The Seven Styles of Sherry
Some things just don’t quite appeal to the senses at first blush and for many, Sherry is no exception to the rule. Sherry is produced from the grapes Moscatel, Palomino, and Pedro Ximinez. Unlike other wines it has a peculiar flavor that is an inheritant characteristic to the style of fermentation/aging process by which the fortified wine is produced. Like Vin Jaune produced in the Jura, Sherry acquires a nutty flavor from oxidation of the fortified wine juice during the aging process. Listed below are the seven different styles of Sherry. How much oxidation the aging wine takes on combined with a few other factors will determine which of the styles a Sherry will be produced in.
Manzanilla: This style is considered the the lightest and rarest of the seven and can only be produced in the Atlantic Ocean-bordering town of San Lucar de Barrameda. During the aging process of this sherry a special yeast strain called “flor” covers the wine in barrel and largely prevents oxidation from taking place. This yeast strain will only develop under specific conditions at a critical level of humidity, thus production is exclusive to San Lucar. This style of sherry contains a crispness along with a salty sea mist aroma. Extremely delicate, should be consumed in two days or less once the bottle is opened.
Fino: Very comparable in style to Manzanilla and like the former style is dependent on the development of flor during the aging process. However unlike Manzanilla, Fino is produced further inland where the critical levels of humidity for flor development come and go with the seasons. For this reason Fino’s are slightly more nutty than Manzanilla, but are just as seafood friendly. Nevertheless a Fino is ever bit as delicate as a Manzanilla so it should be consumed within three days following opening.
Amontillado: Sherry’s produced in this style are fortified with grape spirits so that the level of alcohol prevents the development of flor in barrel further promoting deeper, richer nutty flavors from oxidation with additional darkening of color. Sometimes these Sherries will be blended with a little Pedro Ximinez wine to produced a medium-dry style.
Palo Cortado: This style is often considered to be an Amontillado that has seen a long period of aging. This promotes heavy oxidation and a fuller body that leans more towards the Oloroso style, but retains the richness of nutty notes that the Amontillado is known for.
Oloroso: The Oloroso style is very dense, rich, and full-bodied. This style sees more oxygen exposure than any other style and for this reason is darkest in color with the exception of Pedro Ximinez. The wine is fermented form pressed juice which has higher amounts of astringent tannins than free run. The fermentation of this juice promotes a wine that is texturally more coarse. Most Sherries created in this style are dry, but it is important to note that in some foreign markets bottles labeled “Oloroso” have certain amounts of sweet Pedro Ximinez blended in.
Cream: Olorosos created by the latter method are formally called cream sherries on the local market and can be Olorosos sweetened so much with Pedro Ximinez wine that they become alomost syrup-like in viscosity. Not held in high regard by the Spaniards, but commonly used by mixologists for a variety of cocktails.
Pedro Ximinez: Commonly served as a dessert wine, Pedro X is the wine that is most frequently used to sweeten dry sherries. Although most Sherry is made using the Palomino grape Pedro X is produced from well, the Pedro Ximinez grape. A vast contrast with the other styles.