Refreshing sherries that deserve the spotlight: Evans Hammond

A crash course on the fortified wine that’s winning hearts in bars across the world.

By: Carolyn Evans Hammond Published on Sat Apr 8, 2017 in The Toronto Star and on Star Touch, syndicated

From the dry, sea spray scented finos to the deeply complex olorosos and PX styles, Sherry makes pretty much every wine pro I know weak at the knees. What’s more, this fortified wine is fast becoming the hipster drink of choice as Sherry bars crop up in major cities all over the world. To put you squarely in the know, check out these five quintessential types of Sherries. 

Fino

Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Extra Dry Palomino Fino, Jerez, Spain (LCBO 231829 $17.95 in stores and online)

While this world’s bestselling fino looks basically like every other white wine you’ve ever seen, it’s not. It has spent at least five years in barrel under a layer of flor — a natural yeast film — developing fino’s signature tang and deep subtlety. Pay attention when you drink it, and notice fascinating complexity — aromas and bone-dry flavours that call to mind grapefruit zest, warm bread, crushed raw almonds, brine, dried citrus rind and white flowers. It’s a pleasure to drink chilled with green olives. 

Score: 90

Manzanilla

Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry, Sanlucar de Marrameda, Jerez, Spain (Vintages 745448 $16.95 in stores only)

Manzanilla is essentially the briniest style of fino you can drink made in the cool, seaside town of Sanlucar de Barrameda in Jerez. The exposure to Atlantic breezes creates conditions that impart a signature seaspray character to the wine. Taste this world’s bestselling Manzanilla to experience a true and reliable expression of this style. Aromas of crashing ocean waves leads to dry, refreshing flavours of sea salt, almond and chalk that taper to a long Brazil nut finish. Love the lean, linear structure and precise articulation of flavour. Serve it chilled with dry-roasted almonds. 

Score: 91

Oloroso

Gonzalez Byass Nutty Solera Medium Oloroso Sherry, DO Jerez, Spain (Vintages 35204 $16.95 in store only)

When the flor under which a Fino sherry is aging is destroyed, the wine is exposed to air, turns brown and becomes richer and more complex. The resulting wine is called Oloroso Sherry. Olorosos can be dry or sweet, but they’re always nutty and flavourful with higher alcohol levels than Fino — hovering around 18 per cent. This bottle offers exceptional value. Flavours and aromas of Brazil nut, burnt sugar, dried fruit, coffee and more shine in this sweet but balanced amber liquid. Serve it chilled with paper-thin shavings of Iberico ham. 

Score: 91+

Cream

Osborne Santa Maria Cream Sherry, Jerez, Spain (LCBO 31120 $13.10 in stores and online)

While Olorosos can be dry or sweet, Cream Sherry is always sweet. The most popular Cream Sherry in the world is Harveys Bristol Cream, which is quite good (I score it a 90), but my favourite general list Cream Sherry is this bottle with its mahogany hue and rich flavours of warm toffee, spiced praline, orange marmalade, cherry pound cake, almond paste, dried figs and dates. It’s a gorgeous little tipple sipped on the rocks with homemade apple pie. 

Score: 93

Pedro Ximenez (px)

1967 Toro Albala Don PX Seleccion DO Montilla-Moriles, Spain (Vintages 491647 $199.00 in store only)

Made from sun-dried Pedro Ximenez grapes, PX is a dark, unctuously sweet style of Sherry. To see the heights to which this style can rise, taste this wine bottled exclusively for the LCBO. Aromas and flavours of black walnut, cocoa powder, molasses, pencil shavings, melting dark chocolate, gingersnap and sea salt imbue the blackberry jam and stewed plum core. Bright, mouth-watering acidity lifts the luscious sweetness and feathery notes of grapefruit zest and French lemon tart resonate on the finish. Once opened, PX remains fresh for at least two years and is spectacular with blue cheese.

Score: 96

Carolyn Evans Hammond is a Toronto-based wine writer. She is also a London-trained sommelier and two-time bestselling wine book author. Reach her at carolyn@carolynevanshammond.com .