Palo Cortado: what type of wine is it, its origin, how it is made and how to enjoy it

Of all the Sherry wines, Palo Cortado is the most famous and mysterious.  Its uniqueness and exquisiteness has reached such a degree that it has been the subject of several documentaries that try to understand its origin and complexity.

Today at Bodegas Altanza we will explain everything you always wanted to know about this aromatic and delicate wine.

What is the Palo Cortado?

Palo Cortado is a type of fortified wine. It is considered that a wine can be called generous when it reaches a graduation higher than 15º . In the case of Palo Cortado, to be considered like this, it must range from 16 to 22 degrees.

What makes Palo Cortado special are its nuances, since it is a full-bodied fortified wine, but with an aromatic fineness, a freshness and a sharp touch that makes it very special wine.

It should be noted that Palo Cortado is the only type of wine that is made with a single type of grape: the palomino grape.

Why is it called Palo Cortado?

The name of Palo Cortado comes from its elaboration.

In the past, the palomino grape was used to obtain fine wine, which is another kind of fortified wine. When this was poured into the boot (a way of calling the barrel in Jerez) it was marked with a chalk line to indicate that a next fine wine was fermenting there.

However, if over time the wine lost its flor veil, a layer of yeast found on the surface of the wine could no longer be protected from oxygen and, therefore, another kind of generous wine must be obtained.

The moment the wine maker realized this, he would take the chalk and draw another line that crossed the first line, making a picture of a cut stick (palo cortado in Spanish).

How is palo cortado wine made?

Although in the past the elaboration of the Palo Cortado was made thanks to chance, nowadays its elaboration follows very specific steps to achieve the quality and exquisiteness of this much-loved wine.

First, an extremely fine must is obtained from the palomino grape and put into the barrels to begin the fermentation or biological aging process. It should be noted that at this stage, the must has a graduation of 15º. It is also at this moment when the first line is drawn to indicate that a cut stick is being formed in that barrel.

When the wine has already reached 17º and does not have a layer to protect it from oxygen, the oxidative phase begins.

Difference between Amontillado and Palo Cortado

These two Sherry wines are often very confused, since their flavor and nuances are very similar. To help you differentiate them, we will describe the characteristics of each one.

In one hand, amontillado wine is a type of fortified wine with a graduation similar of palo cortado, because it can reach up to 20º . On the other hand, amontillado wine has both a biological and an oxidative aging phase that give it soft and sharp aromas, similar to fine wine.

Palo Cortado is a very dark wine that began its journey as a fine wine , but, losing its flor veil, it is once again stored in the barrel for years to finish maturing as Palo Cortado. In terms of structure and aromas, it combines the smoothness of the amontillados, with a round body that identifies it from the rest of the Sherry wines.

Palo Cortado Pairing

Due to the special characteristics of Palo Cortado , this fortified wine can be paired with the most exquisite dishes such as:

  • smoked meats
  • Roasted red meats.
  • stews.
  • Pig trotters.
  • aged cheeses
  • Nuts.
  • Desserts such as candied fruits or pralines.

As you can see, Palo Cortado is a very versatile wine that gives the final touch to dishes full of personality.

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