Sherry – a fortified wine from the region around the Spanish town of Jerez – might be the world’s most underappreciated wine. That’s probably why the Spanish grape varieties Palomino Fino and Pedro Ximenez, which are used to make dry sherry, have been called incomparably dull. We beg to differ.
Grown in a mix of sand and clay under the blinding sun of southwestern Spain, Palomino Fino and Pedro Ximenez produce a neutral white. Through the blender’s art and with nature’s help, they become absurdly delicious.
Wine writers are positively evangelical about dry sherries – the finos, olorosos and amontillados that are made without added sugar. As finos ferment, a flor (yeast) grows on the surface of the wine; the flor gives it a distinctively salty tang. With sherries selected as olorosos and amontillados, the addition of more alcohol means that they never develop the flor. Instead, through exposure to air and wood, they acquire aromas of nuts and caramel, among other things.
Move beyond images of grannies sipping sweet thimblefuls of sherry: Chilled finos make perfect aperitifs, while the olorosos and amontillados are wonderful after dinner.
Alvear’s Fino ($10.80) is from Montilla, a small region northeast of the Jerez that has long been associated with sherry. Made from Pedro Ximenez, its pale gold colour, apple and brine nose, and long finish make it a matchless value.
Lustau’s Dry Amontillado Los Arcos ($19.95) has a fresh, nutty caramel nose that turns spicy on the palate with a very long finish.
Bodegas Hidalgo’s Oloroso Faraon ($21.95) has a nutty raisined nose. It’s smooth and very long on the palate.
(Photo courtesy of star5112)