Pale amber-brown color; flor, earth, bread yeast, pineapple, lemon, almond, sea air on the nose; chamomile, almond, citrus, smoke, salinity on the palate.
Bone dry; fresh, light, refreshing; earthy smokiness; excellent texture. Elegant with long finish. Sherry tastes like sherry, so standard tasting descriptors don’t apply. There is earthiness created by how it is made. Palamino grapes are fermented in cement vats. Palamino naturally ferments to 11-12% ABV. César Florido then fortifies the wine with wine spirits to 15% ABV. This level of alcohol is important for César Florido’s fino because the palomino grape is relatively flat without compelling flavors. Magic comes in the making.
In fino sherry—the lightest style of cherry—a “veil” of yeast, flor, forms on the top of the liquid. Flor protects the wine from oxygen and consumes oxygen. This makes fino the driest sherries and the lightest in color. The wine usually ages in American oak barrels in a solera system where the youngest wine is placed on top of a stack. Each year, the barrel moves down the stack. In the case of this wine, it remains in barrel for three years. Others can age for many more years.
Flor is sensitive to heat and can die off in the summer. The bodega where César Florido makes his wine is in the cooler region of Spain and is only 164 feet from the cooling Atlantic Ocean—thus the “cruz del mar” (cross of the sea) on the label—so César Florido’s flor acts continuously on the sherry. César’s flor is often described as thick and luxurious. The winery adds younger wine to barrels when needed to replace the wine lost naturally through evaporation through the wood barrels.
The sherry is bottled “en rama”—unfined and unfiltered directly from the casks, sherry in its “natural state,” a pure experience of fino sherry. Fino is the lightest and most refined sherry, usually made from free run juice. Manzanilla is almost identical to fino except it can only be produced around Sanlúcar de Barrameda, close to the sea, and can be slightly lighter than fino. Since César Florido is produced next to the sea, his fino is virtually the same as manzanilla.
The other types of dry sherry include amontillado, which loses its flor and develops a nuttier side. Palo cortado is a richer style with notes of coffee and molasses. And oloroso is the richest dry sherry made from oxidative oak aging. Past that, you get into the sweet styles of sherry, but that is a story for another review.
The César Florido bodega was founded in 1887 and is currently maintained by César Florido, a fifth-generation descendant of the founder. The winery is the oldest bodega in Chipiona, located five miles from Sanlúcar de Barrameda—which is why they must call their sherry fino instead of manzanilla. César owns three bodegas in Chipiona and makes his wines exclusively from estate-grown palomino grapes from the Balbaína and Miraflores pagos (vineyards).
Bodegas César Florido Fino Cruz del Mar NV is a splendid, refined, subtle, delicate iteration of fino sherry. Absolutely should be served chilled. Unlike the extremely sweet Pedro Ximénez (P.X.) sherry most people think of when they think of sherry, this is bone dry. Food-friendly sherries are dry sherries, and they are famously exceptional for food pairing. Perhaps the most under-valued food wines today. Fino pairs well with food, it also works magnificently before a meal to set up your palate. Sip solo as an aperitif or pair with blanched almonds and/or manzanilla olives. Pair with appetizers and snacks; cured meats, charcuterie board; tapas made with olive, nuts, Iberian ham; seafood and fish; salt-cured tuna; anchovies; gazpacho soup; mature, hard cheese. $14-16 (375 ml)
Bodegas César Florido website https://www.bodegasflorido.com/en/