Why not explore the varieties of sherry?

Sherry Festival 2017 runs from June 5-18. - Picture: Copyright Rob Lawson Photography Limited 2010

Sherry Festival 2017 runs from June 5-18. - Picture: Copyright Rob Lawson Photography Limited 2010 - Credit: Archant

It’s Sherry Festival 2017 time right now until June 18 and with all the tastings and offers available in our wine shops and supermarkets it’s the perfect time to learn more about the sherry wines of Jerez.

Types of sherry.

Types of sherry. - Credit: Archant

If you love sherry, or even if you think you don’t like sherry then the Sherry Festival is the best time to taste and enjoy the unique wines of Andalucia.

Sherry as a wine type is shunned by many wine drinkers and others because of the over-promotion of dark rich sweet sherries almost to the exclusion of others during the 7’0s. Sales peaked at this time but as this style of wine is no longer appreciated in the UK exports have now dropped by 80 per cent.

It’s such a shame as sherry is a fabulous quality drink made in a myriad of styles unlike other wines, and can thus match most tastes and complement most foods throughout a meal. In Spain there is currently high demand for the deliciously refreshing and tangy fino and manzanilla styles ,unlike in the UK where the low volume of sherry sold is mainly sweet, cheap supermarket sherry.

The driest and most delicate sherries are Finos and Manzanillas which are great when drunk chilled as an aperitif with olives and almonds and 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 Sanlucar de Barrameda and Jerez and produces the sherry flavours during short aging in American oak casks.

The infiltered version is known as En Rama and should be drunk soon after bottling when it is at its lightest and most delicate. It does age well too, developing a deep mouth-filling textured taste as I realised when I came across a bottle of 2015 En Rama – lovely but different!

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Amontillado is the most widely drunk sherry in the UK where it is often known as medium sherry, but to those in the know this is a misnomer except in supermarket open label ranges.

It is unique in style with its complex 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, white meat, tuna, wild mushrooms and semi-cured cheeses.

Oloroso is a sherry also made from Palomino grapes whose characteristics mean it is destined to be an aged wine, and fortified with alcohol to prevent the growth of flor, unlike in fino production when it is encouraged and allowed to age in a solera system.

Oloroso has complex powerful nutty aromas with toasty leafy spice and citrus notes. It is full and smooth on the palate and lingers with a dry nutty finish. It goes with red meat and game, wild mushrooms and flavoursome 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 a delicious lingering finish. It is a great accompaniment to soups and stews.

Cream sherry is a semi-sweet wine which is obtained by blending the Oloroso with an amount of Pedro Ximénez, hence it being commonly known as Sweet Oloroso. It has an aroma with a hint 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. It is thus a ‘syrupy texture 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 – its sheer diversity and finesse.