Treasures from Jerez
by Louise Wilson MW
If you’re like me and get excited about wines that punch above their weight, Sherries from the Jerez region in southern Spain are worth exploring.
Sherry is often underestimated, yet it delivers great quality and outstanding value for money. At the same time, an overly narrow perception of the “style” of Sherry may be the result of the omnipresence of entry-level examples in the category. In actuality, one of the most intriguing aspects of Sherry is its diversity: from ethereal sea-kissed expressions to luxuriously rich dessert wines.
The unique signature of authentic Sherry begins with the use of indigenous white grapes varieties: Palomino Fino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez (PX) — all available in our Gutiérrez-Colosía Sherry Case (lot 3285). In the winery, base wines are fortified and matured in a system of barrels called the solera. This bespoke aging process allows young fresh wines to be blended with more mature wines to achieve maximum depth of character. Within the barrels, the presence of an ambient yeast called flor results in the production of pale-coloured, protectively-aged wines with a characteristic tang. Wines raised in the absence of flor take on a toasty hue and a dried fruit and nut character. Wines from Sherry can be bone dry to lusciously sweet, presenting an option for all palates and occasions.
Manzanilla is the lightest of the styles. It is the perfect opener with its fresh minerality and clean dry finish, calling out for a plate of Malpeque oysters. Fino, also matured under flor, has a dry finish too, but slightly more body. A chilled glass of Fino served with green olive tapenade on sourdough crostini is a wonderful way to practice self-care.
In contrast, Oloroso is matured without flor, exposing the wine to oxygen. Full-bodied with notes of walnuts, figs and toffee, dry Oloroso and its sweet Cream counterpart are a clever pairing for duck confit. Amontillado is initially developed under flor and then matured oxidatively.
Lighter than Oloroso, Amontillado is delicious with a board of cured ham, Oka cheese and almonds.
The most opulent of the Sherries are made from soleo (sun-dried) PX grapes, resulting in decadent sweet wines. Think molten chocolate cake or bacon-wrapped Gorgonzola stuffed dates.
This mouth-watering discussion offers but a glimpse into the possibilities with Sherry. If you consider yourself a wine lover searching for new experiences, then the Sherries of Jerez are not to be missed. Salud!
Louise Wilson MW lives in the Niagara region and is one of ten Masters of Wine based in Canada. She has over 20 years of experience in the wine and spirits industry and is Opimian’s Senior Procurement & Category Manager.