Sherry is made from three different grape varieties, Palomino for dry styles of sherry and Pedro Ximenez (PX) and Moscatel for the sweet styles of sherry.
These wines are put into barrels at only 5/6 full. The sherry wines will form a layer of yeast or “Flor” on top the wine preserving it from oxidation. It is a kind of Ivory colored foam, and can grow up to two centimeters thick, that protects the wine from air contact and that can only grow naturally in the specific climate of Southern Spain.
All sherry is made in the “Solera System” with the oldest barrels of wine being partially emptied and bottled. Then the same amount of wine taken from each barrel is replaced with wine from a younger barrel of wine. This younger barrel of wine is then filled with an even younger barrel of wine and so on.
Fino and Manzanilla sherries are aged the whole time with the “flor” where as Amontillados are similarly aged with the “flor”, until it eventually dies off and dissipates. This allows the Amontillados to slowly oxidize. Oloroso sherries are fortified quickly to kill any of the “flor” that might develop on top and is aged completely free of this yeast barrier.
Finos are pale in color and dry. They get most of their flavor from the “flor” and are made from the Palomino grape
Manzanillas are made similarly to Finos but can only be produced in the town of Sanlucar de Barrameda which is very close to the sea. This climate by the sea causes the “flor” to be thicker. It is the driest and most pungent of all sherries.
Amontillado is darker than finos and Manzanillas. After the “flor” dies, this wine unlike finos and manzanillas is left in the barrel to slowly oxidize. Amontillado is less citrusy and less fresh than a fino; instead, it has a rich and complex structure with notes of nuts, butterscotch, caramel and toffee. It can be served a little warmer than fino or manzanilla.
Oloroso wines are the darkest and most complex of all the sherries. It is exposed to air in the barrel through the entire aging process and as a result it is darker, bolder and more oxidized than the other sherries.
PX Sherry is made from Pedro Ximenez grapes (PX) grown in several Spanish wine regions but mostly in Montilla-Moriles region. It is made by drying the grapes under the hot sun, concentrating the sweetness to an extremely high level, which are then used to create a thick, black liquid with a strong taste of raisins and molasses. The wine is then fortified and aged in the “Solera system” PX Sherry displays intense, ultra-sweet aromas of candied figs and dates but also balancing flavors of chocolate, coffee, liquorice and spices.