Sherry is produced only in the southernmost part of Spain,
near the town of Jerez de la Frontera.
The only grapes allowed in Sherry are white. They are
The best vineyards have a very chalky soil (albariza) that
has concentrations of lime and magnesium.
Beginning in September and lasting about three weeks, the
harvest is entirely by hand. Once picked, the grape bunches
are laid on straw mats to reduce the moisture content and concentrate
Sherry comes in different styles based on the level of sweetness.
The style is decided during fermentation. If wine in a
cask is affected by a local yeast (flor) then it will develop
into a dry style known as Fino. If the wine in a cask
is not affected by flor, then the wine will be a much sweeter
style called Oloroso. It is easy to know if a cask has
been affected since the flor develops as a layer on top of the
wine in the cask. The layer of flor (if it develops) protects
the wine in the cask from oxidizing and it therefore keeps a
delicacy. If the flor does not develop, the wine is not
protected and it begins to oxidize.
After fermentation and the initial classification as either
Fino or Oloroso, the wines are put in oak barrels to rest for
about 1 year. At the end of this period, the Finos are
again classified to see how they have developed. If the
flor layer has survived, the wine will be very delicate and
vibrant. If the flor layer has disappeared, the wine will
have undergone some oxidation and will be classified as an Amontillado.
Sherry is fermented, it is aged in an unusual manner.
It is aged and blended in Solera systems. Soleras are
racks of barrels that are used to age the wine and to create
a consistent taste. In a Solera system, wine is drawn
for bottling from a set of barrels at one end of the Solera
and those barrels are then "topped off" wine wine
from the next set in the rack. Each barrel is topped off
with wine from the next set of barrels
along the solera. When the last set of barrels is reached,
it is topped off with new wine that is just entering the solera.
The end result, many years into the life of a solera, is sherry
coming out that has complex and mature flavors (from the older
wines) and a fresh crispness (from the younger wines).
is very dry and delicate and has a life after opening of about
1 week. This is an extremely delicate wine that has a
very short shelf life. It is best consumed within 6 months
of bottling. Otherwise, it will begin to oxidize.
Do not let the short life dissuade you. Finos are wonderful.
sherry has a nutty flavor and is sweeter, softer and darker
in color than finos.
sherry, often labeled Cream Sherry is fuller in flavor and
is darker than dry or medium sherries.
is currently almost a forgotten wine as far as consumer trends
are concerned. It has avid devotees and attracts a few
new drinkers each year, but it is not a part of the consumption
pattern and has almost no share of mind for the average consumer.
It tends to be a very trendy wine that cyclically becomes a
favorite of sophisticates and then falls out of favor.
Sherry is delicious as an aperitif or with appetizers and cheeses.
Dry sherries are usually consumed chilled. Sweet sherries
are served at room temperature and may be served after dinner.