Why is it whenever we think of Sherry, we think of Grandmas and then immediately conclude this is negative?
My Grandma was a classy, wonderful lady who had poise, compassion and good strong morals. She worked hard, was very smart and was a great mentor and mother. Best of all she was an excellent cook and my fondest memories are sitting around her dinner table with family and friends, laughing and telling stories.
I recall when I was going through the WSET Diploma program, studying the Sherry section of the course, I was called on to read out my tasting note for a particular Sherry and I said, “It smells like my Grandma’s house, around the dinner table just as coffee and dessert (probably apple crisp) was being served”. As you can probably imagine, that is not what my instructor was looking for and while I may not have passed her expectations, it occurred to me that Sherry made me think about my Grandma and I thought, why wouldn’t I want to drink this stuff?!
My absolute favorite thing about Sherry is how diverse it is. There is literally Sherry out there for everyone. No matter what occasion, what food, what mood, Sherry is always there…kind of like my Grandma.
If you like dry – there is dry, if you like mouth-coating sweetness, there is sweet, and about 100 other styles in between. I recognize that Sherry is a topic that deserves much more conversation than I have time for here, but I will try my best to simplify it.
All Sherry is fortified – meaning it has an addition on grape spirit. You will not see a Sherry below 15% alcohol. Sherry starts with a base wine and is fortified to a desirable level and then left to age, sometimes two years and other times 100s of years.
What I am loving this week:
Fino/ Manzanillo Sherry – it is the driest style of sherry. It is made by taking a still white wine made from the Palomino grape. It is fortified to no more than 15.5% and transferred to barrel. It is protected by oxygen in barrel by a yeast called “flor”. Flor is achieved because of the extremely humid conditions of the region it originates; Jerez, Spain. Fino Sherry is dry, with high acidity and has flavors and aromas of salty sea water, cooked citrus and almonds.
Amontillado – is a style made in the same way and aged under flor for a time and then fortified to a level higher than 15.5% alcohol, which in turn kills the flor and starts the oxidative aging process. It is still a dry style, but with more developed flavors of hazelnut, herbs and tobacco.
Oloroso – is when we move into sweeter styles. This kind of Sherry is only made in an oxidative style, which means it is never protected by flor and instead is aided in aging by oxygen, therefore creating different yet wonderful unique and complex aromas and flavours of roasted walnuts, smoked wood, leather and preserved fruit.
PX – the sweetest style made from the Pedro Ximenez grape. Grapes hang on the vine longer to achieve maximum ripeness, before being dried to concentrate sugars and flavors and then made into a wine that also spends time aging oxidatively. This style coats your mouth with its sweetness and has flavors of balsamic, fig jam, caramelized coffee and raisin.
Fino Sherry is meant to be drunk right after bottling, it does not benefit from age, but Sherry that has been oxidatively aged can be kept for years. They are extremely food friendly and can accompany many styles of dishes. I recommend Fino with fresh white fish, clams or feta, Oloroso with charcuterie such as smoked meat, cheese and nuts and PX with desserts made of chocolate and caramel or just pour it over Vanilla ice cream.
In conclusion, everyone should try Sherry. They are complex and wonderful and the perfect end to everyday. If your Grandma is drinking Sherry, I’d say she’s one smart lady!
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