Sherry is a fortified wine that reaches its highest quality in the southwestern region of Spain, using primarily Palomino and Pedro Ximénez (PX for short) grapes. There are three types of Sherry: dry (Fino, Manzanilla), off dry (Amontillado), and sweet. Although widely praised by sommeliers, and historically considered one of the world’s greatest wines, Sherry has not become particularly fashionable in the New World.
The wine featured this week is an ultra-sweet, syrup-like dessert Sherry. The PX grapes from 40-year-old, low-yielding vines are sun-dried (think raisins) on straw mats, to concentrate the sugars before being pressed. The resulting thick juice has a high residual sugar content. The wine then goes through a blending system of casks that hold wines of different ages, known as the Solera system. This results in a mix of young and aged flavors. The Solera for this wine was begun nearly 80 years ago.
Priced at only $20 to $23 for a half-bottle (375 ml), this dessert wine, which is 16 percent abv, is an incredible value. It has a dark auburn color in the glass, and offers enticing aromas of prunes, sugared black plums, and maple-coated walnuts. It is viscous on the palate, yet sleek and nimble, with flavors of toffee, raisin, prune, and praline. The wine’s sweetness is counteracted by bright acidity so that it’s not cloying.
This Sherry should be stored upright in a cool, dark place and can be kept unopened for many years. Once opened, it can actually improve, and last a month or more, so you can sip it on multiple occasions. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled as dessert on its own, as an accompaniment to blue cheese, or pour over vanilla bean ice cream for a special treat.