Spanish Dessert Wines
- Silky Sweeties
Spain is world famous for its dessert wines, particularly its sweet wines from Sherry country including the highly revered Olorosos and Amontillados. Apart from Sherry, though, Spain offers a huge diversity in styles of dessert wines, ranging from the golden elixir wines made from the Pedro Ximenez grape in Andalusia (Cordoba, Malaga and Jerez) to luscious, red dessert wines made in the Mediterranean from the Garnacha (Grenache) grape. Excellent Moscatels (deliciously “grapey”) are made in Mallorca, Alicante and Navarre. The northwest corner of Spain, Galicia, with its bitter Atlantic climate, is even making dessert wines, called “Tostadillos” in the village of Ribadivia (similar to Francee’s “Vin de Paile”). The Canary Islands are making interesting dessert wines now, as it seems that the demand for sweeties has increased in recent years. The winemaking styles for “Vinos Dulces” are also diverse, from “Late Harvest” (Vendimia Tardía) to “Fortified Wines” (Fermentación Parcial). Here is a short list to Spain’s best sweet wines, regions and producers.
The three principal villages in the so-called “Sherry Triangle” are Cadiz, Jerez de la Frontera and El Puerto de Santa Maria, in western Andalusia, quite close to Portugal. Secondary wine villages include Trebujena, Sanlucar de Barrameda and Chipiona. The famed Manzanilla wines (fino) come exclusively from the pretty coastal village of Sanlucar. The main grapes used in Sherry production are the Palomino, Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel. 90% of the grapes harvested are the Palomino. The principal characteristic that distinguishes this wine region from any other in the planet is the “Albariza” soil (a blinding white chalky soil), which creates a unique terroir when combined with the local climate (warm with the Atlantic sea air). Many of the wineries in this region were founded by foreigners (British, Irish and French) in the 17 th and 18 th centuries, and the wineries are absolutely gorgeous, some of the most beautiful in Spain. The best wines from Sherry country are considered to be those made with the noble Pedro Ximenez varietal, particularly the aged ones.
Best Sherry dessert wines include:
Gonzalez Byass Noe Solera- 100% Pedro Ximenez. One of Spain’s best dessert wines, this old Pedro Ximenez is exquisite (and gets 91 points in the Guia Peñín).
Emilio Hidalgo Santa Ana de Pasas- 100% Pedro Ximenez. This is also one of the regal wines of Jerez de la Frontera. Chestnut colored, the aroma is dates and raisins, and on the palate it is a sexy, dense wine.
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