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All about Sherry: Fino, Oloroso, Pedro Ximénez

I recently completed my fortified wine exams and after the terror of the exam hall, the boundless history, dates, production methods, discerning the virtually indiscernible, the acids, the flor, the acetaldehydes and lack of sleep, I started to reacquaint myself with Sherry. I can happily say we're good friends once more.

Having hopefully retained some of that knowledge, my appreciation for fortified wines, Sherry in particular, has grown extensively. I can hardly wait to visit.

We're happy here with the choice of our trio produced by El Maestro Sierra, a bodega that was founded in 1830 by José Antonio Sierra. José was a cooper who made barrels for Sherry royalty Byass Gonzalez. In a time when the nobility dominated this industry, it was perseverance and ambition that allowed Sierra to realize his Bodega, still family owned and run today. This history is alluded to ever so succinctly on the label: nobility on horse back, with their dogs, hunting the rabbit. We're with the rabbit.

One of the finest and most refreshing examples of fino sherry we've come across. The compact bottle couldn't contrast the production this wine has gone through more.

Fino comes from the Solera system which in short, is a complex maturation process of interconnected barrels with several tiers/levels. Usually 4 to 7 criaderas or tiers, with the most mature wines ready to bottle at the bottom. A layer of yeast (the flor) is cultivated and floats atop the wine, preventing oxidation and making the wine age biologically rather than oxidatively.

Dry and fresh in style with waxy lemons, chamomile, Mediterranean herbs and a salinity that's derived from the flor. The nose has lots of lemon and almonds which are reflected on the palate. Quite broad and mouth-coating. This works well on its own as an aperitif or with a spread that should include salted almonds, good crunchy olives and fatty cold cuts. Calamari or white bait and sardines love this wine, too.


Aged 15 years. This wine matured oxidatively in American barrels - now when the Spanish say American, one shouldn't assume North. In this case it's both Chilean and wood from the Appalachians. Oloroso means fragrant and this wine is mighty fragrant. Every oloroso was once a fino, but the alcohol was boosted, killing off the flor culture and allowing oxygen to have its influence resulting in a wine that's dry, aromatic and rich. Lots of toffee, caramel and milk chocolate on the nose. Dry and creamy of the palate with dried figs and sultanas. Delicious and a perfect warming digestive.

Pedro Ximénez

Made from the grape of the same name that had only fermented up to an alcohol level of 5% due to the sheer concentration of sugars in the must, which is made from sun-dried grapes. This is a lusciously sweet dessert sherry that's full of molasses, treacle syrup, fig, prune and generally dried fruit flavours. Pour directly into your mouth or over ice cream. Finding your sweet tooth again. Cheers.

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