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sherry styles, à la downton abbey

“A dry sherry and salted almonds are quite the thing now

and not quite as ‘old-generation’ as some think!” – pippa middleton

We just finished a season of Downton Abbey that was quite tumultuous. If you’re going through that much dramz, a tipple of sherry comes in handy and they had their fair share – the “old-generation” in action. [NOTE: Spoilers are about to start if you haven’t seen the full season.] I was shocked and sad about Sybil’s death, but Matthew’s was super lame and melodramatic. In sherry terms, the Sybil episode was full, rich, and complex like an oloroso while Matthew’s was like a much thinner fino.

Anyway, we had a very fun sherry drink-through last night. As for basics, sherry is fermented grape juice that gets brandy added to it. As it ages in barrels, a layer of yeast called flor starts to grow on the surface which protects the wine from oxygen and gives sherry its unique smell and taste. If the flor doesn’t develop, the sherry is called “oxidatively aged” and its exposure to air makes it dark,  full-bodied, and nutty. The different styles of sherry just depends on how much air-exposure it’s had because of the flor or lack of flor.

Here’s how each style compares to our favorite Downton-ers!

downton abbey sybilfino: sybil

Crisp, dry, yeasty, and tangy, fino is the freshest and most delicate of sherry styles.

Poor Sybil just couldn’t hack childbirthing, delicate little bird that she was.

downton coramanzanilla: cora

This is just a fino made in a different town (Sanlúcar de Barrameda). It’s light, fresh, and said to have a salty note.

Cora’s pretty simple too, but she can get all salty when she’s pissed about something Robert’s done.

downton maryamontillado: mary

Amber-colored, nutty, and more complex with a long finish.

Similarly, Mary has an endurance and complexity that her sisters don’t. This is actually my favorite sherry style, and Mary also happens to be my favorite character.

downton edithpalo cortado: edith

Half-way between a fino and an amontillado, it’s nutty, fresh and complex. This is called the “magic sherry” because they claim they don’t really know why it starts under flor but then loses the yeast and just ages like an oloroso.

I wouldn’t call Edith “magical” but she does have some of Mary’s depth and some of Sybil’s innocence, so she’s middle sister in-between all the way.

downager downtonoloroso: the dowager

Complex brown-colored sherries, that are rich and nutty but still dry. This is much more complex and the most aromatic of the sherries.

When you smell it you almost think it’s gong to be sweet, but it’s still completely dry – just like our barb-slinging dowager.

downton carsonpedro ximénez: carson

Made from air-dried grapes, with fermentation stopped early by the addition of spirit, viscous, sweet, dessert wine.

It’s pretty awesome, and so is Carson with his wisdom, stubborn traditionalism and loyalty.

downton isobelcream: isobel

This is oloroso sherry sweetened by blending it with Moscatel or Pedro Ximénez.

Isobel sort of bores me, but she’s got some depth and is much sweeter than most of the Crawleys. Still, this is the image I think most people have when they think of sherry – a cream sherry your grandma would drink.

downton patmorecooking sherry: mrs. patmore

This isn’t for drinking. It’s lesser quality, and basically just made so it can be sold in grocery stores that can’t sell alcohol.

If you need to cook with sherry, Mrs. Patmore would just go for a cheaper dry fino or manzanilla.

BTW, you know who else likes Sherry? Steve Perry.

Oh Sherry, our love holds on, holds on.
Oh Sherry, our love holds on, holds on.

[Um, PS, until just now I thought the words were “Oh Sherry, I’m all alone, hold on, hold on.”]


3 thoughts on “sherry styles, à la downton abbey

  1. Pingback: ashton and mila drank sherry. and the daily mail drives me crazy. | grapefriend

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