The Spanish wine region of Jerez, commonly referred to as “Sherry”, is capable of producing a surprisingly versatile range of wine styles. For reasons of tradition and perhaps distribution, however, not many people outside the region actually know this. For many, Sherry is exclusively for old women at Christmas time, or a cooking ingredient no more drinkable than red wine vinegar. Though a Sherry at Christmas may be a tradition for some (or stereotype for others), and every decent cook uses Sherry sometimes, the region and its wines have a lot more to offer.
Beyond Croft Sherry
Sherry can be confusing for many consumers. Even wine lovers that may be experts on Rioja, Toro or Ribera Del Duero, can have trouble understanding the region. Sherry brands, such as Croft Sherry or Harvey’s Bristol Cream, offer the consumer a reliable product. The style of these wines is quite safe and not especially adventurous. Some have been made specifically to cater to the tastes of individual markets, such as the UK. Such brands can give the consumer an introduction to the Sherry category, but they do not offer the full picture. Those looking to better understand the versatility of Jerez wines will have to look beyond Croft Sherry and similar brands.
Types of Sherry
The wines of Jerez are complex and can be difficult to understand. The best way for you to truly understand these wines is by tasting them for yourself, but it can be tough to know where to start. We could write a whole book on the different types of Sherry wines, but for now let’s start with the basics. Looking beyond brands like Croft Sherry, we can identify two major styles of Sherry wines: those that have been aged biologically and those that have been aged oxidatively. After that, there are a number of styles in between the two, as well sweet as sherry.
These wines have been aged under a layer of yeast known as “flor”, and include the subcategories Fino and Manzanilla. If you would like to try something in this category, considering something like Hidalgo Fino or Manzanilla La Guita. These are typical expressions of their respective styles and mark an interesting starting point.
These wines, known as Oloroso, are aged without a layer of flor, are in contact with oxygen and so theyare said to age oxidatively. Gran Barquero Oloroso or Piedro Luengo Oloroso will demonstrate the typicity of the oxidatively aged style.
In between these two styles, we can find the intermediate styles of Amontillado and Palo Cortado. They begin their aging biologically and over time lose their flor and finish aging oxidatively. Try Gran Barquero Amantillado or Collecion Roberto Amillo Palo Cortado to get a sense of how these categories show characteristics of both biologically and oxidatively aged Sherries to create their own unique flavour profiles.
Sherries bearing the labels Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso, Amontillado and Palo Cortado are all dry in style. However, there are a number of sweet styles available. Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel, from the grapes of the same name, are naturally sweet. Cream Sherry (also known as Dulce) is an artificially sweetened type. Gran Barquero Pedro Ximénez will illustrate the natural style, while Marqués de Poley Cream PX will offer an interesting comparison of an artificially sweetened expression of the same grape variety.
To continue learning about Sherry wines, visit the official site of Vinos de Jerez.