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Oloroso is the name of an alcoholic beverage also known as sherry or fortified wine. Sherry is made by fermenting white grapes and then adding brandy, which is a distilled wine with a high alcohol content. Oloroso is the Spanish word for "scented," and it is thought to be one of the more richly flavored sherries due to its aging process. The sherry is deliberately oxidized, or exposed to air, which is thought to make the finished product darker and sweeter than other fortified wines. Oloroso wine has been described as nutty in taste and possessing hints of vanilla, fruit and caramel.
The sweetest olorosos are called cream sherries, or oloroso dulce, and are usually served after dinner as a wine to accompany dessert. Drier olorosos are often paired with hard cheeses or olives and served before a meal as an aperitif, an alcoholic beverage sipped before eating to stimulate the appetite. A dry oloroso is thought best served chilled, while sweeter ones are usually served closer to room temperature.
Most olorosos are made in Andalucia, Spain. It's a region, some historians say, which has produced fortified wine for over 1,000 years. The three types of white grapes used to produce olorosos are palaminos for dry sherries, moscatels, a variety used for sweeter sherries, and a type called Pedro Ximenez, a very sweet grape used in small amounts to blend with others for cream sherries. Pedro Ximinez, or PX olorosos, are the thickest of the sherries and more often used as a dessert sauce than as a drink.
Spanish sherries are aged in oak barrels called botas for a minimum of three years and a maximum of several decades. The method by which the botas are stacked is traditionally called solera. The barrels are placed in a pyramid shape with the older ones on the bottom. The oloroso is poured from the oldest bota, called the solera bota, and the barrels nearer the top with the newer wine refill the bottom barrel. There is no vintage year listed on an oloroso bottle, because part of the wine may be hundreds of years old, and the other part may be very young.
An oloroso can also be used as a cooking sherry. In Spanish cuisine, small dishes called tapas are served with drinks in restaurants called tapas bars. There are many tapas dishes that use olorosos in a sauce. They are also often drunk by themselves or paired with cured Spanish meats like jamon, a ham from Serrano.
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