What Is Sherry Wine Everything You Need To Know
Formerly one of the most tradition-bound, staid and ignored wines in the world, Sherry is now surging in popularity. Over the last decade, a new generation of drinkers has embraced this fortified wine from Spains deep south.
This isnt the first time Sherry has expanded its reach. The word on Sherry, at least out of Jerez, the capital of Sherry production, has long been that its making headway or on the cusp of being the next big thing for global bartenders and wine lovers. But, according to the sommeliers who sell Sherry daily, theres something different about the enthusiasm for Sherry this time around.
Were seeing an openness to trying different Sherries, especially among customers in their 20s and 30s, and thats refreshing, says Gil Avital, formerly the wine director at Tertulia and El Colmado, a pair of Spanish restaurants in New York City. Still, the majority of our guests need guidance when selecting a Sherry to go with what theyre eating. To really know Sherry, one needs to spend a lot of time tasting the many different styles from the different subregions and producers.
The Fortified Wine In The Age Of Exploration
When sailors roamed the oceans in the Golden Age of exploration, they always brought alcohol with them. Water was disease-ridden and unreliable, and wine or rum was added to water for its antiseptic properties.
Since casks of wine would spoil after weeks in the hot tropical sun, merchants added brandy to their barrels to fortify the wine and protect it. British began to prefer their wine this way and their merchants set up shop in Jerez de la Frontera, where they began to fortify the local wines for shipping.
It helped that SirFrancis Drake had raided the port of Cadiz near Jerez in 1587 and seized a few thousand barrels of Sherry. Upon his return to England, Drakes stolen wine became all the rage and gave the wines of Jerez a devoted market.
Jerez, A Place Apart
There is no place in the world that can make wines like those of Jerez.
Besides white chalky soil and warm sun for growing grapes, the winds are ideal. The Poniente and Levante blow across the region and give the open-air cellars the right combination of humidity and temperature to gently age the wines in barrel.
A unique phenomenon called flor happens in Andalucias warm seaside climate. In barrels of new wine each year, a layer of yeast will form on the surface of the wine and transform its flavors. Flor gives the wine a tangy, salty character as it matures. And maturing is what Sherry is all about.
The Wine Blenders Art
Sherry Vs Jerez Vs Xrs
Jerez de la Frontera
Its not uncommon for sherry to also be referred to as either Jerez or Xérès. In fact, its designation of origin or Denominación de Origen is Jerez-Xérès-Sherry.
In all cases, its names derive from its home, the city of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, Spain. Sherry is largely referred to as simply Jerez in Spain and Xérès is merely the French spelling of the word that was often used as well.
However, when the British began importing sherry, it was initially referred to as Sherris sack. Sherish was the towns Arabic name during Moorish rule, which itself has Greeks roots from Kerrat, which was Romanised into Ceret.
Meanwhile, sack was short for sacar, a general term for exported wine. Eventually, the Arabic term was corrupted over time into the English sherry.
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What Is Sherry Wine
Sherry is made from white wine grapes. Palomino features prominently in dry versions, while sweet versions like cream sherry might include Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel.
Sherries are aged in a unique system called the solera, where barrels of fortified wines sit for years at ambient temperatures. Portions of the wine are periodically removed from the oldest barrels for bottling, with new stocks added to keep the solera going.
Sherrys New Portuguese Rival
With the War of the Spanish Succession, sherry sales faltered again as England and Portugal signed the Methuen Treaty in 1703. A military and commercial pact, it offered modest import taxes on Portuguese wine.
As sweet port wine had been discovered only thirty years earlier, English tastes quickly adapted to the cheaper alternative.
Spain was initially a French ally during the Napoleonic Wars. Consequently, sherry experienced brief popularity with its continental neighbour where it was known as Xérès. However, the relationship was short-lived when France occupied Spain in a bid for control of the Iberian Peninsula.
When discovering how these processes produced new flavours, it renewed Britains interest in sherry. Today, these are recognised as characteristic techniques as youll learn in our dedicated sherry making guide.
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Perfect Food Pairings For Sherry Wine
For Fino and Manzanilla, think Spanish tapas: baked anchovies, patatas bravas, olives, cold cuts and manchego. For Amontillado and Palo Cortado, dishes like roasted turkey, grilled tuna, artichokes and asparagus will go well dark chocolate could pair with these too. Rich poultry and foie gras will work with dry Oloroso. Cream Sherry and sweet Pedro Ximénez should be enjoyed with dessert or cheese.
Where Is Sherry Made
Sherry is made in the province of Andalucía in Southern Spain, primarily from three towns , which form the Andalucían Triangle. Palomino grapes the principal varietal used to make sherry thrive in the heat and humidity of Southern Spain and grow in white, chalky soil known as albariza. The other two soil types important to sherry-making grapes are barros and arenas . The regions incredibly dry and sunny climate, as well as coastal breezes off the Atlantic Ocean, also contributes to the well-being of the grapes.
