MANY of us remember only the sweet "cream" sherries, like Harvey's Bristol Cream, that were popular several decades back. Those sweet sherries, as Javier Hidalgo, winemaker at La Gitana puts it, "still give the image of granny and the priest taking cream sherry after Sunday service."
The most exciting sherries, however, are the drier finos and manzanillas, and my absolutely favorite style is the slightly longer-aged amontillado. Fino and manzanilla are essentially the same - the only real difference is that manzanilla comes specifically from the town of Sanlucar de Barrameda, where the sea breezes off the Atlantic Ocean are said to impart a special briny character. Amontillado is essentially fino or manzanilla that has been aged longer, to the point of oxidation.