How to pair wine with each food category?

Pairing sherry wine with food is easier than people believe. The first thing you have to learn is a saying used in Spain, “If it swims use Fino/Manzanilla, if it flies Amontillado, and if it runs Oloroso.

By knowing this we can make a big assumption to help beginners of Spanish sherry learn to pair it with food. Fino and Manzanilla are treated similarly to a white wine, Amontillado similarly to a rose or to a light-medium bodied red wine with medium-low tannins. Whereas, Oloroso is treated as a full-bodied red wine with medium-high tannins.

More Complex Pairings

The Spanish saying above is a good guideline to follow for pairing sherry wine with food. However if we want to go deeper, we have to think about the sauce and the condiments used with the food, as well as all the other types of sherries, including of course Palo Cortado. For example, if we use a mushroom sauce with a fish steak like Tuna, Oloroso would pair well with it. Since the mushroom sauce gives an earthy taste, combined with the meat-like texture of the tuna steak, it pairs well with a full body and earthy/nutty tasting notes like the Oloroso.

The idea of pairing food with Sherry wine is almost the same as any other type of wine pairing, with the exception that you do not have to worry about the tannins. You have to look at the body of the Sherry and the body of the food. As well, you have to consider the category of taste of the food – salty, sweet, umami (savoury), acidic, spicy, bitter.

Sherry wine Pairings by Food Type

Before learning the basics on how to pair sherry wine with food, I recommend you to watch the following video to remember how each sherry type is made.

Since October 2022 some of the rules have changed, like the sherry triangle. Please click here to read more about the new sherry rules.

Below is a good guide to follow when pairing sherry wine with food that dominates a category:

Pairing wine with Sweet food:

a.  Will decrease the sweetness of the wine, the body and fruitiness in the wine.

b.  Will increase the bitterness, acidity and burning effect of the alcohol.

For example, think about a chocolate cake and then you add strawberries on top, the strawberry will taste less sweet, less fruity due to the sweetness of the cake than if you had it separately.

Pairing: With a sweet dessert, a PX (Pedro Ximénez) would go wonderfully due to the extreme sweetness. You can even pour PX on top of ice cream like a syrup.

Tabanco plateros cream sherry

Pairing wine with umami (Savoury) food:

a.  Will decrease the sweetness of the wine, the body and fruitiness in the wine.

b.  Will increase the bitterness, acidity and burning effect of the alcohol.

As an example, if you have a cooked mushroom or cured meat with a tomato, it reduces the slight sweetness of the tomato and the fruitiness. Or if you try it with a squeeze of lemon juice, you will experience that the acidity of the lemon is increased.

Pairing: Try Chorizo with Palo Cortado. As Palo Cortado usually has low-medium acidity and more body and nuttiness, that would go well with a strong, flavoured food like chorizo.

Palo cortado con chorizo picante amontillado, oloroso solera jerez sherry vejer de la frontera pueblo blanco white village Cadiz Explore la Tierra

Pairing wine with acidic food:

a.  Will decrease the perception of acidity in the wine

b.  Will increase the body, sweetness and fruitiness of the wine

Think about a adding lemon juice to an already acid vinaigrette, it does not add as much, does it? However if you add a fruit like strawberries to a vinaigrette salad it should increase the fruitiness of the strawberry.

Pairing: Pair a vinaigrette salad or an acidic fish with a Fino/Manzanilla. It will increase the body, the nuttiness and bakery taste of these wines. Even if the acidity of the wine is reduced, the Fino is complex enough that it does not rely entirely on the acidity like other white wines do. Fino freshness comes from the lack of sugars in dry sherry and the presence of acetaldehydes and minerals from the albariza soils, which could be mistaken for acidity.

Boquerones in vinegar tapa paired with a Sherry

Pairing wine with salty food:

a.  Will decrease the perception of bitterness and acidity in the wine

b.  Will increase the body of the wine

For example, think about adding vinegar to salty chips, the acidity of the vinegar is countered by the salt.

Pairing: A Manzanilla goes lovely with salted fried fish. It decreases that slight bitterness of the Manzanilla, while increasing the body perception, created by being aged under the “flor”.

Pairing Sherry wine with Food Tapa manzanilla con pescaito frito Explore la Tierra Conil de la Frontera Cadiz tapa tour

Pairing wine with bitter food:

a.  Will increase bitterness in the wine

Try having an olive with a green asparagus, the bitterness of one will increase the bitterness of the other.

