Sipping SherrySelect One of Each Sherry Style for your Store
In the very southwest corner of Spain, only a short journey from the African coast, lies what may be considered the very heart of Spain. The province of Andalucía is home to everything Spanish: flamenco, bullfighting, tapas, and Sherry. The Spanish wine with the longest history, Sherry was originally mentioned in the First Century BC, and winemaking has been going on in the Sherry triangle towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa Maria since the Phoenicians arrived in 1100 BC. The government-regulated region of wine production is known as Denomination of Origin (DO) Jerez-Xérès-Sherry and Manzanilla – Sanlúcar de Barrameda and was established in 1933. It was the very first Spanish DO.
To understand Sherry it helps to understand the unique area it’s from and the way it’s produced. Grown in a region with 300+ days of sunshine per year and summer highs regularly above 40 degrees, the Sherry triangle does not seem like an area conducive to wine-growing. It is because of the sea’s influence and moisture-holding, chalk-based Albariza soils of the region that this is an environment the grapes can thrive in. Three grapes are permitted in the Sherry DO. The majority of the region is planted to Palomino, which is used to make all styles of dry Sherry. Pedro Ximinez is the variety most often dried in the sun to create the sweet wines of the region. Moscatel is also used for sweet wines, but only in miniscule amounts.
Perhaps more unique than the geographical characteristics is the aging process. Generations of trial and error have created a meticulous method of fractional blending to best communicate the quality and character of the region. This is known as the Solera system. After fermentation the wines are fortified and then placed in Solera to age either with oxygen contact, or with a special protective layer of yeast known as flor. The flor allows the wine to age with zero oxygen contact. Each year the solera is topped up with new wine, in the same amount as the wine that’s been removed for bottling and sale. With this method, the newer wine takes on the characteristics of the older wine and style, while quality is ensured from one bottling to the next. While the DO law states that Sherry must spend a minimum of two years in this Solera system, the majority of Sherry is at least an average of four years old with much of it being considerably older.
The majority of Sherry is at least an average of four years old.
The presence or absence of oxygen contact while aging in Solera determines the style of the finished Sherry. Those aged with the special flor yeast are the colour of sunshine, bone-dry, bright and crisp, with refreshing salinity and citrus flavours. These are known as Fino Sherry, or if the Solera aging takes place in the seaside town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda the wines are known as Manzanilla. Manzanilla is ever so slightly more delicate than the Fino of Jerez de la Frontera as it is influenced by its proximity to the ocean and the persistent sea breezes.
If the wine ages in contact with oxygen it takes on amber tones and darkens to intense mahogany with time. Known as Oloroso Sherry, nutty, toast and tobacco characteristics are present in these wines. Although the same grape is used, the style is completely different. Falling somewhere in between are Amontillado and Palo Cortado, which have influences from both Fino and Oloroso styles. In these instances, the wine will start as a Fino with a protective flor covering, but the flor fades away and the wine completes aging as an Oloroso. It then has characteristics of both styles, often with Amontillado notes on the nose and Oloroso character on the palate.
The sweet Sherry wines are made from Pedro Ximinez that have been dried in the sunlight to concentrate the sugars. This is also aged in Solera, without flor and either bottled as an incredibly luscious and sweet 100% Pedro Ximinez, which is perfect poured over vanilla ice cream, or it’s blended with a dry sherry to create a less sweet cream or medium style.
These varied styles and unique aging process have created a special wine, but one that is largely unknown or misunderstood by consumers and trade alike. This presents the special opportunity for you to introduce something different to your customers. A small but varied section with one of each style of Sherry adds interest to your store and opens up the opportunity for discussing new products with your customers and offers a truly memorable experience.