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All sherries are based on either the Fino or Oloroso types.
Fino: the palest, and driest type of Sherry (except Manzanilla); fino is at its very best drunk straight from the barrel. Once bottled it ceases to improve and lose its freshness, it will actually start to seriously deteriorate after a twoyear period. It is therefore important to buy Fino from a supplier with a constant turnover. Some connoisseurs only buy half bottles, as they can be finished at one sitting - Fino fades away quickly once opened.
Manzanilla: this is both a Fino, and a wine in its own right. To be allowed the use of this name, the wine must be kept in a bodega around Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where the salty sea air gives the finest wine an unmistakable salt-sharp tang. This prestigious label is strictly protected; if a Manzanilla wine is matured in Jerez it can be labelled Fino, but if a Fino from Jerez is matured in Sanlúcar, it will not become a Manzanilla. Manzanilla"s are graded in the same way as Sherries.
Palma: a name mainly confined to Spain, to describe a delicate Fino. They are sometimes graded from 1-4 to indicate their age (the higher the number the greater the age), but this isn"t law, and different producers have different grades.
Amontillado: a less astringently-dry Sherry, based on a Fino, but darker in colour. This Sherry is most in demand around the world, as it appeals to all palates. Good Amontillados are Fino"s which haven"t been refreshed from time to time by a younger wine. They thus become naturally darker. Nowadays, many firms take short cuts, and add caramel to sweeten and darken the wine, and for the export market, a percentage of sweeter wine from the Pedro Ximémez grape, is often added . Amontillado should taste and smell nutty.
Oloroso: these are more full-bodied and richer in flavour than Amontillados. They are often sweetened for export, but in Spain always found in their natural state - dry.
Amoroso: a sweetened Oloroso, dark in colour from its added caramel. The style was created for the British palate.
Cream Sherry: a heavily-sweetened Oloroso, developed in Bristol, but now also produced in Jerez. Bristol Cream and Bristol Milk are two examples.