Tipples to prepare us for the bracing Autumn weather

Posted by: Jon Keast 14-10-2014

Sherry is a drink with a long history in the UK.  It was popular here as long ago as the 1490’s but recently has been about as fashionable as the Edinburgh Woollen Mill and with much the same consumer profile.  But now that seems to be changing and quality Sherry is finally emerging from the shadows.  The lack of demand has meant that UK prices for sherry are often low and for its quality it can be an absolute steal.  Which is another great reason to try it again.

So, first a few basics.  Sherry is a fortified wine; that is a wine that has been fortified by adding brandy to it, and finished Sherry will be somewhere in the range of 15.5 to 20% alcohol.  The base wine is made from Palomino grapes grown around the towns of Jerez, Sanlucar de Barameda and Puerto de Santa Maria in Southern Spain.  If you were to taste you would not be impressed, it is flat, characterless and dull.  What makes sherry special is how the fortified wine is matured.

Sherry is matured in a big pile of oak barrels known as a solera.  The wine moves through the solera over a period of years to emerge transformed in flavour and colour.  Two main types are produced; fino and oloroso.  Fino wines are light, elegant and around 15-16% alcohol, oloroso is bigger, darker, more complex and more like 20%.

What is special about fino is that, as it loiters in the solera, a special yeast called flor grows on top of the wine.  This is a gloopy white substance that sounds and looks pretty disgusting.  But the flor does two great jobs; giving the wine a lovely yeasty, bready character and protecting it from contact with air which keeps it young and fresh tasting.

Oloroso on the other hand has so much alcohol that the flor cannot grow.  With no protective yeasty blanket the Oloroso ages in contact with air and over the years it takes on a dark, nutty complexity and a lovely mahogany colour.

You will see the words Fino and Oloroso on bottles of sherry but there are lots of other styles too.  They can pretty complicated so I’ve listed a few to guide you.

  • Manzanilla is a fino that has been aged in the town of Sanlucar de Barrameda, the lightest and driest style of all and often said to have a salty twang.
  • Amontillado - is a wine that started out as a fino but for some reason lost its flor protection during ageing, it will be an amber colour and be richer and more complex than a fino.
  • Pedro Ximinez – often PX for short, this is an ultra sweet sherry style made from Pedro Ximinez grapes dried in the sun, these can be syrup thick with intense and complex raisin and dried fruit flavours.
  • Cream – this is a sweet commercial style made for the UK.  They can often be low quality blends of wines with added colouring and sweetening.
  • Pale Cream – is made by blending fino and sweet wine before filtering it to remove much of its colour.

Here seems a good place to offer a word of warning; when starting your sherry journey go to a specialist shop.  There you will find advice, guidance and I hope some great quality sherry.  Please beware of the large, well known, brands, these are usually sherry made to a price and will often be over sweet, quite simple in style and missing much of the amazing character of really good sherry.

This month’s recommendation is Gran Recosind Crianza 2006, Emporda, Costa Brava (N.E. Coastal Spain) for £12.  It has endless ripe-plum and damson fruit and more than a few bars of Iberian funk, made from Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo.

So if you fancy trying something different whilst you’re staying in St.Ives, let us know and we’ll get a bottle delivered to your property.

Self Catering Holiday Cottages in St. Ives, Cornwall

Tel: 07980 393916 or 01736 796100