Fino and manzanilla are both made from the Palomino grape, the only difference is that manzanilla is aged in the coastal region of Sanlucaar. And that difference is significant as the salt and humidty from the Atlantic permeates through the barrels to impart a distinct salty flavour that is absent in sherries aged in Jerez. And what is more these sherries near the coast have a distinct, SUBTLE flavour.
Much of the fino we see in Australia is from Jerez – and for good reason; Jerez sherries tend to be more oxidative, a more intense style that suits both our palates and handles being shipped long distances. Speaking with Jan Pettersen (from the sherry producer Fernando de Castilla), he stated he would never ship Manzanilla to Australia as the wine is too delicate and could not handle the journey. Perhaps this is why many manzanillas in Australia tend to oxidise & tire very quickly. Jerez is much hotter – think of it as the Barossa equivalent where there is richness and intensity, in contrast think of El Puerto as the Mornington Peninsula influenced by the water and producing more delicate, subtle restrained wines.
Cue fino sherry from El Puerto! These fino sherries are often better priced than manzanilla, are just as saliney in flavour if not more so than their Sanlucar counterparts and have a finesse that is truly sublime. As an aside if you find a bottle of fino or manzanilla that has been in bottle for at least a year- it is still perfectly fine, it will have aged and show some colour and more intense oxidative notes…having discovered just such a bottle last week I realised it tasted just like sherry from Jerez!
After several days in El Puerto de Santa Maria I am a convert. Over the summer months, fino is a perfect drink to enjoy in an afternoon – with smoked almonds or charcuterie, it quenches your thirst, and keeping it chilled with iceblocks if need be, it will take you though to dinner be it with salads, light soups or fish dishes with ease. Sherry in general and fino in particular remains a true hidden secret. It is frustrating as once you discover it you want to shout about it!
Remember – buy half bottles as 750ml is daunting and you want to finish the bottle within the one sitting or a couple of days at the most. Finos look better 3 months after bottling, check the back label of the sherry as it will usually show the date it was bottled & for maximum enjoyment make sure it is consumed within 10 months of bottling. We are the exclusive importer of Gutierrez Colosia sherries – we work closely together and only ship fino bottled specifically for our shipment ensuring maximum freshness.