Looking For Fresh Fino?

by Tim Elliott on July 22, 2007

Osborne's Fino QuintaSince my return from Spain I’ve missed having fino sherry as an option for an aperitif or enjoying with dinner. It really matches nicely with seafood where it’s citrus and salty character evokes the sea. But since fino is the product of an interesting biological process where flor yeast grows on top of the wine to protect it from oxidation, getting a fresh bottle is important.

Luckily the sherry houses stamp codes on the back-label to assure the savvy customer of it’s freshness and I’m sure retailers use these codes to rotate their stock. Since fino has about a year of life in the bottle before decline, I set out to find one in a few local stores here in the Twin Cities suburbs (south of the river, for locals).

What I found was that all the bottles of fino on hand were at least one year from bottling with a few nearly three years of age. Not good if you want to develop a following for this unique and versatile wine that depends on freshness. So I’ll have to venture down to Minneapolis and St. Paul to check out the stock at a few of the better wine stores in my search for fresh fino; stay tuned for my tasting notes.

To decode the bottling date, look on the back label for a code which starts with “L” and has a series of numbers. There are a couple of variations with either the bottling date and year in 2 digits at the end or the year in one digit at the beginning followed by the bottling date.

Here are a couple examples:

  • Osborne: L18406 = bottled in 2006 on the 184th day, or July 3rd.
  • Emilio Lustau: L5165 = bottled in 2005 on the 165th day, or June 14th.

Hat tip to the Wine Lover’s Page for a good article on this subject and whoever keeps the Wikipedia page on fino. For a great overview on sherry, check out Ryan’s “101″ post over at Catavino.

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