Spains greatest contribution to the wine-drinking world is undoubtedly Sherry. It is certainly one of the Famous Five along with Port, Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy.
Sherry is a corruption of the word Jerez and comes in many types from the dry, straw-coloured finos and manzanillas to the fragrant olorosos and amontillados and includes cream Sherries, beloved of British grannies and vicars.
Sherry is a first class wine and fantastic value for money. This month I want to look at finos and manzanillas from Jerez and contrast these with finos from an area near Cordoba called Montilla-Moriles.
Sherry comes in two basic types, finos which are aged under yeast called flor and olorosos which are aged without the flor and are usually higher in alcohol.
All sherry starts life as white wine mainly made from the Palomino grape. The sherry is then fortified with grape spirit to 15/15.5 per cent in the case of fino and 18 percent in the case of oloroso. Once in the barrel the fino is host to a frothy crust of yeasty flor. The flor feeds on nutrients in the wine which gives the wine its distinctive aroma and flavour.
The wine ages in the solera system which consists of rows of barrels set on top of each other. Wine for bottling is drawn from the bottom row of barrels and is then replaced by wine from the barrels above and so on. The top barrels have new wine put in them. Only about a third of each barrel is drawn off which has the effect of maintaining consistency of taste and flavour.
Let me explain the difference between fino and manzanilla. Sherry is produced in the triangle between Jerez, Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda. Manzanilla sherry can only come from Sanlucar which is on the coast. It is said that Manzanilla has a salty tang to it and is softer and gentler than fino.
Fino is also made in an area south of Cordoba called Montilla-Morilles. The main difference from sherry is that the Pedro Ximenez grape is used and the wine is naturally 15 per cent alcohol without added alcohol spirit. Finos from this area are certainly worth trying and can be half the price of sherry.
Finos and manzanillas should be drunk chilled. They are a perfect as an aperitif or accompaniment to tapas. Since sherry is a wine it can also be drunk with meals and compliments many foods really well - which is why it is good with tapas.
Sherry is a world class drink, represents excellent value for money and there are plenty of brands available on the Costa which even come in handy half bottles for those who wish to experiment and find if the fino or manzanilla most to their taste.
Cheers! Salud! Prost! Skål! Proost! Santé! Slainte! Kippis!