Manzanilla Pastrona – Hidalgo La Gitana
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Manzanilla Pastrona – Hidalgo La Gitana

Gone are the days of your grandmother having a bottle of Sherry tucked away in the back of the pantry for cooking, these are serious wines with versatility, power and personality.  Before I get into my enthusiastic rant about why these wines are so amazing, let’s cover some important basics when it comes to Sherry and its production.


The Basics

Sherry is a fortified wine exclusively coming from the southeastern corner of Andalusia Spain, bottled in the towns within the Sherry Triangle.  The major towns are Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Jerez and El Puerto de Santa Maria.

The grapes used for making Sherry are all white varieties and depending on the intended style, a specific grape will be used.

Photo: A Walk on the Wine Side

The Solera System

Sherry is famous for making wine using something called the solera system.  Barrels are arranged in groups, each with a different age. The final wine is bottled from the oldest barrels at the bottom, which are then topped up with slightly younger wine from the previous stage or criadera, and so on. The youngest criadera receives the new wine from the latest harvest. Important to note is that barrels are never fully emptied.  The law states that only 1/3rd of the contents can be removed at a given time.

Photo: A Walk on the Wine Side

Styles of Sherry

Fino and Manzanilla

These are lightest and driest styles of sherry – the fine, first pressed juice of the Palomino grape is used here. These wines are made biologically – meaning they are protected from oxygen by flor: a waxy looking layer of yeast that floats undisturbed, resting on top of the wine in the barrel.  Manzanilla is a Fino, but comes only from the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.


This is a Fino that has lost its flor, so it spends the rest of its development in contact with oxygen.  The juice from the 2nd press will be used to make Amontillado, because it’s a little more rustic in character.


These wines are dry, rich and nutty.  They develop without a flor layer, so they have contact with oxygen.  This means they are more stable, and able to last longer once the bottle is opened.

Palo Cortado

This is a bit of a mystery wine because there is no official production regulation set by the Consejo Regulador ( Governing body of Sherry).   This is a wine who has lost its development of flor, and can be described as something in-between a fino and amontillado style.

Pedro Ximénez

Made from air dried grapes, these wines are sweet, powerful and robust.  Their fermentation gets cut short so there is residual sugar left in the wine.

Cream / Moscatel

These are wines that are made in the same way as Pedro Ximénez, using at least 85% Moscatel grapes.   They are very sweet and a perfect match for dessert at the end of a meal.

Trendy young somms and wine professionals are seeking out new tastes of this underrated and misunderstood wine.  What was once thought of as ‘old’ is becoming new again; sherry is back in vogue and for damn good reason!  Most styles are bone dry, and meant to be served chilled – perfect for relaxed, enjoyable and easy drinking.

Sherry’s appeal lies in the huge range of aromas, flavours and styles that it can accompany an endless array of meals, instead of being one of the ingredients.

Cocktail, anyone?  Mixologists are having a field day with sherry – whipping up some longer sipping, epic drinks.


I prefer to have my sherry just as it is in all its glory, and this one from Hildago La Gitana is brilliant.

This single vineyard sherry is coming from Hildago’s best vineyard, only 14 ha where lies the famous Albiriza soil.  I bought this wine on my vacation in Cadíz last summer, so to my knowledge it is not available on the Quebec market.

The nose is what you would expect from a sherry, lots of yeasty flor, dried flowers and almonds.  The  round palate is much the same with the addition of stone fruit, and olives. The acidity is amazing, zesty and bright with a mouth watering salinity and bits of herbs.  Lovely, lip smacking finish with plenty of savoury components.

This wine would be brilliant with a plate mixed with olives, salted nuts, anchovies, manchego cheese, and of course any charcuterie.