Sherry has an unfortunate image as something only your Grandma would drink, or use in her Christmas trifle, but the little red is much more complex…

A light sherry should always be served chilled: the ideal temperature is between five and seven degrees Celsius, never room temperature.

While some people keep any opened sherry for weeks or months, it’s better not to leave a half-empty fino around for longer than a week.

Fino sherry, which makes a particularly good aperitif with olives, loses its fine quality if exposed to air.

A close relation to the dry, light fino and its straw-yellow hue is manzanilla sherry.

To bear the description manzanilla, a sherry must be aged in barrels in the Spanish port city of Sanlucar.

Just like a fino, manzanilla should be drunk young. When buying a manzanilla note the year it was bottled to ensure it is not too old.

Sweet sherries such as Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez can safely be stored in a bottle for between one and three years before opening.

An opened bottle of sweet sherry is still drinkable after six months.

It’s best to lightly chill these sherries to between 12C and 14C before serving.

The very sweet and almost black Pedro Ximenez sherry is best suited as a dessert drink or as an ingredient in a dessert. Walnut ice cream served with a little Pedro Ximenez tastes delicious.

The basic wine has an alcohol content of between 11 and 12.5 per cent. It’s matured under a layer of yeast, known as flor, and then fortified with younger wine before aging in the barrels.

There are two basic types of sherry: the fino type, which has been matured twice beneath yeast and the much darker dolorosa, which has oxidised from its contact with air.

Wine is transformed into a sherry using a process called solera, which employs fractional blending to come up with the finished product.

The process takes place in rows of a minimum of three barrels stacked on top of each other. The finished sherry is tapped from the bottom barrel, which has been filled over time from the top two barrels. The top-most barrel is filled with fresh one-year-old wine.