Etymologyablative of finis, fine.
Fino ('fine' in Spanish) is the driest and palest of the traditional varieties of sherry. It is drunk comparatively young, and unlike the sweeter varieties should be drunk soon after the bottle is opened as exposure to air can cause them to lose their flavour within hours.
FlorThe defining component of Fino sherries is the strain of yeast known as Flor that would cake the top of sherry floating in the wine barrel. Prior till the mid-19th century most Sherry winemakers did not understand what this yellowish foam substance was that randomly appear in some of their sherry barrels. They would mark these barrels as "sick" and would relegate them to their lowest bottlings of wine. It turned out that this strain of Saccharomyces yeast thrived in air and the more "head room" there was in the barrel, the more likely it was to develop. As more winemakers began to taste the wine they noticed that these wines were lighter and fresher then their other sherries with the flor acting as a sort of protective blanket over the wine, shielding it from excessive oxidation.
When first barreled, sherries made using the fino method are only partially filled to allow the action of the flor yeast to give it the distinctive fresh taste of dry sherries. If the flor is allowed to die and the wine undergoes oxidative aging, the wine darkens and the flavour becomes stronger, resulting in an amontillado sherry.
In the final classification of a fino, it is judged on such qualities as cleanness, paleness, dryness, and aroma. According to the overseer's judgment, the initial stroke mark on the cask may then be embellished with one or more 'palm leaves'--curved marks that branch off the side of the initial mark. Wines receiving these marks are designated accordingly 'una palma,' 'dos palmas,' 'tres palmas,' with each additional palm leaf indicating a higher standard of quality.
StoringFino is the most delicate form of sherry and should be drunk within a year of bottling, although some argue that fino should not be older than six months. Once opened it will immediately begin to deteriorate and should be drunk in one sitting for the best results. If necessary it can be stored, corked and refrigerated, for up to one week after opening.
Since sherry is not vintage dated, it can be hard to tell when the fino was bottled. However, the bottling date is printed on the label, albeit in an encoded form. On the back label will be a small dot matrix number that starts with the letter L. After the L will be either a 4 or 5 digit number. For the 4 digit number, such as 7005, the first number is the year, and the last three numbers are a number between 1 and 365 that indicates the day of the year. So this bottle was bottled on January 5, 2007. The 5 digit code is similar, such as 00507, where the Julian date precedes the year. This was also January 5, 2007.
ServingAs with particularly dry sherries, it is best served chilled at Seven-Ten°C before a meal, and in Spain is always drunk with tapas of some form, such as olives, almonds, or seafood.
fino in Spanish: Fino