So, Steve Perry lyrics notwithstanding, Sherry is one of the great under-used grape products in the US. American Sherry's and "Cooking Sherry" have given the traditional Sherry a bad rap.
Real Sherry is a fortified wine made from a blend of three grapes, Palomino, Pedro Ximénez, and Muscat (Moscatel). It's then fortified with brandy and put in to a semi-porous barrel that allows enough air in to let a yeast called "flor" grow on top. It HAS to come from the province of Cadiz in Spain, otherwise it has to be labeled something like "California Sherry." Otherwise a cacophony of Spaniards will descend upon you and devour your soul.
Oh, remember Edgar Allen Poe's "Cask of Amontillado?" Yeah, that was Sherry. Dude died for Sherry. At one point Magellan even spent more money on Sherry than weapons when he set sail. It can be that good.
Traditional Sherry's have one of several designations depending on how they're aged, the type of cask, and where it's made in the province. Sherry's can be labeled:
* Fino ('fine' in Spanish) is the driest and palest of the traditional varieties of sherry.The good Sherry's are about 15% alcohol so tend to feel a bit more fiery, great for the coming Fall and Winter. If you're looking for a great Sherry check out the Hidalgo line or, for a better price, Emilio Lustau has an amazing fino.
* Manzanilla is a variety of fino sherry made around the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
* Amontillado is a variety of sherry that has been aged first under a cap of flor yeast, and then is exposed to oxygen, which produces a result darker than fino but lighter than oloroso.
* Oloroso ('scented' in Spanish) is a variety of sherry aged oxidatively for a longer time than a fino or amontillado, producing a darker and richer wine.
* Palo Cortado is a rare variety of sherry that is fortified and aged without flor like an oloroso, but develops a character similar to amontillado, with some of the richness of oloroso and some of the crispness of amontillado.
* Sweet Sherry (Jerez Dulce in Spanish) is created when one of the preceding varieties of dry sherry is sweetened with Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel wine. Cream sherry is a common variety of sweet sherry.
Got another good one? Drop me a line or leave it in comments.
Sherry Official Site - [sherry.org]