Authentic Sherry is a wine that is produced in either El Puerto de Santa Maria, Jerez de la Frontera, or Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain. It is a fortified wine, which means that a small amount of a neutral grape spirit (in this case, brandy) is added to increase the alcohol content. Another interesting thing about Sherry is it is aged in above-ground cellars called bodegas, so the wine is allowed to oxidize.
While many people in North America think Sherry is sweet, there are five dry styles that allow this fortified wine to pair exceptionally well with food. These five dry styles are Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, and Oloroso. In addition to these five dry styles, there two sweet sherries which are Pedro Ximenez (also known as PX) and Moscatel.
Aside from these sherries we just mentioned, you’ll find a lot of in-betweens which are sherries blended with each other, or with other grapes, as well as sherries that are not made in these three specific areas of Spain (for example, you can buy Sherry made in America or Canada). We won’t be discussing these as there are so many variants, that it would be challenging to suggest food pairings. For example, cream sherries, such as Harveys Bristol Cream are a blend of PX and Oloroso.
Fino and Manzanilla
We’ve grouped these two sherries together as they are at the start of the Sherry aging spectrum and the differences between the two really comes down to geography. Both of these fortified wines are the leanest and palest sherries you can buy and are aged with a minimum two years under flor, or the flower that naturally blooms on the wines in this part of Spain. While we said the Sherry could be aged a minimum of two years, most producers age their wine at least four or more years. Fino and Manzanilla make up 40% of the world’s official Sherry production and are the driest wines in the world.
Manzanilla Sherry Food Pairings
Manzanilla and Fino should always be served well chilled and is excellent as an aperitif with Spanish Tapas. Manzanilla has more of a salty tang to it, and this saline quality complements fresh seafood such as Clams, Grilled Squid, Sashimi, Shellfish, Lobster, Prawns, Langoustines, Fish Soup, Crab Bisque, Smoked Mussels, Pickled Mackerel, Garlic Shrimp and Smoked Salmon. Manzanilla Sherry is wonderful with non fishy foods like Anchovies, Feta Cheese, and smoked dried beef.
Fino Sherry and Food Pairings
Fino will go great with seafood as well,(but probably a hair less than Manzanilla) Fino is also exceptional with Almonds, Nuts, Manchego Cheese, Ham, Olive Tapenade, Asparagus, Smoked Eel, Teriyaki Salmon, Chicken Teriyaki, Sushi, White Gazpacho, French Onion Soup, Artichokes, and Cured Meats.
One of the better know Fino’s is produced by Tio Pepe which is light and crisp and is easily available wherever you buy wine.
Dry to Medium Dry Sherry
Amontillado and Food Pairings
If Sherry is aged to the point where the Flor dies, it begins to enter the Amontillado stage, where the oxidation period leaves the wine with a nutty/savoury character. The wine remains dry, but the richer flavour makes it more suitable for cured meats, game, desserts, and cheese than the classic Fino/Manzanilla seafood pairings.
Thus, you’ll find Amontillado goes great with Sauteed Mushrooms, Butternut Squash Soup, Kidneys, Meatballs, Pâté, Jamon Iberico, Cheddar Cheese, Smoked Duck, Lobster Bisque, Chestnuts, Jerusalem Artichokes, Roast Root Vegetables, and Braised Rabbit.
For desserts, a Medium Dry Amontillado is perfect with fruitcake, peanut brittle, shortbread, ginger snaps, and almonds.
Palo Cortado Sherry and Food Pairing
Palo Cortado is one of the more mysterious Sherries. My vague understanding of it is that it should have the aromatic nutty flavour of an Amontillado, with the body of an Oloroso. Should you come across this rare Sherry, we recommend pairing it with cured Meats, Soft Blue Cheese, Foie Gras, and Nuts
Oloroso Sherry and Food Pairings
Oloroso is another dry to medium-dry Sherry and similar to Amontillado, there is a rich and nutty flavour, but with a dark fruit overtone. This makes Oloroso go exceptionally well with game and aged cheeses.
Try Oloroso Sherry with Aged Gruyere, Gouda and Mimolette, Roast Pigeon, Roast Duck, or Roast Goose. Smoked Venison, Beef Jerky, Venison Pie, Pate, Braised Ox Cheek, Mushroom Risotto, and finally, my personal fave a Steak Sandwich. With its rich nutty flavours and dark fruit body, a medium dry sherry is also exceptional with a sweet, but not too sweet dessert such as Chocolate Cheesecake.
Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherry and Food Pairings
This Sherry is made from the Pedro Ximenez grape and Muscatel grapes and makes for a very sweet wine. Pair PX Sherry with decadent desserts like Chocolate, Nutty Desserts, Vanilla Ice Cream, Banana Desserts, Biscotti, Chocolate Brownies, and Almond Cookies.
Moscatel Sherry and Food Pairings
Our final Sherry is again a dessert wine and has more dried fruit notes, and subtle citrus aromas than Pedro Ximenez, as well it has more of a bitter finish. Again this dessert wine is excellent with desserts, particularly Pumpkin Pie, pecan pie, apple crumble, fruity pastries and lemon tarts.