SWEET or dry were the only real options during sherry’s last heyday.
Nowadays, though, the tapas bar-inspired sherry revival has encouraged us to delve deeper. Its production is centred around the south-western Spanish town of Jerez (anglicised to “Sherry”) and its maturation involves an age-based solera process that systematically blends newer wines with those from previous vintages.
After fermentation, winemakers separate young wines delicate enough to become fino from richer versions judged suitable for oloroso. Potential fino is lightly fortified (to around 15 per cent) and left to develop its so-called flor cap. This yeast crust protects the developing wine from the air. Oxygenation, however, is actually beneficial for oloroso as it darkens the colour and adds raisin flavours. So, more alcohol is added to this wine to prevent the flor from ever developing; it cannot survive much above 16 per cent.
Those two categories, however, divide further. Amontillado has usually started life under flor but has subsequently become oxygenated, which makes it softer and less dry. The style I want to pinpoint today – palo cortado – has developed into something that sits between amontillado and oloroso. If that sounds complex, think of it in colours. If fino were represented by yellow and oloroso by blue then amontillado would then be green and palo cortado turquoise (nearer to oloroso but retaining some fino delicacy).
My palo cortado pick is Cayetano del Pino Palo Cortado Solera (£14.95 at The Wine Society). Its major components are long, nutty, brown sugar flavours with touches of marmalade to add roundedness and depth, but with balancing citrus acidity.
For a taste of the genre try the impressive Morrisons Signature Palo Cortado (£5.99 for a half bottle). Given the price, it understandably lacks the smooth subtlety of my main recommendation, but it nicely illustrates the texture, nuttiness and touch of freshness that characterises the style.
Exquisite Collection Shiraz South Eastern Australia
Often the bigger the area covered by an “appellation”, the less memorable the wine. But this example from South Eastern Australia (basically everywhere apart from Western Australia) is a distinguished exception. There is a delightful balance between the wine’s acidity and its muted tannins. All of that fits harmoniously with its soft but ripe bramble and raspberry flavours, rich creamy texture, and underlying hints of vanilla and cinnamon.
£5.99 at Aldi
2014 Waimea Estate Grüner Veltliner
New Zealand, South Island
Given the current demand for fresh, unoaked whites, it is no surprise to see New Zealand developing versions of Austria’s signature grape – possibly with bolder and more aromatic elements than the homeland produces. This example certainly works well. It delivers smooth, soft apple and pear flavours with attractive herbal depth to add complexity. £9.99 – instead of £14.99 until 27 April at Majestic, where minimum purchase rules apply.