Manzanilla is the style that started my addiction to the delicious fortified wines from southern Spain. So distinctive that it has its own appellation within the Jerez designation, Manzanilla Sanlúcar de Barrameda is in almost every respect a Fino: produced from palomino grapes and aged in a solera system under a layer of flor (yeast). What distinguishes it is where it is aged, the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where the sea breezes keep the temperature more constant, so the flor grows thicker and healthier instead of thinning out in the heat of summer and cold of winter as it does 25km inland in Jerez. This produces a pale, bone-dry wine of unsurpassed elegance and finesse. Romantic tradition also credits the sea breeze with imparting the salty tang noticeable in most Manzanillas. An ideal aperitif and food-friendly wine, especially with salty charcuterie, shellfish, and asparagus, an ice cold glass of Manzanilla has long been the Sherry of choice in Spain, while being virtually unknown elsewhere until relatively recently. For a really great little read on Manzanilla and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, grab a copy of Manzanilla by Christopher Fielden & Javier Hidalgo (Grub Street, 2010). Here are five Manzanillas you should seek out to begin (or continue) your Sherry addiction.
I Think Equipo Navazos
Bottled ‘en rama’ (with minimal filtration), this wine retains a darker golden hue and punchier flavour than most Manzanillas. Hardly surprising given it’s the entry level offering from the boutique Equipo Navazos group who bottle this 4½ year old wine exclusively for Australia and the UK.
La Goya Delgado Zuleta
The oldest wine company in Sanlúcar is still family owned and offers excellent informative tours. Their La Goya averages 7 years in old butts restored by the bodega’s resident cooper. I love its versatile, mild, nutty finish and always have a few bottles in the fridge.
Produced for Lustau by almacenista (wholesale bodgea) Manuel Cuevas Jurado, Papirusa has an average age of 4-5 years and a light golden colour. It’s very approachable, with cashews as well as almonds on the nose and the typical salty, almond flavours.
Deliciosa comes from the older of two soleras of Hijos de Rainera Pérez Marín, averaging 6 years. With its pronounced ripe fruit nose and stronger flavour, I prefer it with food, and the younger, leaner La Guita from the same bodega as an aperitif.
From Sanlúcar’s largest producer, Solear averages 6 years. It has a stronger flavour, and more pronounced pleasant bitter almond finish than many, closer to the more traditional ‘pasada’ (aged) style, than the younger ‘fina’, which most bodegas produce now to meet consumer demand for a lighter Sherry.
Keen to know more about Sherry? Listen to my interview with Phillip Clark on Radio ABC.