Palo Cortado is an intermediate type of sherry and probably the most ambiguous of them all. This is fueled by the vague description in the official rules of the Consejo Regulador: it should have the aromatic refinement of Amontillado combined with the structure and body of an Oloroso. In short: Amontillado on the nose, Oloroso in the mouth. Compared to an Amontillado, it will have spent less time under flor (traditionally up to three years, but in fact modern Palo Cortado rarely ages under flor).
Mystery surrounds Palo Cortado because nobody fully understands its origins. Or at least, that is what bodegas are telling us: Palo Cortado is a wine that “occurs”, rather by accident – you can’t actively produce it. On top of this, you frequently hear that it’s an endangered species that will be extinct at some point because it is becoming so popular and production is so limited. Luckily this seems a bit exaggerated: nowadays cellarmasters have a good understanding of the underlying process and have a good nose for selecting the right casks that have a high chance of developing the Palo Cortado profile.
In the past, a Palo Cortado would originate as a Fino that started to deviate: unplanned yeast activity, specific characteristics of the grape juice, a slightly off-beat cask or certain ambient conditions that influenced the flor and caused it to fail to develop normally. These casks would then be taken out of the Fino solera: its Fino mark, a vertical line or palo, would then be crossed or cortado by a diagonal line. Its flor would be killed by fortifying the wine to 17-18 degrees and it would continue its life as a barrel that ages oxidatively.
Nowadays most Palo Cortado is technically a lightweight, delicate Oloroso. You start with the most delicate free-run grape juice (first pressing, normally destined to become a Fino) but instead of letting it develop a layer of flor, you fortify it to the strength of an Oloroso, forcing it to age oxidatively. See my article about the myths surrounding Palo Cortado for more insight.
The names Dos Cortados, Tres Cortados and Cuatro Cortados also exist. Most sources say these designate wines of increasing age and refinement. Others say it sometimes designates multiple fortifications, in order to rectify the wine.
Palo Cortado is the rarest type of sherry, surrounded by myths and legends, most of which a bit exaggerated
Palo Cortado is the rarest of all varieties (less than 100.000 bottles sold a year, compared to 60 million bottles overall) but it is very popular among aficionados and it is gaining interest. Almost every bodega offers one or two Palo Cortados now.
There’s a less traditional way of creating a hybrid Palo Cortado style of sherry, by blending Amontillado and Oloroso, but this wouldn’t create the same kind of complexity and harmony. It is mostly a practice of the past.
Palo Cortado should be served at a slightly higher temperature than an Amontillado (around 14°C). It’s great with cured meats like cecina de Leon, soft blue cheese, foie gras and nuts.
Palo Cortado sherry reviews
- 25-GF Jerez Viejísimo (Gaspar Florido) 4.5
- Almacenista Palo Cortado ‘Vides’ (Lustau) 4.5
- Almacenista Palo Cortado Cayetano del Pino (Lustau) 5
- Antique Palo Cortado (Fernando de Castilla) 4.5
- Apostoles Medium VORS (González Byass) 4
- Cardenal Palo Cortado VORS (Valdespino) 5
- Colección Roberto Amillo Palo Cortado 5
- Dos Cortados VOS (Williams & Humbert) 4
- Encrucijado MMXII 4
- La Bota de Palo Cortado 47 (Equipo Navazos) 4
- La Bota de Palo Cortado 48 (Equipo Navazos) 4.5
- La Bota de Palo Cortado 52 (Equipo Navazos) 4
- Obispo Gascón (Barbadillo) 3.5
- Palo Cortado ‘Conde de Aldama’ (Yuste) 5
- Palo Cortado (El Maestro Sierra) 5
- Palo Cortado 1730 (Pilar Aranda) 4
- Palo Cortado Clásico (Urium) 4
- Palo Cortado Privilegio 1860 VORS (Hidalgo) 5
- Palo Cortado Viejo C.P. (Valdespino) 4.5
- Palo Cortado VORS (Bodegas Tradición) 5
- Palo Cortado VORS (Bodegas Urium) 5
- Palo Cortado Wellington VORS (Hidalgo) 4
- Regente Palo Cortado (Sánchez Romate) 4