aka Fransdruif or White French (RSA), Listán (Fr.), Perrum (Por.)
Palomino originated in the Andalusia region of southern Spain. Legend states that the grape was named after a knight in the court of King Alfonso X during the 13th century. It has been estimated that over 100 varieties of grape were used to make Sherry.
After the Phylloxera infestation during the late 1800s, many native Spanish varietals were replaced with Palomino Fino. However, in the 1970s and 1980s Palomino was replaced by the likes of Verdejo, Macabeo and others; except in Jerez.
Spanish researchers, using the latest DNA techniques, discovered that the Mission grape (red) of California and Latin America is the rare Listan Prieto or Palomino Negro of Spain. Originally cultivated by the Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries throughout the New World the link had been lost for centuries. How the white grape variety, the Palomino, made it to the United States is still unclear.
Spain is still the major producer of Palomino grapes. The Jerez region, in particular, stands out as being one of the largest producers alone. Outside of Jerez, the Canary Islands also grow the grape. Everywhere else in Spain and in the world, the amount of acreage allotted to growing the grape has been on the decline.
Still, in Alentejo in southern Portugal and in the Midi area of southern France the Palomino grape is being grown. Outside of Europe, South Africa, Australia and California also grow Palomino grapes. No matter where the grape is grown it is used almost exclusively to make fortified wines.
Palomino is a white grape. There are three sub-varieties of Palomino grape: Palomino Fino, Palomino Basto, and Palomino de Jerez. Palomino Fino is considered the best of the three.
Palomino is a major component of dry sherries. It usually weighs in at around 95% of dry sherries and of other fortified wines. Sherry-style wines made outside of Spain will often use other grape varieties.
Palomino grapes are harvested in early September. The skin of the grape is extremely thin. The grapes are naturally very low in acid and sugar ensuring that the grape is used to make sherry. Any table wine made from the grape would be of consistently low quality carrying a neutral aroma. The juice has a tendency to oxidize very easily which means that the grapes must be rushed from where they are picked to a crusher as soon as possible. Harvesting Palomino grapes must be done by hand.
Palomino grows best in albariza soil (chalky). By Spanish law 40 percent of the grapes making up a Sherry must come from albariza soil (chalky). While the vines are high yielding, it is also susceptible to downy mildew and anthracnose, or canker.
It takes a long time to turn Palomino grapes into Sherry. Depending upon the style, Sherry will be in production for several months to several years. Once bottled sherry should be consumed immediately. It does not benefit from further aging. However, sherries that have been aged oxidatively may be stored for years without losing their flavor.
Listed below are the many styles of sherry available to be made and consumed:
- Fino (‘fine’ in Spanish) – the driest and palest of the traditional varieties of sherry.
- Manzanilla – an especially light variety of Fino Sherry made around the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
- Manzanilla Pasada – a Manzanilla that has undergone extended aging or has been partially oxidised, giving a richer, nuttier flavour.
- Amontillado – a variety of Sherry that is first aged under flor but which is then exposed to oxygen, producing a sherry that is darker than a Fino but lighter than an Oloroso. Naturally dry, they are sometimes sold lightly to medium sweetened.
- Oloroso (‘scented’ in Spanish) – a variety of Sherry aged oxidatively for a longer time than a Fino or Amontillado, producing a darker and richer wine. With alcohol levels between 18 and 20%, Olorosos are the most alcoholic sherries in the bottle. Naturally dry, they are often sold in sweetened versions (Amoroso).
- Palo Cortado – a variety of Sherry that is initially aged like an Amontillado (usu. 3-4 years) but which subsequently develops a character closer to an Oloroso.
- Jerez Dulce (Sweet Sherries) – made either by fermenting dried Pedro Ximénez (PX) or Moscatel grapes which produces an intensely sweet dark brown or black wine, or by blending sweeter wines or grape must with a drier variety.
- Cream Sherry – common type of sweet sherry; made by blending different wines, such as Oloroso sweetened with PX.
Partnering With Food
Rule #1: Matching the alcohol level and body of the wine to the heaviness of the food should make for a proper pairing every time.
Sherry can be enjoyed alone or paired together with food. Due to the different sherries made keep Rule #1 in mind when looking to pair with food. Below are a list of foods and dishes that should pair well with Dry Sherry made from Palomino:
- Spanish Hors d’oeuvres (Shrimp, Lobster, and Spanish Ham)
- Black and Green Olives
- Beef Consomme
- Dried Fruits
- Gazpacho Soup
- Salted Almonds
- Smoked Fish
Restaurants With These Types of Dishes
To view restaurants that serve appetizers, entrees and other dishes that partner well with this grape type, click here….