They often have a nutty aroma and
are somewhat sweeter. That is a gross simplification of
sherries, but it should do for our purposes. The standard
of quality as a rule here is nothing less than excellent.
There simply is nothing like it in most parts of Spain and
attempts to emulate it in other parts of the world have
generally fallen short.
Though the English turned
it into Spain's ambassador to the wine world, sherry has
sometimes had difficulty finding a place for itself in the
modern market. its not really a wine the way you or I
would normally consider it, but it shouldn't be classified
as a liqueur either. What's even more surprising is that,
a vast majority of its production (80%) goes abroad,
mostly to Great Britain and northern Europe, so don't
expect to see many Spaniards ordering very much outside of
Andalusia. Still, I highly recommend sherry. The finos and
manzanillas are refreshingly dry (and excellent buys) and
the others, though often quite a bit pricier, are often
extraordinary for their complexity. There is a sherry for
every occasion and their class and elegance are
Some of the lesser known
regions are D.O. Montilla-Moriles and D.O.
Málaga-Sierra de Málaga. Though hardly household names
the rest of the world, they are still easily recognizable
among the fortified wine fans of countries like Great
Britain and the Netherlands.
Montillas, for centuries,
figured among the legendary old world wines. The word
"amontillado" itself means "Montilla-style". The most
characteristic of all is, however, without a doubt the
sweet Pedro Ximénez. Often drunk as a dessert wine, PX, as
it is often labelled, is generally not a fortified wine.
There is simply so much sugar in the grape that it
naturally packs a punch of up to 17% alcohol, and thus no
need for distilled alcohol to be added. Pedro Ximénez
wines are often thick, almost honey-like, drinks and they
can be delicious, though a bit overbearing if you don’t
have a sweet tooth. The grape is also used to make finos
and olorosos (as well as amontillados) and even though
many say they don’t match the sophistication of the best
sherry further south, they certainly are perfectly
Sweet wines are the main
fare from the winemakers around Malaga too. This region,
in days of yore, was world famous, with its highly
appreciated nectars sailing the seven seas to tempt
faraway palates. The region suffered terribly from the
phylloxera plague and struggled to maintain quality during
much of 20th Century, but it has been making a slow
comeback. Whether they are from Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel
grapes, the best part is that they are very good wines and
often a great buy.
Probably the least known of the big four is D.O.
Condado de Huelva, in the province of Huelva, not so
surprisingly. Despite possessing its own fortified and
sweet wine tradition, this small region seems to set its
sights with greater intensity on young white wine market.
At their best they are fresh and tasty and sold at
ridiculously low prices; but that’s only at their best.
Consistency is still something they will have to work on,
but they are getting there.
Speaking of normal table
wine, more and more I see new examples of wineries in
Andalusia looking for alternatives to the fortified wine
market. Part of the problem is simple to understand: 15%
alcohol is still strong wine no matter how you look at it.
Something new has to be done to cater to the new market.
Some wineries are
harboured by the major D.O.’s like Malága, while others
lurk in the V.T. category. Producing impressive samples of
both whites and reds, they are slowing proving to the
world that the south of Spain is more than just a haven
for sherry. Foreign varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon,
Syrah and Petit Verdot are particularly popular. Some
wines are proving to be outstanding and may end up being
the answer to this Andalusia’s declining fortified wine
Feature written by Brian
Murdock, author of the book "Let's
Open a Bottle". You can
contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org.