Time to delve into one of my greatest liquid passions … the fortified wines made around the town of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, southern Spain – known as Jerez in Spanish and Sherry in English.
If you’re not yet a Sherry drinker, forget whatever you think about sweet cream “sherries” sipped by elderly aunts and open your mind to one of the most exciting and diverse wine categories around.
Sherry comes in a range of styles, though most are made from the same white grape, palomino. Following is a very brief overview of the five main categories of Sherry and an introduction to five of the best bodegas whose Sherries are available in Australia (each produces a wide range of styles not just the one shown here).
We’ll talk about specific categories in the future, but if you can’t wait to learn more, head down to Delicado Wines in McMahons Point (Sydney) where Ben Moechtar runs regular Sherry workshops and tastings and check out Scott Wasley’s very informative short videos.
Fino, Gutiérrez Colosía
The driest Sherry is aged under a covering of yeast called flor, this prevents it from oxidising, keeping it pale and delicate. Manzanilla, Fino aged in the seaside town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, is lighter still.
Located on the Guadalete River, Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosía has the perfect humidity for flor to grow.
Wonderful with oysters.
Amontillado, Sanchez Romate
Amontillado starts as Fino but is then further aged without flor, allowing it to oxidise and gain an amber colour and deeper, nuttier flavour, though still quite dry.
Founded in 1781, Sanchez Romate is today a modern winery practicing time-honoured techniques to produce delicious Sherries across all styles.
Ideal with hard cheeses.
Palo Cortado, Gonzalez Byass
The rarest Sherry style occurs naturally when flor dies on Fino and wine oxidises and develops some Oloroso-like characters, tasting somewhere between Amontillado and Oloroso.
Gonzales Byass, producers of Tio Pepe, has a VORS (very old rare Sherry) range with an average age of 30+ years. Great with charcuterie.
Oloroso, El Maestro Sierra
The palomino grapes for rich, dark amber Oloroso are fuller-flavoured than those for Fino and are aged oxidatively (without flor) from the outset. Oloroso is dry and nutty, like Amontillado, but with a richer texture and higher alcohol.
Founded in 1830, El Maestro Sierra is an artisanal bodega on the outskirts of Jerez.
Delicious with game.
Pedro Ximenez (PX), Equipo Navazos
Made from pedro ximenez grapes, PX is an intensely-flavoured, dark, almost syrupy, sweet Sherry with rich, dried fruit flavours.
Equipo Navazos, founded in 2005 by a group of Sherry-lovers, seeks out and bottles small quantities of exceptional Sherry as limited releases.
Perfect with chocolate.
* Roberta Muir runs the Sydney Seafood School at the Sydney Fish Market and publishes the website Food Wine Travel, where she shares her favourite food, wine and travel discoveries. You can sign up here to receive her regular email of her top 5 favourite things.