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Grape Varietals

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Many white wines can serve as an apéritif (a pre-dinner sipper meant to stimulate the appetite). But on those special occasions when you want to treat your guests and yourself to something that goes well beyond the everyday, take a look at sherry.

Flavors and aromas: Sherry is a fortified wine; that is, a wine that has had its alcohol content boosted by the addition of spirits. The beauty of sherry is in its many varieties, ranging in color, flavor and sweetness to please many palates. Here are four classics; note that the first three are best served chilled as an aperitif.
  • Fino: This pale, straw-colored delicate wine is light in body and very dry on the palate.
  • Oloroso: A bit pricier than Finos, Olorosos range from deep gold to deep brown in color. Sweeter and fuller bodied than Finos, they're also rife with raisin and walnut aromas.
  • Amontillado: Dark in color, this wine has a little tang and a full, nutty flavor.
  • Cream Sherry: Try these in place of dessert—dark in color, they're rich and creamy and the sweetest of all sherries.

Prominent plantings: Note that the best sherry is made in Spain—those produced in the United States are not true sherries but can be used for cooking. Splurge for the Spanish version if you can.

Insider tip: With Sherry, little sips go a long way. Containing 17 percent or more alcohol, sherry is strong—it's not the choice to pour all night long. Rather, serve small portions in small glasses as a prelude to the meal and move on to a table wine for dinner.

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