Fino Sherry: By Tio Pepe
Fino Sherry is a delight. However, don’t feel awkward if you are less than familiar with them — or with the Sherry category overall. Sherry is a fortified wine, made of white grapes, grown in the region of Andalusia, near Jerez de la Frontera.
Sherry comes in many forms and fashions, from the Pedro Ximénez — a sweet wine, normally consumed at dessert — to Amontillado, a nutty, richer Sherry, made literary-famous by Edgar Allen Poe’s work, The Cask of Amontillado.
You’ve got what is possibly our favorite category — the Fino. Characterized by both a hue and notes of pale grass and also by a dry, refreshing minerality on the sip, Fino sherry is made from the Palomino grape, near the city of Jerez de la Frontera, in the south of Spain.
Finos are biologically aged, under a layer of flor. Flor is a cap of yeast, which prevents the liquid having contact with the air. It yields that irresistible, salty note, for which Fino Sherry is so famous.
Tío Pepe is a beautiful, classic label of Fino. It’s known and revered the world-round, and it’s exceedingly delicate, with great notes of crisp, ripe apple and almonds. We felt it to be a perfect choice for this Spanish edition, because Tío Pepe is both wonderful if you are just now learning of Sherry’s beauty, or, if you already stock multiple bottles at home.
There’s a great deal of history with this label, too. González Byass was the first Sherry winery to export a Fino style. This was back in 1844, when crates were packed and sent on grand ships to the United Kingdom. To say it flourished would be a gross understatement. It’s now the best-selling Fino in the world, with more than 100 markets carrying bottles. In Spanish, Tío Pepe means Uncle Joe. It’s named for the founder’s uncle — Jose Angel.
The land where this particular Sherry is produced also harbors unique qualities. The soil has a high chalk content, giving it the ability to retain moisture. The Atlantic Ocean, cool winds and hot, dry summers create ideal growing circumstances and help to flavor the wine.
However, the biggest flavor contributor of any Fino comes with the famed Palomino grape at its heart. Tío Pepe begins with hand-selected, perfect Palomino fruit, sent through Willmes presses and placed in a Solera, where the prime conditions create that ultra-necessary flor layer. The wine rests for a minimum of four years, watched over by Master Blender, Antonio Flores.
If you take your bottle from the box, you’ll note the stunning, creamy, pale yellow color from the aging. A sip gives you definitive almonds, with tiny, bright moments of bitter and the delicious first bite of a pale green apple. It’s ideal alongside toasted bread, those Spicy Wild Sardines, a younger cheese, like a Manchego, and, of course, a beautiful bowl of seafood paella. It’s also gorgeous in a cocktail. Try riffs on Martinis, as an easy gateway to a world of Sherry.