While the province of Seville itself isn’t home to any major wine regions, that doesn’t mean that locals don’t know how to enjoy their vino!
In fact, sevillanos are particularly partial to one specific type of wine: sherry! We know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t that what my grandma drinks?” Well, not anymore. Here in southern Spain, and especially in Seville, sherry wines are a favorite among wine lovers from all walks of life. The wide range of flavors—from bone-dry to sickly sweet—means that there’s something on the sherry spectrum for everyone to enjoy. These five excellent sherry wines to order in Seville will help you feel like a local in no time.
1. Fino & Manzanilla
Looking to beat the scorching summer heat in Seville? A crisp, dry and refreshing glass of fino sherry might be just what the doctor ordered. As the driest of all the possible sherry wines to order in Seville, winemakers fortify fino as little as possible, adding just enough neutral spirits to bring the alcohol level to at least 15 percent. As for the aging process itself, fino ages under a layer of flor yeast for a minimum of two years (although the best tend to age for four to seven years). The result: a pale white wine that makes a lovely aperitif and pairs especially well with Seville’s famous fried fish: pescaíto frito.
If you like fino, you’ll almost certainly enjoy manzanilla as well. In fact, it’s not incorrect to say that manzanilla is just a different type of fino, although it does boast its very own denominación de origen. Manzanilla sherry is simply a subset of fino produced exclusively in the seaside village of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Located where the Guadalquivir River meets the Atlantic Ocean, the unique climate in the town gives manzanilla sherry a distinctive taste with notes of chamomile, almonds and sea salt.
Edgar Allan Poe romanticized this particular sherry in his dark short story The Cask of Amontillado, but luckily enjoying a glass of amontillado is much more enjoyable than it’s portrayed there. What sets amontillado apart as one of the best sherry wines to order in Seville is its unique dual aging process. First, it ages under a layer of flor yeast for about three to eight years. Then, the yeast clears away, exposing the wine directly to the oxygen that enters through the slightly porous oak barrels. As a result, amontillado takes on a beautiful amber color as it is exposed to the wood.
While some wine producers sweeten their amontillados for exportation, the traditional style (which you’ll find in southern Spain) is actually quite dry. However, it also packs an intense flavor featuring tasting notes such as hazelnut, aromatic herbs and dark tobacco. Its lightness and smoothness makes it a great accompaniment to white meats, wild mushrooms and semi-cured cheeses.
With a name meaning “scented” in Spanish, it’s no surprise that oloroso sherries pack intense flavor and aromas. As the most alcoholic sherry wines to order in Seville, olorosos undergo a completely oxidative aging process. That means there’s no flor yeast at all: it ages in direct contact with the air itself. Due to its exposure to the oak barrel throughout the aging process, it takes on a richer, darker color than amontillado.
As a result of its high alcohol content (between 18 and 20 percent, occasionally even more), oloroso sherries offer a bold taste. They feature nutty, balsamic aromas with autumnlike notes. The rich color and intense flavors make it an excellent pairing for tender red meats (such as carrillada and rabo de toro) as well as cured cheeses.
4. Palo Cortado
As one of the more rare sherry wines to order in Seville, palo cortado happens almost exclusively by accident. It starts off aging under a layer of flor, often with the intention of becoming fino or amontillado. However, if the layer of yeast breaks prematurely or fails to develop naturally, the flor is killed intentionally and the wine continues aging oxidatively.
Palo cortado, as a result, takes on quite a curious character. Its aromas are similar to those of amontillado, but its body and structure are more similar to an oloroso. The color of a good palo cortado can range from chestnut to mahogany, depending on how long it spent in the oxidative stage of the aging process. It makes a great accompaniment for nuts, cured cheeses and meats, and rich stews.
5. Pedro Ximénez
To round out our list of wines to order in Seville, it’s finally time for something sweet! Pedro Ximénez sherries are the darkest and sweetest of all the wines on the sherry spectrum. Its alcohol content can range greatly (from 15 to 22 percent or even more), but it does feature more significantly more grams of sugar per liter than the other sherries mentioned here. It gains this high sugar content naturally as grapes dry out in the sun and are picked when they are extremely ripe.
Because of its exceptionally sweet taste, you won’t often find locals drinking Pedro Ximénez with their meal. However, it’s an especially popular digestif and goes well with just about any dessert! Its tasting notes might remind you of sun-dried fruits like raisins, figs and dates, rounded out by aromas of honey, coffee and licorice.
Get a crash course in sherry wines and taste some for yourself when you join our Tapas, Taverns & History Tour! This exclusive foodie experience will take you into four of Seville’s most historic bars and restaurants. There, you’ll try the best local tapas paired with drinks locals love (including sherry!) and learn how food and history have shaped the passionate culture of Seville. Salud!
Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.