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A Master Class In Sherry Blending
Within the walls of the González Byass winery, founded in 1835, orange trees and vine-adorned cobblestone pathways connect one enormous barrel-filled solera to another, each containing thousands of black casks filled with all types of highly aromatic Sherry wines.
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From the companys early days through the latter half of the 20th century, the sprawling winery was a community unto itself. Workers lived in the bodega with their families, and employees ate meals in groups. Children of some González Byass winemakers and bodegueros were born and raised there.
One such Sherry producer is Antonio Flores, born in 1955 in a room above a barrel vault.
The original Tio Pepe solera is called Rebollo, says Flores, González Byasss chief winemaker and master blender since 1980. I was born directly upstairs.
The son of a González Byass winemaker, Flores selected the barrels that would comprise the 2015 production of Tio Pepes Las Palmas series.
To make great Sherry, you must have two things, Flores said at the beginning of our day. One is a lot of chalk. Every barrel we will try has markings indicating quality and to what wine it will go into, be it Tio Pepe or Las Palmas. Two, you need shoes with soft soles, because we will be on our feet for hours.
What Does Sherry Taste Like
There are several distinctive styles of sherry, which all result in different flavours. Indeed, you can find both dry and sweet sherries! Nevertheless, the vast majority of sherry is dry.
Likewise, it typically has low acidity and its relatively strong alcoholic content is often masked by its full flavours.
Typically, sherry will either taste like biscuit and almond or walnut and caramel depending on how it was aged. Those that are lighter in colour and have biscuit flavours tend to have been aged under a layer of yeast called flor. Meanwhile, nuttier sherries will have likely undertaken oxidative ageing as well or instead.
Otherwise, sweet sherry will have an almost black colour with notes of dried fruit. On some occasions, it can be compared to port. Yet, the process of making the two are quite different.
Similarly, its level of fruitiness will depend on how long it was aged. As there is a variety of styles of sherry, their flavours will vary. We suggest that you learn more about their flavours via our guide to the different types of sherry!
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The History Of Sherry
Spain has been a center for winemaking for thousands of years, but it wasnt until the 13th century that something starting to resemble sherry was first created, thanks to the introduction of the Moorish art of distillation. Even then, sherry or sack as the British called it, wasnt at all like it is today. In the 17th century sherry evolved into something a bit more familiar when winemakers saw just how well palomino grapes did in the regions chalky soil. They called the wine fino because it was incredibly bright, crisp and delicate. Producers also started to really play with yeast and noticed how transformative the ingredient could be.
In the early 19th century, port became the sweetened fortified wine of choice, and sherry sales began to decline. Though it didnt seem it at the time, it was a stroke of good luck for sherry producers, who were forced to sit on their stock of barrels, unintentionally aging it. As people bought a few bottles here and there, the producers would top the barrels off with new sherry, inadvertently employing the now signature solera method. Another benefit of the port boom: Sherry producers were inspired to fortify their wines even more, creating oloroso sherry.
Forget everything you thought you knew about sherry from all those Frasier episodes.
Though sherry was out of fashion for years and years, it is finally starting to come back into style thanks to pioneering bartenders, restaurateurs and fearless drinks journalists.
Learn To Tell Your Manzanilla From Your Amontillado
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Liquor.com / Laura Sant
No other fortified wine has seen a renaissance with drinkers quite like sherry. Gone are the days where this style of fortified wine was synonymous with cocktail mixers, dusty bar shelves and grandparents sipping. In current times, sherry is seeing a revolution like never before and rightfully so. These complex wines hold their own against a variety of other still and unfortified wines, though knowing what youre drinking is essential to understanding these intricate bottles.
Sherry is produced in the Marco de Jerez, otherwise known as the Sherry Triangle, in southern Spain. The three main towns in which sherry is produced are Jerez de la Frontera , Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María. Similar to the beverages produced in Champagne, Cognac and other well-known areas, in order to be called sherry, wines must only come from this specific region in Spain.
Its a fortified wine, which means that grape brandy is added to the fermenting must or the fully fermented wine. The time in which the brandy is added determines how dry or sweet the final wine will be. Due to the addition of grape brandy, sherry and other fortified wines have a higher alcohol content than do nonfortified wines, generally clocking in between 15% and 20% ABV.
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Coronation Cocktail No 1
Liquor.com / Tim Nusog
This classic cocktail appeared in Harry Craddocks 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book, but is relatively obscure when compared to its sherry-based siblings, the Bamboo and the Adonis. Similar to the Bamboo, this drink splits dry vermouth and sherry as its base, but its sweetened with maraschino liqueur for sweetness and depth, and is finished with orange bitters and a lemon twist.
