Fino and manzanilla age beneath an active cover of flor [source: Shea]. The result is typically pale and dry, sometimes described as "razor-sharp," sometimes compared to a crisp, salty sea breeze. Traditionally served chilled, fino is often the first drink of the day in Spain [source: Cellar Tours].
Oloroso, on the other hand, never has flor. It's fortified early in the aging process, and its alcohol content is too high to allow the yeast to develop. That means it oxidizes for its entire maturation period. The product is dark and rich, often dry, sometimes salty; though it may be full-bodied, nutty, toasty and round, it's not always expansive. An older oloroso, however, lingers on the palate for a long, complicated, rewarding finish [source: Cellar Tours].
Some olorosos become what English speakers usually call "cream sherry." The wine is blended with a small quantity of sugary Pedro Ximénex. In Spain, the wine is known as oloroso dulce. "Dulce" means sweet, and a cream sherry is sweet indeed -- sometimes even syrupy [source: Cellar Tours]. Traditionally, sweet sherry is served at room temperature.
And that famous Amontillado? The name means "in the style of Montilla." It comes from a fino on which the cover of flor yeast has died. (The covers grow and die back in response to seasonal temperature change, but the flor rarely dies off entirely.) The death of the flor cover means more of the Amontillado oxidizes, which affects both the flavor and the alcohol content. To compensate for the evaporated alcohol, Amontillado receives additional fortification that brings it to 17.5 percent alcohol by volume (35 proof) [source: Cellar Tours].
Sherry's versatile flavor can accompany cheese, fruit, olives, dessert and many other foods from the beginning to the end of the meal. Try a few different varieties. Not every wine drinker likes Sherry right away, but you'll likely discover one for your palate.
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