Pairing: With asparagus or artichoke, try having an Amontillado. Amontillado also goes well with bitter foods because of the freshness of it.

However, olives can go well with Fino or Manzanilla, because, like before, these sherries are very refreshing. Even if the olive would increase the bitterness of the sherry, Fino and Manzanilla goes well with the saltiness of the olive.

Manzanilla olorosa tapas tour in Cadiz

Pairing wine with spicy food:

a.  Will decrease the body, richness, sweetness and fruitiness

b.  Will increase the bitterness, acidity and alcohol burn

Another example is to consider the taste of dark chocolate with chili. It goes well together as it decreases the richness and sweetness and, increases the bitterness of the chocolate.

Pairing: Spiced curry with an Oloroso or Palo Cortado. It will increase the acidity, while decreasing the thick body of the sherry and the strong, nutty taste.

Spices Pairing with Wine

Maybe after learning how to pair sherry with food you are looking forward to test it out.

My favourite sherry wines for the different types of sherry

If you are here and you are interested in trying some incredible sherries I recommend in my tours. , keep reading.

Please click in any of the following links if you are interested in knowing my favourite sherries for each type of sherry. If your favourite sherry is manzanilla wine then click here. For the amontillado sherry wine click here.

On the other hand if you want to learn more about: how to produce Sherry; biological and oxidative ageing; the solera system; and the “flor” (the yeast layer that grows on top of some Sherries), please click here.

Full day tours in Vejer de la Frontera and Cadiz province

If you are looking for Sherry wine experiences, Cultural and culinary eperiences throughout Cadiz province, then keep reading. I will now take advantage to show off to you the great food tours in Cadiz province that we do. Officially, Vejer de la Frontera is one of the most beautiful villages of Spain, you should come and meet us!

Sherry wine bodega tours

Would you like to learn more about Sherry and immerse yourself in the local culture of Jerez de la Frontera? If you want to learn and experience it with the company of a local guide and turn your visit to Cadiz into an exciting culinary adventure, book with us. Sherry wine love is very contagious, surely you will also become one!

If you have your own transport we can accompany you while learning about Sherry. Enjoy the best Sherry bodega tours, local culture and traditions and the local gastronomy. In case you do not have a car we can arrange transport, restaurant and the rest of your trip.

If you would like to learn all about Jerez-Sherry-Xeres D.O. then join us for our Ultimate Sherry wine Tasting tour. We can design a private tour just for you and your family.

Culinary food tours

If you are staying in Vejer de la Frontera or within Cadiz province we can organize a private Sherry wine tasting with local gourmet tapas for your group. We will go to your place and do a Sherry wine or Andalusian wine tasting for you privately. Each sherry wine will be paired with with local food tapas. We can focus on premium Sherries; VORSs; or Andalusian wines in case you do not like Sherry wine.

If you want to learn more about Vejer de la Frontera, its traditions and gastronomy book our Sherry & Tapas tour! Learn about sherry, wine tastings, and how to pair it with gourmet traditional food from the area. Taste different types of Sherry and local food like bluefin tuna, bull meat, salmorejo, eggplant with honey and pinenuts, etc. The tour includes 5 tapas and 5 wine/Sherries.

If you want to learn the whole process of the Almadraba and Bluefin tuna in Cadiz province check our Bluefin tuna tour. You will learn the history of Bluefin tuna in the area since Phoenician times. You will go in a private boat ride to visit the Almadraba. Visit a local food market; and taste different parts of bluefin tuna in all ways, salt-dried, grilled, raw.

Cultural tours in Cadiz

If you would like to visit other beautiful white villages like Vejer, we can do a tour of the white villages in Cadiz province. On the other hand we can mix a visit to a beautiful white village with a visit to an olive oil mill. Or you can choose to do a private tour that we can design especially for you based on your interests. Come and join Explore la Tierra in Vejer de la Frontera, Cadiz, Spain!

Our latest addition is our become an artisan for one day tour. Make your own cheese and your own leather souvenir in Ubrique and enjoy its great history and panoramic views. This white village is famous worldwide for its importance for the international leather companies.

Contact us

To learn more about sherry, culture and travel guides, please hit the big blue button to read other blog posts. If you have any suggestions about pairing sherry wine with food, please do not hesitate to write us an email at info@explorelatierra.com. Please read our privacy policy before you get in touch with us. We will take your new recommendations into consideration.

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