Tasting Notes For Sherry
Sherry is a fortified wine that comes in many styles from dry to sweet. Fino, from Jerez, and the similar style called Manzanilla, from the humid and cool, coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, are the lightest and driest styles, and are meant for early consumption. Their creation is dependent on the action of flor, which are benevolent film-forming yeasts that make a floating veil on the surface of the wine, which aid in protecting it from oxidation. Amontillado happens when a Finos layer of flor fades and the wine starts to oxidize. Quite simply it is an aged Fino that has a darker color and richer palate. When flor yeast dies unexpectedly, the result is Palo Cortado. A Palo Cortado Sherry can behave like Amontillado on the palate but often show a greater balance of richness and delicacy. Oloroso never develops flor but is oxidized for anywhere from five to twenty five years, becoming aromatic and strong like a fine bourbon. A sweetened Oloroso is a Cream sherry wine a Pale Cream is one that has had the color removed. Pedro Ximénez and Muscat, representing a tiny proportion of production can make some amazing single varietal sweet sherries but the vast number of styles are primarily based on the Palomino grape. Visit The Seven Types of Sherry Wine – What to Know to learn more!
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Sherry & Conflicts With The United Kingdom
The Spanish Armada Off The English Coast In 1588 by C.C. van Wieringen, 1620
As a fortified wine, sherry didnt spoil despite the long journey back to Britain and it became enormously popular in England. As a result, English merchants were so esteemed that they even retained the right to bear arms when travelling in southern Spain.
However, the 16th-century English Reformation resulted in the wine merchants unexpectedly falling under the Spanish Inquisitions scrutiny. Those who didnt leave Spain were often arrested and imprisoned as they refused to renounce their king.
Nevertheless, sherrys prominence persisted through other conflicts, including the Spanish Armada. In fact, sherry captured from Spanish warships only renewed interest in the fortified wine. Its popularity was represented by William Shakespeares depiction of Sir John Falstaff in Henry IV.
Where Does True Sherry Come From
True Sherry can only be made in Southern Spain. See the full . Sherrys magnificence comes from the fact that, like Champagne, true Sherry can only be made in one tiny corner of the world.
Many imitators have tried to replicate the salty, nutty, and aromatic profile of Sherry throughout history, but the unique winds, humidity, soil and seasonal changes give a singular character to the wines produced there.
Unlike litigation-happy Champagne, the Sherry Consejo Regulador and Spanish government have not done much over the years to protect the Sherry name around the world, so many cheap imitations are still sold with the name Sherry on the bottle.
Most are sweetened bulk wines with chemicals added for color and flavor.
Isnt Fortified Wine Too Strong?
Well, youre supposed to drink less of it! Sherrys powerful flavor and slightly higher alcohol content mean that a single serving can be about half of a normal six-ounce glass of wine. Sherry ranges from 15% ABV to over 20%.
Many full-bodied red wines like Argentinean Malbec and Napa Valley Cabernet clock in at 15-16% alcohol or more, so you shouldnt be too worried. This extra strength actually helps Sherry pair well with many foods.
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Sherrys Rise To Popularity
Sanlúcar de Barrameda
For instance, the nearby port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda was a common launchpad for many expeditions to the New World. Explorers would frequently supply themselves from Spains southern ports before embarking and often spent more on wine than on armaments.
Sweet and strong wines were in vogue and most came via Venice from Greece, Cyprus, and Balkan states like Cyprus and Hungary. However, the Ottoman Empires influence made them challenging for merchants to acquire.
Meanwhile, Englands access to French wine was limited due to recurringly strained diplomatic relations. To respond to demand, the Spanish Duke of Medina Sidonia abolished wine export taxes in the region in 1491.
How Do I Drink Sherry
Dry sherries can be served neat and chilled as an aperitif, either before a meal or with a wide variety of foods . Served at room temperature, sweet sherry is delicious as a digestif after a meal. If you dont happen to have a traditional sherry glass around, a white wine glass will do the trick.
Sherry also works excellent as a substitute for vermouth. Dry sherries work well in tiki drinks and Martinis, while the sweeter sherries can be used in boozy, stirred drinks like Manhattans.
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What Is Sherry
Sherry Served With A Venenciador
Sherry is a white wine from Spain that has been fortified with brandy. Its made following a similar process to regular table wine where cultivated grapes are pressed and fermented.
However, it is then fortified with a strong 70% ABV brandy called destilado’, which is sourced further inland. Once fortified, it is then aged following one or a combination of two distinct processes.
You can learn about the process with our full guide on how sherry is made.