If Denver tends to lag behind the coasts when it comes to wine trends, it’s not for lack of effort on the part of local sommeliers. Excited as they may be to hand-sell this or that obscure yet brilliant bottle, they can’t afford to keep purchasing and pushing anything their guests just won’t buy.
But the resurgence of interest in sherry may prove to be an exception. After all, the fortified white wine from Spain is not obscure so much as misconstrued, dismissed for decades as plonk meant only for cooks and grandmas. Now that it’s enjoying increased recognition as a cocktail ingredient, there’s an opening for conversations about the quality, drinkability, and versatility sherry offers on its own.
Where to begin your education? Well, we wish we could say "at the myriad Spanish restaurants around here," but we can count those on one hand, including The 9th Door, Cafe Aion, and Tapas d’Jerez. Still, they’d be obvious places to start—as would Rioja, whose name had better be a giveaway to Spain’s influence.
But these days, many other enocentric restaurants and bars offer at least one sherry, and some even more; take the RiNo Yacht Club, The Truffle Table, and Mizuna, where you know you can trust the staff to talk you through flavor profiles and recommended pairings. In the meantime, get a headstart with this mini-glossary.
Jerez de la Frontera: Of the three key sites of sherry production in Andalucía, Spain, this is the best-known (in fact, "sherry" derives from "Jerez"). The others are Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto di Santa María.
Palomino Fino: The white grape from which dry sherries are made.
Solera: A fractional blending system by which most sherries (as well as some other fortified wines, rums, and craft beers) are aged.
Flor: The yeast that naturally develops atop a base wine. If the wine is fortified to under 15.5% alcohol, it will act as a lid, preventing exposure to oxygen. At higher alcohol levels, the flor dies, and the fortified wine will undergo oxidation as it ages.
Fino: No wine may be more often described by the cliché "bone-dry" as fino, the lightest type of sherry, which is known for its sea-salty tang along with just a hint of the nuttiness defining its oxidized cousins. The ultimate companion for tapas, and good with seafood too.
Manzanilla: A fino that comes from the coastal town of Sanlucár de Barrameda to offer a briny freshness all its own.
Oloroso: Aged without flor, this type of sherry boasts many of the notes you look for in a dessert wine—nuts, caramel, dried fruit—but it’s generally dry and, believe it or not, can stand up to red meat.
Amontillado: For all intents and purposes, you can think of this type of sherry as a fino-oloroso hybrid—sure to be somewhat rich and nutty, but also perhaps saline, citrusy, herbal, and/or smoky. It’s likely to pair well with lighter meats.
Palo Cortado: Historically, it was a sort of accidental amontillado, but now the term may apply to the results of deliberate attempts to mimic spontaneous oxidation.
Pedro Ximénez: The name of both a grape and the style of sweet, raisinated sherry it produces—unabashedly rich with the sensations of dried fruit and toffee.
Moscatel: Also a raisinated dessert wine made from its namesake varietal.
Cream/Pale Cream: Proceed with caution—this is basically the blush wine of sherry.