My Sherry Amour: A Mini Guide To Spanish Sherry

A mini guide to spanish sherry

For a long time, Sherry got a bit of a bad rap and was often seen as a cheap wine, only good for grannies or Christmas puddings. However, the Spanish drink has been making a comeback in recent years and, with bartenders and wine lovers singing its praises across the world, it is now becoming fashionable again.

During my last holiday to New Zealand my friend Melanie and I decided to do a Sherry tasting together. We headed to ‘Casita Miro’ on Waiheke Island, a beautiful tapas restaurant famous not only for its food and Spanish decor but also for its selection of imported Spanish Sherry. Our Spanish hostess Laura was great and talked us through the tasting, describing each wine as we went along. It was a revelation and I honestly walked out of the tasting wanting to start my own sherry collection at home (if only for the glasses – I mean, how cute are they?).

If you’d like to know more about this delicious drink, here’s a mini guide to Spanish sherry:

What’s in a name?

Just as sparkling wine can only be called ‘Champagne’ if it is made in the Champagne region in France, Sherry can only be called as such if it originates from a specific area in southwest Spain called the ‘Sherry Triangle’.

Although ‘Sherry’ is actually an English adaptation of the Spanish word ‘Jerez’ (the town where it originated from in Andalusia) the official designation for the wine now includes its full English, Spanish and French names so that all bottles are labelled ‘D.O Jerez-Xerez-Sherry’.

The different types of Sherry:

sherry 101

Sherry is a ‘fortified’ wine which means that spirit is added to the wine between the fermentation and aging process. Sherries are divided into two main categories: Fino and Oloroso. Fino contains about 15% alcohol and is a very dry with a pale golden color, whereas Oloroso contains about 18% alcohol and has a darker color and much richer body.

Sherries do not have a specific vintage year like wines because they are actually the result of a blend between many vintages. Through a famous process called the ‘Solera system’ older sherries are progressively blended with newer ones, which ensures a consistently high quality product at the end.

There are many variations of Sherry but the most famous ones are as follow:

Fino styles:

  • Fino: a very dry sherry, with a pale color and lighter body. It has wonderful almond aromas and is great paired with green olives, caviar (yes please!) and nuts. Just like white wine, it needs to be served chilled and kept in the fridge after opening.
  • Manzanilla: A fino-style of sherry from the seaside town of Sanlucar de Barrameda, it has a very slight salty taste and is particularly great served with seafood.
  • Amontillado: is often described as a midway point between Fino and Oloroso in terms of color and body. It has a slight nutty flavor and works very well with cured meats or smoked fish.

Oloroso styles:

  • Oloroso: is still a dry sherry but with a deep amber color and a rich, complex body. With caramel, walnut and raisins undertone it goes very well with light cheeses or caramel based desserts. Olorosso Sherries need to be served at room temperature.
  • Cream sherry: especially popular in England this is a sweet dark sherry made by adding Pedro Ximenez (see below) to Oloroso.  It works very well with sweet pastries.
  • Pedro Ximenez: is a sweet dessert wine, with a lovely syrupy consistency. Delicious with chocolate and dried fruits or even blue cheeses for a beautiful contrast. Often referred to as ‘Christmas in a glass’

Sherries at casita miro Casita Miro’s Sherry Flight selection which includes three types of Finos, an Amontillado and a Pedro-Ximenez

 More reasons to love Sherry:

  • Sherry is extremely versatile and can be enjoyed before, during and after dinner. It can also be used in cocktails.
  • It makes an excellent alternative to wine for cooking
  • It’s reasonably priced.
  • It has a longer life than wine – opened bottles of Finos will keep for a week in the fridge whilst opened Olorosos will keep for a couple of months when kept in a dry, cool place.

Still not convinced by my love letter to Sherry?  Check out this beautiful Sherry Cobbler ( Spanish Rebujito) cocktail I’m featuring on the blog tomorrow!

Sherry Cobbler Cocktail

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A big thank you to Cat, Laura and the rest of the Casita Miro team for being the perfect hosts and taking the time to talk us through their products. Make sure to visit their beautiful tapas restaurant next time that you are in Auckland. They also make delicious wines!