• 5 Things You Need To Know

5 Things You Need to Know About Sherry

Credit: Brian Samuels

Want to dine like a pro? Each month, we ask local experts to share the inside scoop about a particular food or beverage. Use their tips to eat and drink better, whether you’re indulging at home or in a restaurant.

The next time you take the Green Line down Beacon Street, look for the patio of Taberna de Haro, located at the corner of St. Marys Street in Brookline. The alfresco space—full of happy patrons sipping wine and tucking into tapas—captures the vibe of this special spot. Chef-owner-sommelier Deborah Hansen established the restaurant in 1998 to bring authentic Spanish fare to Boston. Her beverage list boasts 90 different bottles of sherry, a wine that needs some introduction.

  1. Sherry is a unique wine from southwestern Spain.
    “Sherry is a fortified wine, raised in the solera system,” says Hansen. Fortified means that distilled grape spirits are added to raise a wine’s alcohol level. The solera system refers to a series of casks, traditionally stacked in tiers, in which young wine is gradually blended with older wine. The libation is made in sherry-designated regions off of Spain’s southwestern coast, in and around the city of Jerez de la Frontera. “A wine labeled ‘sherry’ from anywhere else is a misnomer, a misappropriation, and is misleading,” Hansen declares.
  2. You can taste a rainbow of styles.
    “Sherry possesses an enormous range of styles,” says Hansen. “It’s broader than any other wine—from pale, fine, and dry, to dark, rich, and sweet.” Whether (or to what extent) the wine is exposed to oxygen during the aging process is one important factor accounting for stylistic differences.
  3. Not all sherry is sweet.
    While sherry’s range is broad, the vast majority of bottles are dry. “Manzanillas, finos, amontillados, palo cortados, and most olorosos are dry, and made from the palomino grape,” explains the sherry expert. Versions like Pedro Ximénez (also the name of the varietal from which it’s made) are sweet.
  4. The presence or absence of ‘flor’ shapes what’s in the glass.
    When sherry develops under a layer of yeast called flor, it ages biologically. Styles like manzanilla and fino—pale, light, and dry, with flavors of salinity and brine—are two examples. If sherry does not develop under flor, it ages oxidatively. “The wine darkens in color and takes on toasty, nutty, burnished wood notes,” Hansen explains. Oloroso is an example.
  5. The ideal moments to enjoy sherry are before, during, and after a meal.
    Hansen recommends a cool glass of manzanilla or fino with olives or salted almonds as an aperitivo. Serve either style alongside poached fish drizzled with olive oil, vinegar, and topped with fried garlic. After dinner, oloroso is excellent with aged goat cheese. “The pairing possibilities are enormous,” she enthuses.

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