Sherry is the perfect wine to pair with tapas, mild cheeses, almonds, and olives.
What is Sherry?
Sherry is fortified wine from southwestern Spain that comes in a range of styles. It can be dry and pale straw-colored or sweet and dark as mahogany--or somewhere in between. Dry sherries are typically served chilled; sweet sherries are served at room temperature.
Sherry differs from port (another fortified wine) in important ways.
- Sherry is fortified with grape-based spirit after fermentation is finished (with port, brandy is added during fermentation to stop the process).
- Unlike most other wines, air is deliberately introduced to sherry as it ages.
Air and alcohol determine the two main types of sherry: fino and oloroso.
With fino sherry, the introduction of air into barrels of aging wine creates a layer of yeast (called flor) that floats on top of the wine. This flor forms a barrier that prevents additional air from reaching the wine and oxidizing it.
Serve chilled with olives, mild cheeses, almonds, calamari, ham, salami, and all manner of tapas.
Another dry, fino-style sherry with a light, delicate, and distinctive sea-like taste, Manzanilla sherry is aged in the seaside town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Manzanilla is excellent served chilled with tapas.
Darker in color than fino or manzanilla sherry with a nutty flavor, amontillados stand as a midway point between fino and oloroso styles. They can be dry or sweet.
Recipes to try with fino, manzanilla, or dry amontillado sherry:
Oloroso-style sherries are fortified to higher alcohol levels (about 18%, compared to fino's 15.5%). This higher degree of alcohol kills the yeast that would normally create the flor, allowing more oxygen to reach the wine. Extra time with oxygen oxidizes the wine, developing raisiny, nutty flavors and deeper color.
A dry or sweet sherry with a dark mahogany color (almost like a tawny port), Oloroso sherry has a rich nutty flavor from liberal exposure to oxygen.
Darker still, cream sherry is a sweetened oloroso. Sweet Pedro Ximenez wine is added to dry sherry to create a sweet, dark wine typically served after dinner at room temperature.
Pedro Ximenez (or PX)
A sweet sherry made from Pedro Ximenez grapes. Serve with chocolate, blue cheese, and dried fruit-like figs and prunes.