Thank you Darla Hoffmann, Juan Valencia, Daniel J Steiner, Melanie Chang, and inderpal singh for your responses last week to Santa Barbara!
This week: Palo Cortado
Describe Palo Cortado and why a winemaker may classify their Sherry this way.
There are many tales of how the Palo Cortado came to be, but now is it often considered to be one of the most delicate versions of Sherry. It is said that Palo Cortado originally started under flor as an Amontillado but then by accident the flor died off and became more like an Oloroso in style. A winemaker nowadays can surely make this style of wine by no accident by eliminating the flor and or filtering. It is not as heavy or robust as an Oloroso yet richer and nuttier than an Amotillado. A winemaker may want to classify their Sherry this way for those in-betweener Sherry drinkers who don't like the bone dry saltiness of a Fino, yet enjoy the crispness of an Amontillado without the fuller, and over oxidized style of an Oloroso. Or, they might just want to market it as the 'Rare' Sherry' that has become its reputation to peak interest.
It is a traditional and fully natural style of sherry based on a fluke of nature. Due to the wine's richness, the cellar master is led to redirect the wine on an oxidative aging path. Wine is fortified to at least 17% abv after the wine completes the intermediary stage, sobretablas. The veil of flor that was present is destroyed and no longer protects it from oxygen. As a result, the wines have intermediate style - the elegance of Amontillado with the power and body of the Oloroso. This is the rarest category of sherry, yet some of the greatest dry sherries are Palos Cortados.
If Amontilado is Fino sherry that has lost its flor and then ages oxidatively, how is this different than Palo Cortado starts as Fino then loses its flor and ages oxidatively?
I guess, Amontillado are lighter styles of sherries from light pressed juice destined for Fino while Palo Cortado is from the tougher pressed juice destined for Olorosso. Please correct me if anyone has more details
It's critical to understand that Palo Cortado is defined by taste profile and not process. It should have an aroma reminiscent of an Amontillado and the palate of a dry Oloroso. You will see a range of how producers explain the process of achieving this—some of which is more romantic lore than practical reality.