From Winespeed: While flor does mean “flower” in Spanish, with regard to Sherry, it refers to the thin layer of native yeast cells that are allowed to “bloom” on top of manzanilla and fino Sherries as they age in casks. Flor acts to prevent oxidation and also contributes a unique tanginess to the wine. In the production of most wines around the world, as the contents of barrels slowly evaporate throughout the aging process, barrels are kept topped up with wine in order to minimize the contact the wine has with air and avoid spoilage organisms. Two traditional practices are necessary to support the development of flor. Firstly, barrels are only filled to four-fifths of their capacity. Secondly, the solera principle of blending various ages of wines is essential, as the regular addition of new wine supplements the transfer of nutrients and keeps the flor thriving. In case the flor dies off (either naturally or intentionally), the sherry will have air contact and is then classified as an Amontillado, will undergo an additional fortification, and continue aging in an oxidative way.
Most of us received our first introduction to sherry when we saw it in our family kitchen. It was often added to some slow cooking dinner, imparting some flavor, but only after the alcohol dissipated. But there is more to sherry than meets the glass.
From The Manual: Sherry has held a certain esteem throughout, wearing its nutty, briny, dried fruit flavors on its shimmering gold sleeves and for good reason — the sherry designation contains some of the driest as well as the sweetest wines on the planet. No matter what sort of wine you are looking for, chances are you can find something similar to it within the category.
What is sherry? Born in Spain and made primarily from the Palomino grape, then fortified with grape brandy, sherry goes back a few thousand years but really gained a European footing in the 13th century. Columbus traveled to the New Word with plenty in tow. Shakespeare loved it. Magellan, in what is one of my favorite drinks legends ever, is said to have shelled out more on sherry than arms as he prepared to sail around the globe.
Today, sherry, just as with other spirits or liquors, can only be made within a specific region. Known as the marco de Jerez or “Sherry Triangle,” sherry is made in three towns in Southern Spain — Jerez de la Frontera (known simply as Jerez, and pronounced “he-ref”), Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa Maria.
Types of dry sherry include: Fino, Manzanillo, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, and Oloroso. The gold standard is Tio Pepe Palomino Fino, a rather dry but crisp and easy to drink sherry. My suggestion is to try it as an aperitif, or place a few ice cubes into your glass, as a refreshing cocktail.
Speaking of something sweet: A big $70 (in U.S.$) per bottle of a new Sauternes label by Château d’Yquem (classified as a Premier Cru Supérieur in 1855). The Château’s 2017 grand vin costs $460. In 2005, CEO, Pierre Lurton, decided to give batches of wine deemed unsuitable for the celebrated noble-rot (botrytised) wine to the estate’s employees, rather than sell them in bulk. In 2014, d’Yquem bottled so-called “Sauternes 1” for their employees. Now in 2020, with “Sauternes 6,” the château has decided to go public with the wine. Having been in Sauterne in May 2019, I am personally not a big fan of Sauternes. But they are passionate about it over there!!! And the little village of Sauterne is quite charming!!!
The oldest vines: In the late 1800s, the aphid-like insect known as phylloxera destroyed most of the vineyards of Europe, South Africa, and many in the Americas. Relatively isolated from the rest of the world, Australia was one of the last wine regions to be invaded by the pest. Swift, and it must be said—Draconian—measures imposed in the state of South Australia made it the only winegrowing region on the continent and one of the few in the world to side-step the scourge. Even today, South Australia is phylloxera-free, as a result of the strict quarantine laws it put in place in the 1890s. Those laws protected what are now some of the oldest vineyards in the world—vineyards which possess the original genetic plant material of Europe’s indigenous grapevines. Two important examples are in the Barossa Valley. The Hewitson family owns the Old Garden Vineyard which contains the world’s oldest mourvèdre, planted in 1853. And Penfold’s famous Kalimna “Block 42” of cabernet sauvignon planted in 1888 is thought to be the oldest cabernet sauvignon the world over. While definitive records do not exist, some of these vines are thought to be first generation cuttings from the famous James Busby Collection of vines originally planted at Sydney’s Botanical Gardens in the 1830s.