Now, we’ve got the (potentially dry) production process out of the way we can look at the main styles of true, definitely dry Sherry sometimes referred to as Vinos Generosos. It’s worth noting that most wines labelled Amontillado and Oloroso are sweetened and although some of these are of excellent quality (e.g. William & Humbert’s “As You Like It”), they’re often not worth bothering with. If you want to avoid these, look out for labelling terms such as “medium” and “cream”.
NB: all these Sherries should be served in a proper white wine glass to maximise their aromatic qualities and not in the Lady Dowager’s cut glass doll’s house stemware.
Fino – This is bone dry, pale and light bodied, typically with aromas of almonds, bread dough and wild herbs. It is a biologically aged wine and takes much of its distinctive flavour and nature from being nurtured under a layer of yeast know as flor for at least two years but in some cases as many as ten or eleven if the scales are run often and the conditions in the bodega allow. Once the base wine is made it is fortified to between 14.5% abv to 15.5% abv and the barrels are filled but never completely. At this alcohol level and with plenty of oxygen available to it through the head space in the barrel, the flor can thrive and impart its unique flavours into the wine at the same time as protecting it from oxygen and therefore preserving its freshness.
The conditions in the bodega are crucial here – the flor likes things relatively cool and humid which promotes its growth, enhancing the classic characteristics of the wine. In Sanlúcar de Barrameda, a coastal town where maritime influence makes things cooler and wetter than in Jerez, wines that would otherwise be labelled as Fino bear the protected name Manzanilla – a tribute to their unique delicacy and freshness
An En Rama (literally “on the vine”, figuratively “raw”) Fino undergoes a far less intensive clarification than a typical Fino. The result is a more complex, intense experience as along with sediment, flavour is also stripped away during the clarification process. The downside is the wine is less stable because microbes that would otherwise be stripped away during clarification remain. They are therefore best drunk as soon as possible after release. A seasonal wine.
Serving Temperature: Chilled (6°C – 8°C). Not at room temperature from a bottle that’s been open since Easter. Freshness is vital.