The Wine of the Week by Annette Tomei
NOTE: This week’s post is a “Throw Back Thursday” edition. One year ago this week, we introduced sherry to the Wine of the Week line-up. One of the many good things about sherry is that it is timeless, so the meaning of these words are not dated (though looking back, I think my writing – like good wine – has improved over time). I hope this will encourage you to go out and enjoy some sherry!
Sherry is a fortified wine, a category that calls for the addition of grape-based spirit to the wine to preserve and ‘strengthen’ it; Port, Madeira, and Marsala also belong to this category. That is where their similarities end. Sherry can only be produced in the Jerez (Xèrés) region along the seashore of southwestern Spain in the province of Andalucía.
Most sherries, including the Fino style, are made from the Palomino grape. But, what makes sherry so distinct is its method of production. Once the wine is made and fortified, it goes through a complex blending and aging process in a solera system, “a complex network of old barrels….Depending on how the wine moves through the solera, different styles of Sherry can be made.” The Fino style is reliant on a particular type of yeast, flor, which forms along the surface of the aging wine providing a seal, protecting the wine from oxidizing, while contributing to the styles characteristic aromas.
Tio Pepe – the best selling brand of Sherry in the world – is a product of Gonzalez Byass, which was founded in 1835 and is still run by the founding family, now in its 5th generation. The Tio Pepe solera has been in constant operation since 1844. The Tio Pepe Fino Sherry spends an average of 5 years aging in the solera.
Aromas of roasted Marcona almonds and sea air – if you can hear the ocean waves crashing on the beach in a conch shell, you can smell it in a glass of fino sherry. Fino should be enjoyed well chilled. It is bone dry, bright and crisp, with the mouthfeel of cool silk. The strength of the added alcohol is present, but not off-putting. The lingering flavor of toasted almonds and slight salinity are a reminder that Sherry is at its best with food. The crisp delicate aromas, and complex but refreshing flavors of a fino Sherry are best with seafood, especially shrimp; but also with olives and Marcona almonds, or other simple tapas.
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