What is Palomino and where is it found?
Palomino is a white grape variety which originated in Andalucia and is most closely associated with Jerez where it covers about 95% of the total vineyard area and is the key grape used to make a whole range of wines, mainly fortified but some still wines too. While official lists tend to distinguish Palomino from Palomino Fino and Listán Blanco, which is popular in the Canary Islands, genetic profiling has shown that all three are identical.
Palomino’s main characteristics
Palomino vines tend to give quite high yields, with clusters of medium sized grapes with quite thin skins, which can make it vulnerable to fungal diseases like mildew or botrytis. It is very resistant to high temperatures and drought, hence you’ll tend to find it in dry, warm climates. Palomino grapes are quite low in acidity and sugar and wines can have a tendency to oxidise (ie spoil on contact with air), which is not a problem for sherry producers but makes producing quality table wine more of a challenge.
What does Palomino taste like?
Still, dry wines made with Palomino tend to be quite light, simple and balanced. But the variety really comes into its own when it’s subjected to crianza biológica, or biological ageing in botas or butts under a veil of the famous flor, the white film of yeast cells native to the region of Jerez which float on the surface of the wine. The flor stops air getting to the Palomino wine and encourages a bewildering array of delicious aromas and flavours to develop. These vary depending on the wine style (Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso, Palo Cortado etc) but can cover everything from saline and nutty notes, fresh dough, almonds, spice, leather, orange zest, dried fruits or tobacco.
Where can I try some Palomino?
If you’re in Spain, it’s as simple as picking up a bottle of Fino at your local supermarket, popping it in the fridge to chill for half an hour and pouring yourself a glass (we recommend a generous-sized wine glass, rather than a little, narrow-necked ¨sherry¨ glass, to allow some headroom to enjoy all those lovely aromas). Sherry is one of the great bargains of the Spanish wine world with a huge array of food pairings depending on style. With all that history, it’s hard to go wrong in terms of producers, but look out for established names like Lustau, Osborne or Valdespino, as well as newer ones like Equipo Navazos or Callejuela