Spain Wine

Sherry: Fino

Sherry is a complex wine region full of history and traditions, but unfortunately underappreciated. Offering an incredible quality for the value (exceptional 30-year-old wines can be purchased for under £50), it is a great region for knowledgeable winelovers.

As usual in the wine world, knowledge is key, since the sheer amount of types of Sherry (also known as Jerez) can be overwhelming. Fino, manzanilla, amontillado, palo cortado, oloroso, cream, Pedro Ximénez… All have very different styles and flavour profiles. With this post we will start a series covering most of these styles over the next few months. 

The logical starting point is fino, a name derived from the favourite grape variety in Jerez, Palomino Fino. Although naturally low in acid in these warm and dry latitudes, Palomino develops very well when exposed to the cooler Atlantic ocean winds and when planted in albariza. Albariza soils retain water and possess high levels of limestone that gives minerality and a more defined acidic structure to the wines. The alcohol content is low and does not surpass 12.5% naturally. For the production of fino, the wines are fortified up to 15 or 15.5%. This limit is a necessary requirement to allow the appearance of flor. Fino is biologically aged in barrels where a colony of bacteria actively alters the wine. The barrels are filled partially to allow the bacteria to settle in the interface between the wine and the air. Since the bacteria feed from nutrients of the wine and oxygen from the air, barrels must be refilled with younger wines to replenish these nutrients. A system of barrels from different vintages (known as solera) enables the veil of yeast on top of the wine (velo de flor) to survive up to seven years. Most finos in the market have been aged for four to seven years in flor. 

The resulting flavour profile is remarkably distinctive. The autolysis is responsible for a yeasty, saline profile with a creamy texture, with notes of fresh dough and almonds from the simultaneous oxidation. The varietal character is found as oxidised apples, dried grasses and chamomile or blossom.

There are outstanding producers of fino. Our favourites, in no particular order, are González Byass (En Rama), Equipo Navazos, Fernando de Castilla, Luis Pérez (La Barajuela), M Antonio de la Riva.

Equipo Navazos – La Bota de Fino 68 – Saca de 2016
Nose:White flowers, baked apple/oxidised apple (flor) and green almond. As it evolves, honey notes appear.
Palate:Confirms the nose. Apple, lime, almonds and a mild salinity dominate in that order. The almond and honey notes take over in the finish. Although an old saca, flor aromas are still there, present.
Structure:High alcohol, full bodied, crisp, dry. Velvety texture from the flor. Very long finish.

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