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More about Half Bottles of Sherry
Fino and the similar Manzanilla - pale, delicate, bone dry and tingling with life and zest, an ideal palate-reviver thould be drunk well chilled. These types sherry are like normal table wine and rapidly lose their appeal if kept in an opened bottle for longer than a few days.
The other major style of sherry is dark, nutty and complex with its subtle shadings of mahogany and nuances that are the direct and delicious results of extended ageing in oak. Dry Amontillado and, even deeper, dry Oloroso seem tailor-made for staving off the chills of winter.
Sweet sherry, Pedro Ximénez, is also a delight to accompany mince pies and christmas pudding but also poured over vanilla icecream.
What makes sherry unique is the way that it is produced - the “solera system”; a system of blending wines from different vintages so as to achieve complexity and consistency.
Imagine a row of barrels of wine on the floor of the aging cellar. This is the solera, which literally means “on the ground”. It is the “starter” and the oldest wine in the blend. A row of barrels on top of these is called the 1st criadera, the second oldest wine in the blend. On top of that is the 2nd criadera, the next oldest, and then the 3rd criadera. There may be as many as 8 or 9 criaderas, with the youngest wine on top.
When it comes to bottling, they remove 1/4 to 1/3 of the oldest wine from the solera or bottom-most barrels. This is then replaced with wine from the 1st criadera, and that replaced that with wine from the 2nd criadera and so on to the top-most youngest wine. This is called “fractional blending”. The oldest barrels, the soleras, might be 40-50 years old.
This is NOT what granny had on the sideboard or some distant memory of something sweet at Christmas. This is what Jancis Robinson, one of the best known wine writers describes as “In a nutshell: The world's most neglected wine treasure.” Read more about sherry here