To kick off Sherry week, we will start with Fino and Manzanilla. This style of sherry is bone dry. Manzanilla, because of the proximity of where it is produced, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, to the sea of Jerez, has a wonderful salt note. This, combined with their very light body, make these wines perfectly paired with seafood.
Fino and Manzanilla are both fortified to no greater than 15.5% alcohol and aged under a layer of yeast called flor. The yeast feeds off the alcohol and nutrients in the wine so the fractioning of the solera needs to be maintained throughout the aging process. This layer prevents oxygen from having contact with the wine and provides a toasted bread note to the wine. The wines undergo this aging process in wooden barrels for a minimum of 2 years. As a result of needing the flor layer intact to protect the wine, these wines are typically fairly young comparatively because the nutrients the flor feeds off of get consumed over time. As a result, these wines lose their freshness quickly and are best consumed not long after purchasing. They do not store very long after being opened.
I paired tonight’s Lustau Fino del Puerto with one of my favorite, and easiest, tapas. Gambas al ajillo is a very common snack offered in bars around the area of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. They are shrimp cooked in olive oil containing finely sliced garlic, crushed red pepper, and a splash of sherry at the end of cooking. It is accompanied with a side of crusty bread to soak up the juices. The wine was a bright pale lemon color with tiny particles that floated around the glass. These tiny imperfections are merely an indicator that the wine may not have been finely filtered or fined (when an agent is added to wine to bind to the particles. This agent sinks to the bottom and gets collected) to remove these particles. Widely commercially available wines are usually extremely clear because it is what consumers expect, however, many premium wines do not undergo this process. It is a decision made by the winemaker or the corporation. The wine had aromas of marzipan, lemon pith, herbal notes, and slightly over toasted bread. This light bodied, high alcohol wine was easy to drink. The level of acid was present but not overpowering. The citrus notes in the wine are bright and perfect with the shrimp. Dunking the toasted bread in the juice is wonderful with the toasted bread notes in the fino. There are notes of salt that were ideal with the shrimp. The mild spice added by the chili flakes were a fair match to the warming of the alcohol, but didn’t accentuate the effect. The subtle herbal note brought by the fresh parsley garnish elevated the similar flavors within the wine. Overall, this pairing was delightful, and very simple! Next, I might need a few green olives to finish the bottle!