Sharp and dry resolving into a sweeter flavor with a full mouthfeel, sherry is delicious to sip or sauté with.
Sherry is a fortified wine, similar to Marsala and Port. In Europe, Sherry has protected designation of origin status, which means anything bearing the name “Sherry” or Xeres has to come from what is known as the “Sherry Triangle” in Spain. The Sherry triangle is bounded by Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María. Each area has its own microclimate which imparts the grapes from each vineyard with a specific terroir and flavor.
Sherry is produced from white grapes, fermented to a certain stage and then fortified with a grape spirit, typically brandy, which gives it a deeper flavor structure, helps cultivate the creamy mouthfeel that sherries are famous for, and imparts different alcohol percentages depending on how much longer they ferment after fortification. This is where the varieties of dry to sweet, creamy to velvety. The color typically signifies whether it will be drier, which is lighter, or sweeter amber or mahogany.
From a culinary perspective, there is a cooking sherry that is specific to the kitchen. It typically not only is fortified but also has an amount of salt added as a preservative. This separates it from the other sherries which are distinctive for their sipping quality. I like to keep a bottle of sherry in the kitchen to sauté with or add to soups/stews or casseroles. It’s especially welcome in fall and winter, adding a complexity to warming dishes that delights the palate.
From a health perspective, sherry is made from white grapes and brandy, so I think this is just one of those things to enjoy occasionally in small amounts and call it a day. (: