Sherry anyone?

A venenciador sherry tasting.

A venenciador sherry tasting. - Credit: Archant

For many years I gave my grandma a bottle of dark brown, cloyingly-sweet liquid that my mother assured me was her favourite drink: a famous brand of sweet sherry.

It didn't look appealing and when I was offered a sip it didn't taste great either. Now many years on I've been introduced to the delights and many faces of sherry. I have to admit to being a sherry fan though many people fail to understand why. I try to encourage everyone to taste it and see for themselves, some do reluctantly and a few experience the pleasure of a refreshing savoury slightly salty dry fino that is so delicious with almonds and olives or a nutty more mouthfilling amontillado with blue cheese.

To me sherry is a great alternative to dry white wine as an aperitif or as digestif if you like the sweeter PXs. however, it has an image to a lot of people as a drink of the '70s and is often shunned by many wine drinkers now because of the over-promotion of dark, rich, sweet sherries almost to the exclusion of others.

Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the city of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, Spain and produced in a variety of styles made primarily from the Palomino grape, ranging from light versions such as Manzanilla and Fino, to darker richer types such as Amontillado and Oloroso. Sweet dessert wines are also made from Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel grapes.

The driest and most delicate Fino and Manzanilla sherries are great when drunk chilled as an aperitif with olives and almonds, and are is also perfect with fish and chilled soups.

They are made from the Palomino grape and aged under a layer of yeast called flor which develops in the salty damp sea air in Jerez and produces the sherry flavours during short aging in American oak casks.

The unfiltered version is known as En Rama and should be drunk soon after bottling when it is at its lightest and most delicate though it does age well too developing a deep mouth filling textured taste as I realised when I recently found and enjoyed a bottle of 2015 En Rama - lovely but different!

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Amontillado, the most widely drunk sherry in the UK, is often known as medium sherry but this is a misnomer. It is actually unique in style with its complex and elegant lingering flavour notes, often amber in colour and tasting of hazelnuts, herbs and tobacco balanced with a nutty flavour on the finish. It is an ideal wine to accompany vegetables, soups and consommés.

Oloroso is a sherry also made from Palomino grapes and has complex powerful nutty aromas with spice and citrus flavours. It is full and smooth on the palate and lingers with a dry nutty finish and is great with red meat, wild mushrooms and full flavoured cheeses.

Palo Cortado is a complex sherry combining the delicate bouquet of an Amontillado with the body and palate of an Oloroso. It has citrus notes reminiscent of bitter orange with a deep, rounded palate with smooth, delicate aromatic notes appearing in the aftertaste, leading to delicious lingering finish. Great accompaniment to soups and stews.

Cream sherry is a semi-sweet wine and has an aroma of roasted nuts, quality orange marmalade and caramel and is full bodied and velvety sweet on the palate. A great dessert wine with pastries and ice cream or blue cheeses.

Pedro Ximénez is obtained from the overly ripe grapes of the same name which are dried in the sun to obtain juice with an exceptionally high concentration of sugar and tastes like liquid Christmas cake!

This myriad of tastes and style offers an opportunity to match all palates and budgets - why not give it a go and discovery the forgotten treasure of sherry, with all its sheer diversity and finesse?