Sunday, 24 March 2019

The Differences Between Manzanilla and Fino

It does not require great tasting skills to notice the differences between these two unique and special wines. Manzanilla has a zippy herbal/floral saline freshness while Fino is usually a little less racy, slightly fuller bodied and a little more rounded and serious. Just conceivably this might explain why Manzanilla, despite being “vino” which is a masculine word like Fino, has always been feminine and most of the brand names reflect this: La Goya, La Gitana, La Cigarrera, Maruja etc. In Jerez most Finos have masculine names like San Patricio, Tio Pepe, Camborio, Paquiro etc. Fino means “fine” or even "light", "elegant" possibly referring to the fact that it is a lighter style than the Olorosos which Jerez used to produce in such quantity.

Legally the key difference boils down to where the wines are aged. For example mosto from the Jerez pago of Macharnudo would become Fino if aged in Jerez or El Puerto de Santa María, and Manzanilla if aged in Sanlúcar (like Callejuela´s Manzanilla Macharnudo Añada 2014). The fact is that legally the grapes or mosto can come from anywhere in the Marco and Sanlúcar does not have enough vineyard to supply sufficient mosto for a wine which outsells Fino by quite a margin, so a lot of grapes or mostos are sourced from the Jerez or El Puerto area. While Manzanilla is a separate DO from Sherry and can only be produced in Sanlúcar, Fino can legally be produced anywhere and is legally produced in Sanlúcar, usually in bodegas, or areas in bodegas, with less exposure to the fresh briny Poniente wind . Thus there is a sort of interdependence between the two DOs, but the Jerezanos feel it is unfair that they can´t produce Manzanilla, not that that would be especially easy, yet the Sanluqueños can produce Fino. This might change with the projected alterations to the regulations in the near future, however.

There is a great deal of water at Sanlucar where the Guadalquivir joins the Atlantic.

The vineyards of Sanlúcar are close to both the Atlantic and the Guadalquivir estuary with its famous marshland, and this proximity to so much water and a slightly more temperate climate than inland results in a slower ripening of the grapes with slightly lower sugar levels and slightly higher tartaric acid levels. It also gives slight exposure to sea salt blown in by the west wind, the Poniente, though the salinity in the wines probably owes more to the flor. Many of the bodegas too are located close to water in the Barrio Bajo, or at least the humid Atlantic breezes for those in the Barrio Alto, and prolonged ageing in these conditions inevitably creates a more maritime flavour in the wine. In the case of El Puerto de Santa María conditions are broadly similar but less intense than those of Sanlúcar while being fresher and cooler than those of Jerez. Stylistically the wines lie somewhere between Fino and Manzanilla but are called Fino.

Such climatic and topographical conditions also have an effect on the flor which loves mild, humid conditions. Since there is no shortage of these in Sanlúcar it develops profusely on the wine, protecting it from oxidation all year round and giving a more intense biological ageing. This is assisted by the fact that the butts tend to be filled to a slightly lower level than those in Jerez to allow a larger surface area for the flor. Being farther inland however, Jerez has a slightly warmer and drier climate so the flor is generally a little thinner and can all but disappear during the more extreme seasons of winter and summer, allowing very slight oxidation. The climate can even affect the proportions of the yeast strains which make up the flor and thus the resulting flavour of the wine.

Jerez vineyards, no water around.
Sanlúcar soleras tend to have a much higher number of criaderas, or “clases” as they are known there, up to three times as many in some cases (though exceptionally Inocente in Jerez has 10 criaderas) and the scales are run much more frequently, occasionally even monthly in Sanlúcar, but nearer quarterly in Jerez. More frequent running of the scales provides a more constant flow of nutrients to the flor and keeps the biological ageing process more vigorous. Once the scales have been run the wine needs to be bottled so this obviously happens more often in Sanlúcar, so wines might well have been in bottle for a shorter period of time.

Another difference concerns older wines. With Finos there are unfortunately no longer any legal categories to describe older wines such as the defunct Fino Amontillado or Entrefino, though the term Palma is allowed to be used at the bodega´s discretion. There is one in Sanlúcar however: Manzanilla Pasada. In certain cases this term can cover the no longer used category of Manzanilla Amontillada. While there are some older Finos in Jerez like the outstanding Panesa from Emilio Hidalgo (15 years old) or Inocente from Valdespino (10 years old), there is no longer a legal term to describe them. The term Manzanilla Pasada has no legal minimum age requirement however and is thus used at the bodegas´ discretion, but most of these wines will be 8 years old or more and up to perhaps 15.

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