is famous for its Manzanilla (a style of Fino which can only be made in Sanlúcar).
Jerez de la Frontera – Jerez has less Atlantic influence and has a more continental climate, it suffers cold in winter and extreme heat in summer. The flor in Jerez’ Bodegas dies back in the extreme heat of summer and the cold in winter, the resulting wine has a richer
flavour as there has been less flor eating so much wine. Jerez is lauded for its Finos and Olorosos.
Puerto de Santa Maria, is the third tip of the Sherry Triangle, it has some influence of the sea, but not as much as Sanlúcar, and is hot, but not as hot as Jerez. As the happy medium which enjoys the best of both world’s it makes the best Amontillados (a wine that starts of
life as a Fino and is then aged as an Oloroso, so has the nose of a Fino with the body of an Oloroso)
The cathedral-like bodegas are built to deal with the elements and were designed pre-electricity. The East/South East walls are built extremely thick to prevent the building being unduly affected by the heat of the sun. There are large doors and windows in the direction of the Poniente wine which let the cool, humid air in. The ceilings are very high with arches to funnel the wind through; the hot air rises and the Poniente pushes the hot air out of the large open windows.
On the floor albariza soil (albero soils), which can soak up moisture and is sprayed regularly to keep the place moist. Plants are often kept on pergolas by the door, which provide shade in summer and allow sunshine through in winter.
BIOLOGICAL VS OXIDATIVE AGEING
Finos are aged biologically – under flor to protect them from oxygen.
Biological ageing will lower the alcohol level, amount of glycerine, residual sugars and volatile acidity in the wine, as the flor feeds on all of these. Alcohol levels may need to be topped up in the solera, the low glycerine levels ensure a light bodied wine.
The acetaldehydes increase under biological ageing giving Finos their characteristic bite, the colour stays the same ensuring Finos, Manzanillas and Pale Creams remain lemon in colour.
Oxidative ageing, however, has the effect of increasing alcohol levels, volatile acidity, glycerine levels and residual sugars as the wine becomes more concentrated as water is slowly evaporated from the base wine which is in constant contact with the air.
The colour of oxidatively aged wines like Olorosos is darker, the oxygen contact turning the wines a brown colour. Acetaldehydes remain the same and phenols increase due to more interaction with wood.
Dry styles – my favourite!
FINO – A light, pale lemon sherry which is bone dry and clean on the palate. For a sherry it is relatively low in alcohol (15-18%) and is designed to be consumed young. Once open, enjoy within a week. Most of the character of a Fino comes from the biological ageing and
influence of flor, it has a distinct sharp, yet delicate aroma.
MANZANILLA – Manzanilla is a Fino that has been aged in Sanlúcar de Barrameda where the cooler climate allows a thicker layer of flor to develop, this gives the sherry a fresh, bready aroma and a delicate some say salty tang. It is light bodied and is generally between 15-19% alcohol.
AMONTILLADO – A true Amontillado is an aged Fino from which the flor has died away (flor only lives for around 7-8 years. since by this time it has eaten all the nutrients and sugar in the wine). Amontillados are fortified to a slightly higher level than Finos (16-22%). It is amber coloured and have a hazelnut, herby, tobacco aroma.
PALO CORTADO – Palo Cortado is a wine too full-bodied for fino but still a very fine wine. There is no official definition, each bodega seems to have interpreted Palo Cortado differently, but for many it starts life as a Fino and is then aged oxidatively. The Sherry
butts are filled completely, not just 5/6 full and then the wine goes through long static period of ageing. Palo Cortado is a very fine complex style of Sherry and has the nutty nose of an Amontillado as well as bitter orange notes and the full body of an Oloroso.
OLOROSO – Oloroso translates as fragrant and is a full-bodied mahogany coloured wine which has been oxidatively aged from the very beginning. It has robust spicy, savoury, meaty, nutty aromas and is generally has an abv between 17 and 22%.
Naturally sweet styles
PEDRO XIMENEZ – A lusciously sweet dessert wine made from sun-dried Pedro Ximenez (PX) grapes. It looks almost like treacle, being very dark brown almost black in colour and with a thick syrupy consistency. It is packed with an array of deeply concentrated flavours of dried fruit, raisins and figs. Sugar levels can reach as high as 400g/l. It is divine poured over vanilla ice cream. Alcohol content varies between 15 and 22% abv.
MOSCATEL – A dark mahogany coloured wine produced using sun-dried Moscatel grapes which provide a signature floral nose of jasmine, orange blossom and honey suckle as well as lime and grapefruit. It is a smooth sweet wine with alcohol content of between 15-22%.
Blended styles, i.e. styles your Nan would have drunk
CREAM SHERRY – Cream sherry is a dry Oloroso which has been blended with PX or other sweetening components to produce a sweeter style. The best examples are sweetened with PX which adds a hint of raisin and prune.
PALE CREAM – Pale Cream is a Fino that has been sweetened with Rectified Concentrated Grape Must – a concentrated sweet grape juice. It is light in colour and medium bodied with a sweet, grapey flavour and a sharp, distinctly Fino bouquet.
Travelling today seems to be simultaneously fast and slow due to COVID-19 requiring rapid change of plans and jumping on planes with