If someone asks “What is a Fino”?
To start with, we would say that fino is a fortified white wine with a few unique features that set it apart from any other white wine.
Making and ageing fino wine
Most of the features that make it different are down to its ageing beneath a “veil of flor”, which is a layer of yeasts that interact with the wine. It is important to remember that the grapes that are used in Jerez to make fino wines are of the variety called Palomino Fino. Remember too that what we are talking about here is a “fortified” wine, which means that it has vinic alcohol added, made from grapes, to increase its alcohol content to 15,5% – an ideal environment for the yeasts that interact with the fino.
Fino wine ages in American oak butts arranged in the dynamic Solera and Criadera system whereby the oldest wines, in the butts closest to the ground – hence the name ‘solera’, from ‘suelo’, or ‘ground’ – are extracted from the butts for bottling and the space left in the butts is filled with wine from the butt immediately above, called the 1st criadera, and so on successively with the 2nd and 3rd criaderas.
- This is therefore a dynamic system with the wine passing from one butt into another until it is bottled.
This highly idiosyncratic ageing system means that in Jerez it is rare to refer to “vintages” in relation to finos as every glass will contain a proportion of wine from different years because, as explained above, the butts are never completely emptied during the racking process.
Tasting notes for fino wine
Fino is a very dry wine, with ‘dry’ in the world of wine meaning the opposite of sweet. It is also notable for its bright, vibrant colour full of light. It displays elegant bitter flavours on the palate and has a long aftertaste, meaning that in wine jargon it is referred to as a “persistent” wine.
How and when do you drink Fino?
Fino is one of the great wines of the world. Renowned as an aperitif it is also a magnificent match for salads, rice dishes and, of course, fish and seafood.
To enjoy it at its very best it is essential that it be fresh and served at the right temperature – ideally very, very well chilled and in a tall, crystal glass. But it is also often mixed with a soft drink (the famous rebujito), an ideal combination for very hot weather.
The González Byass fino par excellence is Tío Pepe, which is at least four years old, having aged in the Solera and Criadera system.