It is no secret that sherry sales have been decreasing for a few years now, despite the fact that overall Spanish wine sales have been in ascendance. As a result of declining sales sherry houses try to diversify and produce relatively low alcohol wines suitable to matching with food, keep prices low and try to increase promotional activities.
No doubt presently sherry wines represent outstanding value especially manzanilla styles from Sanlucar de Barrameda, but other styles should not be overlooked. Palomino and Pedro Ximenez are the main varieties and end up being dry (Manzanilla), and Amontillado, off dry (Oloroso) sweet (cream), very sweet (Dolce).
For more detail of styles refer to sidebar. Different styles complement a range of foods from fish, to beef, to chicken, pastries and cookies.
Dry sherries (fino from Jerez, and Manzanilla from Sanlucar de Barrameda) are fine as aperitifs, with all types of seafood, roasted salted almonds, ham (Serrano) , breaded and deep fried potato patties and fish fillets, and the list goes on.
Amontillado style sherries are full bodied and may be bone dry or off dry can be paired with chicken kebabs, or Mediterranean chicken stews. Oloroso styles go well with roasted pork tenderloin or apricot stuffed loins.
Medium – cream style sherries are decidedly sweet but can be matched with smoked salmon napoleons with honey Creole mustard sauce. Grogonzola with bosc pear and toasted almonds with truffle scented honey with a medium sweet cream sherry can be a memorable taste sensation.
Chocolate-infused panna cotta with sambuca, and fig turnovers with cinnamon crème anglaise are good matches and go extremely well with cream sherries. Each sherry winery develops a house-style , some are sweeter than others.
Generally, dry sherries contain three, medium six, medium-sweet 12 – 15, sweet 15 – 29 and Pedro Ximenez 30 and more grams of residual sugar.
Reputable sherry houses are:
Marques de Real Tesoro
Pilar de Aranda
Emilio Lustau is a world famous quality-oriented sherry shipper. It buys casks from individual producers (almacenista) and bottles. Bodegas Hidalgo Gitana specializes in Manzanilla sherries, as do Gonzales Byass, Valdespino, and Barbadillo. Alvear from nearby Montilla-Moriles produces fortified sherry-style wines that represent outstanding value.
Here are some sherries you can buy with confidence
Manzanilla Jerez la Gitana, Bodegas Hidalgo
Tio Pepe En Rama, Gonzalez Byass
Palo Cortado Jerez Leono, Gonzalez Byass
Amontillado Jerez Baco de Elite, Bodegas Dios Baco
Fino Jerez Inocente, Valdespino
Pedro Ximenez NOE Viejo, Gonzalez Byass
Oloroso Jerez 30 Years OldFaraon, Bodegas Hidalgo Gitana
Fino Jerez Almacensita del Puerto Jose Luis Gonzalez Obregon, E.Lustau
Palo Cortado Almacesita Vides, E. Lustau
Sherry is one of world’s most distinctive, and idiosyncratic wines, and at least in this writer’s mind, represents outstanding value.
It is fortified and can be dry to deliriously sweet and everything in between.
Generally, the alcohol level varies between 19 – 21 per cent ABV, (some sherries are now 15 per cent ABV, and are marketed as table wines), but versatile enough to enjoy with seafood, cheeses, marinated olives, hams (especially with dry sherries), as aperitifs (olorosos), as pick-me-ups (cream sherries) and desserts (dolce and Pedro Ximenez).
Dry sherries can be used in marinades and cooking; sweet versions in baking. Fino is the lightest, slightly bitter, but superbly suited as aperitif, and with tapas (BAV 15 – 17). Manzanilla – dry, but aged near the sea, that renders the wine slightly salty.
Amontilaldo starts life as fino, but after five to six years the protective flor dies or is removed (by filtration), or is overwhelmed by fortification. Amontillados are aged oxidatively and taste like nuts, almonds, or dried citrus ( ABV 16 – 20)
Palo cortado- start as fino and lose their flor after the first year, and then are fortifies to be aged oxidatevely. This is a style much liked by sherry aficionados.
Pedro Ximenez the sweetest of all sherries, is produced by drying the grapes in the sun. Then proceeding like all other sherries. PX wines are sweet but never cloying. They may taste of dates, raisins. Cream sherries are olorosos that are sweetened with Pedro Ximenez.
If you drink a lot of sherry any sherry winery would blend to suit your taste.