Fino Sherry is the driest wine in the world. Aged in solera under flor, a protective layer of yeast, Fino can sometimes age for decades without oxidizing. Crisp, bright and refreshing, Fino can display a wide range of flavors: from green apple skin to fresh baked bread.
Like Fino, Manzanilla sherry is also one of the driest wines in the world. Manzanilla is matured around Sanlúcar de Barrameda, closer to the sea than Jerez, and the only place where it is allowed to be made. Manzanilla typically displays more coastal aromas than a Fino, like seaspray, salt or even iodine. In Spanish, manzanilla also mean chamomile, which is another aroma typically found in this type of sherry.
Amontillado is a Fino or Manzanilla that begins aging under flor for the first three to eight years before being further matured in an oxidative way without flor. It oxidises slowly, exposed to oxygen through the slightly porous oak, and gains a darker colour and richer flavour than Fino. While still having hints of flor, it will be less fresh and citrusy than a Fino but with more elegance and structure.
Oloroso is aged in the absence of flor. Traditionally, after fermentation, the base wines would be classified with specific signs on the cask, according to their finesse. Good, delicate wines suited for biological ageing were given a raya, a stick or vertical line. For particularly excellent base wines, the cellarmaster would add a little wave to form a palma, a palm branch. Slightly heavier wines more suited for oxidative ageing are given a circular mark ‘o’.Oloroso means fragrant and the best examples will display dried fruits, leather, polished wood and exotic spices.
Palo Cortado is an intermediate type of sherry and probably the most ambiguous of them all. This is fueled by the vague description in the official rules of the Consejo Regulador: it should have the aromatic refinement of Amontillado combined with the structure and body of an Oloroso. In short: Amontillado on the nose, Oloroso in the mouth.
Pedro Ximénez (sometimes Pedro Ximinez, Ximénès, Jimenez or other variations) is a name used for dessert wines created with at least 85% of the grape variety with the same name. Commonly referred to as P.X., these are intensely sweet wines, especially when the grapes are dried in the sun.
In an attempt to set their premium wines apart, bodegas created a list of vague and ambiguous age references on labels. This became a serious problem as it was hard for consumers to know what they were buying, and how one sherry compared to another in terms of maturation. The Consejo Regulador ended this ambiguity by introducing stricter rules with fixed age boundaries in order to officially guarantee a certain age and quality, rather than allowing a categorization chosen by the producer. In order to display a VOS label the sherry has to prove an average age of 20 years or older, and 30 years or older for VORS.