When you hear ‘Spanish Fortified Wine’, it really means the glorious Spanish wine, Sherry. Sherry wears many hats – from savoury and dry to decadent and sweet. It is versatile, extremely food friendly, and frankly something that deserves the spotlight more often. Originating in Andalusia, sherry is made by combining the base wine (predominantly made with the Palomino varietal) with grape spirit. It is then aged in a solera system – a complex system of maturation that involves different casks and blending. Sherry has become associated with a bygone era, which is truly a shame, as once you try sherry, you’ll be wondering why it took you so long!
Named after the grape it is made from, this opulent Spanish fortified wine is syrupy and velvety with intense flavours of dried fruits, chocolate, coffee, figs and raisins. This wine is one of the sweetest in the world with rich and concentrated flavours and a viscosity so thick it could almost be treacle. Although a treat drunk on its own, pouring it over vanilla ice cream is transcendent.
This Spanish fortified wine undergoes a different ageing process to most sherries. It starts off as a Fino or Manzanilla sherry and is then fortified twice, utilising its own yeasts until they disappear, and then exposed to oxidation. This ageing process gives it pastry-like flavours, but that is just the beginning. This is one of the most complex and refined fortified wines in the world. Aromatic and evocative, Amontillado is dry and full-flavoured with notes of hazelnuts, herbs, tobacco and spice. A must-try for those wanting to broaden their palate and experience something truly unique.
Oloroso is made from Palomino grapes and then exposed to oxidation during its time maturing in oak. There is no yeast involved in the ageing process, which gives it a purity of flavour, allowing the fruit and the oak to take centre stage. Aromatic and complex, this fortified Spanish wine has a nutty profile with a distinct balsamic character. The best examples of these sherries can have savoury and meaty notes as well as truffle and leather. A fantastic match for game and smoked meats.
The most well-known of Spanish fortified wines, Fino is the go-to aperitif that more people should be drinking. Refreshing, dry, nutty and saline – just the thought of it transports us to balmy evenings in the Costa del something. Fino is made for tapas, particularly those of the olive and anchovy variety. Turn up the heating and change your zoom background to palm trees. Sorted.
If you haven’t heard of it, it’s only because it’s the best kept secret in Spain, and very rare. It starts as a Fino or Manzanilla sherry and is born when the flor unexpectedly disappears. It can’t actively be produced, it just has to happen. Once and if this happens, it goes through a slow oxidation process that creates a sherry that sits stylistically between Amontillado and Oloroso. Robust in flavour, it has notes of orange zest, leather, red fruits and tobacco. It’s no surprise that Palo Cortado makes an excellent pairing for Foie Gras – if you can think of a more worthy match we are all ears!
Also made from Palomino grapes, Manzanilla is a dry and light sherry that is just like fino, the key difference being its DOC near the seaside city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, imparting the sherry with a delightful salty flavour. Like sea spray in the breeze, it is refreshing and crisp. Hints of chamomile and orange zest are in harmony with its vibrant acidity and nautical character. Best drunk chilled on a balcony!