Sherry Blend is a convenient, collective name for the three grape varieties used to make Sherry in Jerez, southwestern Spain. They are Palomino, Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel de Alejandria (Muscat of Alexandria).
Palomino is by far the dominant variety, and accounts for almost 95% of Sherry production. It is usually used varietally, although sometimes Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel de Alejandria are used in small proportions to add richness. Pedro Ximenez, most famously used in the production of lusciously sweet sherries, is grown in such small volumes in Jerez that it is often brought in from Montilla-Moriles, 60 miles (100km) inland. Muscat of Alexandria is also grown on a very small scale, and is valued for its sweetness and light, fruity aromas.
However, the winemaking methods employed to make Sherry are arguably far more important to the finished product than the grape varieties. For more information about these see: Jerez-Xeres-Sherry.
- Fino ('fine' in Spanish) is the driest and palest of the traditional varieties of Sherry. The wine is aged in barrels under a cap of flor yeast to prevent contact with the air.
- Manzanilla is an especially light variety of Fino Sherry made around the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
- Manzanilla Pasada is a Manzanilla that has undergone extended aging or has been partially oxidised, giving a richer, nuttier flavour.
- Amontillado is a variety of Sherry that is first aged under flor and then exposed to oxygen, producing a sherry that is darker than a Fino but lighter than an Oloroso. Naturally dry, they are sometimes sold lightly to medium sweetened but these can no longer be labelled as Amontillado.
- Oloroso ('scented' in Spanish) is a variety of sherry aged oxidatively for a longer time than a Fino or Amontillado, producing a darker and richer wine. With alcohol levels between 18 and 20%, Olorosos are the most alcoholic sherries. Like Amontillado, naturally dry, they are often also sold in sweetened versions called Cream sherry (first made in the 1860s by blending different sherries, usually including Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez).
- Palo Cortado is a variety of Sherry that is initially aged like an Amontillado, typically for three or four years, but which subsequently develops a character closer to an Oloroso. This either happens by accident when the flor dies, or commonly the flor is killed by fortification or filtration.
- Jerez Dulce (Sweet Sherries) are made either by fermenting dried Pedro Ximénez (PX) or Moscatel grapes, which produces an intensely sweet dark brown or black wine, or by blending sweeter wines or grape must with a drier variety.
Food matches for Sherry include:
- Salted roast almonds (fino)
- Salmon marinated in sake and sesame oil (amontillado)
- Pecan pie (oloroso)