Sherry is a fortified wine made by adding grape spirits after ferementation. The name sherry comes from the English attempt to say Jerez, the southwest coastal region of Spain where Sherry is made. Sherry comes in two basic styles, fino and olorosso. The fino style is pale colored, crisp and dry, while olorosso is much darker and nuttier, and can range from dry to sweet. The primary grape involved in sherry is Palomino, which now represents about 95% of the plantings in Jerez. It grows particularly well on the famous white, porous albariza soil found there. The differing factor in fino and olorosso is their exposure to oxygen. A fino sees no oxygen during and after fermentation since a layer of yeasty foam, called flor (pronounced floor), forms on the surface of the wine. When flor develops, it protects the fermenting wine from any oxygen. Olorosso, however, is purposefully prevented from developing a layer of flor, thus allowing oxygen to mix with the wine. Exposure to oxygen gives olorosso style Sherry it's nutty, oxidized flavors and dark color.

Notable Facts
Most Sherry falls into either the fino category or the olorosso category. A quick guideline of the styles of sherry:

  • Fino – general term for sherry that has not been affected by oxygen – it is dry, crisp and tangy.
  • Manzanilla – Fino category - made quite close to the Atlantic and often has an almost sea salt flavor that is very distinctive. Crisp and light, Manzanillas are meant to be drunk young and chilled.
  • Amontillado - categorized as a fino, but is almost an in-between style. It's a fino that's been aged and sees slightly more oxygen, giving the wine some of the nutty characteristics found in olorossos. Can be dry or sweet.
  • Olorosso - aged sherry that is dark and nutty. Sometimes be a bit higher in alcohol.
  • Cream – sweetened olorosso, often by adding amounts of Pedro Ximenez, a sweet wine made of the same-named grape. No regulation on sweetness levels, so varies.
  • Pedro-Ximenez – sometimes called PX, this is a sweet, dense wine made from the Pedro Ximenez grape. Typically added to cream olorosso sherry, can also be bottled on its own or, even better, poured over ice cream.

Outside of the Jerez DO, Spanish producers are making sherry-style wines, often from Palomino or Pedro Ximenez. Although they may not carry the Jerez or Sherry label, they can be similar in style and also good values.

Summing it up
Successful Sites: Jerez, Spain
Common Descriptors: Fino: dry, tangy, crisp, salty Olorosso: dark, nutty, rich

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