Do you root for the underdog? If so, grab a glass and discover Sherry.
A misunderstood wine, Sherry’s history dates back centuries. Luckily perceptions are changing and it’s becoming chic to sip. Sherry is my secret-weapon wine because it’s affordable and versatile.
What is Sherry? A fortified white wine aged in a system of stacked barrels, called a solera, which allows newer wine to be blended with older creating consistent quality and styles. Made with three grape varieties Palomino, Pedro Ximenez, and Moscatel, Sherry hails from the Sherry Triangle in southwestern Spain. Anchored by Jerez (a city whose ancient moniker, Xera/Sherish, gave the wine its name), the triangle is completed by Sanlucar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa Maria, a town made famous by Christopher Columbus.
Tips for serving/pairing Sherry: Served chilled, but more complex Sherries can be room temperature. Once you open Sherry, it stays fresh for one-three weeks. Ranging from dry to sweet, light to full, and young to old, there’s Sherry to match with everything from sushi to steak.
Sherry Styles and Recommended Wines
Like light and dry? Look for Fino and Manzanilla
Nearly half of all Sherry produced is dry. The lowest alcohol (15-17 percent), Fino is protected by flor, a layer of yeast on the wine’s surface that keeps it from oxidizing. Manzanilla, a special type of Fino is aged in the Atlantic-influenced town of Sanlucar de Barrameda, which gives Manzanilla its distinct sea-breeze freshness. Ideal alongside sushi, almonds and jamon.
Favorites under $15:
• Tio Pepe Fino – crisp and vibrant
• Osborne “Pale Dry” Fino – fruity, light
• Sandeman “Don Fino” – richer style
• Bodegas Hidalgo “La Gitana” Manzanilla – elegant, delicate
Like fruity and rich? Look for Amontillado and Oloroso
Amontillado and Oloroso, two styles ranging from dry to lightly sweet, showcase the classic nutty, creamy character of Sherry. Both offer orange peel and apricot aromas and a fuller body. Medium-Dry versions are lightly sweet making them an ideal foil for savory pumpkin soup and squash ravioli.
Favorites between $12-20:
• Williams Humbert “Dry Sack” Medium – Named for the burlap bag Sherry was shipped in during Shakespeare’s time
• Sandeman “Character” Medium Dry Amontillado – amazing for its food-pairing prowess
• Bodegas Dios Baco Amontillado – touch sweet
• Pedro Romero Oloroso – top value for drier, powerful style
Sweet and Special Sherry
The two most famous styles of sweet Sherry are Pedro Ximenez (a grape variety dubbed PX) and blended Cream Sherry. Chill well and serve with dark chocolate or alone.
Favorites between $15-20
• Harveys Bristol Cream – originator of Cream style
• Osborne Pedro Ximenez 1827 – like drinking cream caramel
For those who desire the best in wine, try Sherry named Palo Cortado – complex, minuscule production wines, and aged Sherry carrying the label VOS (very old sherry aged at least 20 years) and VORS (very old rare sherry aged at least 30 years).
Favorites between $50-100
• Bodegas Tradicion “VORS” Amontillado – Cult producer making world-class wine
• Gonzalez-Byass “Apostoles” Palo Cortado – intense, supple
• Lustau “VOS” Oloroso – dry, concentrated, powerful