The higher quality wines are fortified to a lower degree so that a special yeast, 'flor' will grow and protect the wine from oxygen during aging.
These are the wines destined to become finos and manzanillas, and they are characterized by the yeasty, almondy smell imparted by this aging. Manzanilla is the lightest and freshest. It develops a thick flor since it is aged in relatively cool environment. Amontillado sherry is essentially an aged fino. This is a deeper color than the finos and Manzanillas and has a more pronounced nutty aroma. The best Amontillados can be aged for 50 to 60 years. Oloroso sherry is aged completely exposed to oxygen, giving it a tangy character. This is the richest style with the most body and the deepest color. Palo Cortado is a unique style of Sherry that starts out as a fino, but the flor dies, and it finishes its aging as an Oloroso.
Sweeter styles of sherry are obtained through the addition of sweetening wines made from the Pedro Ximenes or Moscatel grapes. The grapes are first dried on mats in the sun to concentrate the sugar. This causes the fermentation to stop before all of the sugar is used up, resulting in a sweet wine that is added after the fortification, and results in Cream sherries of various types. These are given various names: Cream, Pale Cream, East India, Brown, but these are not officially recognized types, but rather proprietary names.
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