If you think of Sherry as a nondescript liquid, best left in dusty bottles and only enjoyed by old ladies, then let us given you an idea of just how useful sherry can be.
And particularly Fino Sherry, which is the driest member of the Sherry family. It has a complexity and bright acidity that is perfect for adding a dry balance to citrusy drinks.
This Spanish wine is a perfect aperitif or accompaniment to a wide variety of foods, as the dry profile stimulates the taste buds.
A Brief Introduction
Fino is a dry white wine made from palomino grapes. It is a fortified wine, which means that neutral spirits are added to the wine.
Despite the alcohol level, a good Fino is delicate in texture and great with food. It should never feel heavy, and the best Finos are complex and refreshing. Manzanilla is a particular form of fino sherry produced only in the seaside town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where it develops a tangy sea-salt aroma and a texture that’s almost fragile compared with other Finos.
Production and Ageing
What makes sherry singular is both the method by which it is blended over time and, for fino sherries, in particular, the process by which it ages. The blending takes place through the solera system, in which newer wines are gradually mixed with older ones to produce a sherry encompassing many different vintages.
Fino sherry is derived from the total fermentation of palomino grape must. The base wine thus obtained is fortified to 15% of alcohol by volume with the aim of favouring the development of the film of Flor, the natural protection made up of yeasts which will prevent the wine oxidising during the ageing process whilst at the same time providing certain very special organoleptic characteristics.
This cap of yeast prevents contact with the air, resulting in a yeasty, saline profile with notes of Mediterranean herbs, fresh dough and almonds. Maturation of at least 2 years in wooden barrels is prescribed by law, but the majority of good Finos are aged between four and seven years of age.
Ranging from bright straw yellow to pale gold in colour. A sharp, delicate bouquet has a hint of fresh dough and wild herbs. Light, dry and delicate on the palate leaving a pleasant, fresh aftertaste of almonds.
At four or five years of age, the wine shows bright notes of flor and minerals, while older examples show more savoury complexity and less spikey salinity.
Fino is an ideal aperitif wine and goes well with all types of tapa, especially olives, nuts and Iberian cured ham. Also providing the perfect companion for shellfish and fish, especially those with a marked salty taste (anchovies) or even raw (sashimi).
Its low acetic acid content combines exceptionally well with dishes of marked acidity (vinaigrette salads, marinades, etc.) as well as with cold soups (gazpacho, ajo blanco, etc.).
While you can easily drink Fino on its own, a better use for this Sherry is in cocktails.
A splash of sherry, particularly dry styles like Fino can add a subtle nudge of salinity or nutty richness to drinks that typically only call for vermouth. Stirred classics like Martini’s or Manhattans are a natural fit, but it can also be applied to sours and even tiki-style drinks.
A natural complement to many drinks it is the finish, not the flavour upfront that allows it to stand out. When its flavour comes out in the end, it can make a drink a whole lot more interesting. One trick is to use it in a Daiquiri by halving the sweet and making the other half Fino to add a bright note to the drink.
But however you use it, make sure that, like Vermouth, always keep your Fino in the fridge.