Palomino is one of the three grapes used to make Sherry, a dessert wine from southern Spain that’s known for being nutty. Not a poor pun, it actually tastes like nuts. Palomino is the grape that the Spaniards use when they’re making the less sweet styles of Sherry. Otherwise they go with Ximenez or Moscatel grapes, which produce really sweet dessert wines.
Interestingly enough, the sherry that I happened upon has its own frothy, freudian history. “Palo cortado” shown above on that rather blah label means its a wine that started off its aging process as a dry wine but then loses its flor veil (seriously, click that link) and keeps aging as a sweeter style of wine (“From Fino to Oloroso” – Palo Cortado’s memoirs). The result is a wine with the best of both the sweet and the dry. I prefer to think of it as one outstanding gender-bending Spanish citizen. And with the translation of “Palo Cortado” literally meaning “cut stick,” you’d think Freud would have come up with the term “Palo Cortado.” You’d be wrong – it’s an even better story.
Sherry’s never really been my thing. It’s always been on the more bitter side and nuts are fine and all but give me candied fruit, dried fruit or some kind of big whiff nose, and I’m much happier than if you shove a bowl of peanuts my way. This wine though is causing me to take a second look at Sherry. Why? Cheese, namely Old Amsterdam Gouda, the best thing that Holland has produced since it exported my great-grandparents (modestia a parte). Really, if you have to have one cheese after dinner, this is the cheese you want. Maybe it was the fish for dinner that didn’t fill the gullet. Maybe it was the liquor cabinet bursting with too many random bottles. Maybe it was fate.
This gender-bending Sherry and that udderly divine dutch gouda just destroyed my previous best pairing (pizza and Modern Family) by 5,280 feet. They even did a little dutch spanish dance in my mouth, wooden shoes and bullfighter jabs included. The Gouda provided all kinds of salt and crunchy deposits with a mouth-filling creamy taste. The Sherry added in its own hook-nosed bitterness and cartloads of almonds. So thank you Palo Cortado and Gouda – you just reopened the world of Sherry to one who thought it beyond surprises. Palo Cortado, you rock.
Lustau Palo Cortado Peninsula Sherry
* Palomino’s really only used for dessert wines – Spain mostly, but South Africa and California too.
* Sherry comes from the Spanish region Xeres (pronounced “hair-ess”) near that Gibralter tip
* As much as I slander sherry, that solera process deserves its cool points.