Photo courtesy of SherryFest
Last fall I spent a lot of time in New York — sadly my visits fell right on either side of SherryFest 2013. While I didn’t get to join the festivities, I certainly caught the contact high. Every sommelier, every restaurant, every wine-nerd was talking, drinking and generally swooning over Sherry.
Credit for that feat goes to SherryFest founders Rosemary Gray and Peter Liem. Launched in their hometown of New York in 2012, the impetus came from both their love of sherry and their desire to help out the region and its producers. Albeit the oldest, and perhaps most treasured Consejo in all of Spain, economic turmoil over the past decade has hit the region particularly hard. Coupled with a general lack of awareness and education about sherry, many of even the most respected bodegas were in danger of shuttering their cellar doors.
So over the past few years, SherryFest has been on one hell of a mission, and this week it’s San Francisco’s turn to join in. They’ve brought 21 sherry houses and their winemakers to town for producer dinners, seminars and an epic Grand Tasting. The Grand Tasting is already at capacity, but a few tickets are still up for grabs for the seminars and closing night dinner at St. Vincent.
Learning with delicious libations for a good cause? You should be all over this San Francisco!
And for a little home study, SherryFest cofounder and author of Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla Peter Liem has a handy primer for all below:
Peter Liem’s Ten Things to Know about Sherry
1. Most of the finest sherries are dry. Despite its popular image as a sweet wine, high-quality sherry is primarily a bone-dry wine, apart from Pedro Ximénez, Moscatel and Cream.
2. Sherry is a Spanish white wine. While many countries have produced wines labeled as “sherry”, true sherry comes only from the region around the town of Jerez, located in the province of Andalucía, in southern Spain.
3. Palomino is the most important grape variety in the sherry country. All dry sherries are made from palomino, while sweet sherries can be made from moscatel or Pedro Ximénez.
4. In cask, sherry is aged either biologically (with flor) or oxidatively (without flor). The flor is a layer of yeasts that forms on the surface of the wine in barrel, protecting it from oxygen and contributing flavor and character. Sherry aged under flor is a fino (or manzanilla, in the town of Sanlúcar); sherry aged without flor is an oloroso.
5. Sherry is made in a wide and diverse variety of styles. Sherry can be divided into dry wines (fino, manzanilla, amontillado, palo cortado, oloroso) and sweet wines (cream, moscatel, Pedro Ximénez). Dry sherry can be further divided into biologically-aged wines (fino, manzanilla), oxidatively-aged wines (oloroso), and intermediate styles that combine both types of aging (amontillado, palo cortado).
Fino: Sherry aged under flor, which imparts an inimitably saline and complex character to the wine.
Manzanilla: A flor-aged sherry, similar to fino, but matured in the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Amontillado: A sherry that undergoes two distinct phases of aging: it begins life as a fino or manzanilla, aged under flor, and then continues its aging oxidatively, without flor.
Palo Cortado: Another intermediate style, like amontillado, that typically combines characteristics of both biological and oxidative aging. It’s said to combine the finesse of an amontillado with the body of an oloroso.
Oloroso: A sherry aged entirely oxidatively, without flor.
Cream: A moderately sweet sherry, usually a blend of oloroso and Pedro Ximénez.
Moscatel: A sweet sherry made from the moscatel grape, with a characteristically floral aroma.
Pedro Ximénez: The sweetest style of sherry, from grapes that are partially dried in the sun before pressing.
6. Sherry is made in a solera system. The solera is a complex process that blends wines from many different vintage together, over a long period of time. Thus, the age of any given sherry is an estimated average rather than a precise figure.
7. Sherry is an aged wine. Even the youngest finos and manzanillas average two or three years of age, and most are aged even longer. The average age of many of the finest amontillados, olorosos and palos cortados can be measured in decades.
8. Sherry is best enjoyed with food. No wine in the world is more versatile than sherry when it comes to food pairing. Sherry can thrive alongside foods and flavors that kill many other wines.
9. Serve sherry in a white wine glass. While sherry is traditionally associated with a small, narrow glass called the copita, it is much better in a standard white wine glass, which allows it to express its full range of aromas and flavors. Finos and manzanillas should be served chilled.
10. Once opened, drink sherry quickly. Fino and manzanilla should be drunk within a few days of opening. Amontillado, palo cortado and oloroso should be drunk within a couple of weeks, although some can last longer. Pedro Ximénez can keep for months if properly stoppered.
Text: Julia Weinberg
10 Things to Know About Sherry Primer: Copyright Peter Liem, 2013