Sherry (in Spanish: Jerez) is a Certified Origin, in Spanish “Denominación de Origen”(D.O.) that identifies a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the city of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia.
Sherry is produced in a variety of styles made primarily from the Palomino grape, ranging from light versions similar to white table wines, such as Manzanilla and Fino, to darker and heavier versions that have been allowed to oxidise as they age in barrel, such as Amontillado and Oloroso. Sweet dessert wines are also made from Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel grapes, and are sometimes blended with Palomino-based Sherries.
After fermentation is complete, the base wines are fortified with grapes spirit in order to increase their final alcohol content. Wines classified as suitable for aging as Fino and Manzanilla are fortified until they reach a total alcohol content of 15.5 per cent by volume. As they age in barrel, they develop a layer of flor—a yeast -like growth that helps protect the wine from excessive oxidation. Those wines that are classified to undergo aging as Oloroso are fortified to reach an alcohol content of at least 17 per cent. They do not develop flor and so oxidise slightly as they age, giving them a darker colour. Because the fortification takes place after fermentation, most sherries are initially dry, with any sweetness being added later. In contrast, port wine is fortified halfway through its fermentation, which stops the process so that not all of the sugar is turned into alcohol.
Wines from different years are aged and blended using a Solera system before bottling, so that bottles of sherry will not usually carry a specific vintage year. Solera is a process for aging liquids such as wine, beer, vinegar and brandy, by fractional blending in such a way that the finished product is a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years. The purpose of this labour-intensive process is the maintenance of a reliable style and quality of the beverage over time.” Solera means “on the ground” in Spanish, and it refers to the lower level of the set of barrels or other containers used in the process; the liquid (traditionally transferred from barrel to barrel, top to bottom, the oldest mixtures being in the barrel right “on the ground”).
Types of Jerez Sherry Wines
- Fino (‘fine’ in Spanish) is the driest and palest of the traditional varieties of Sherry. The wine is aged in barrels under a cap of flor yeast to prevent contact with the air.
- Manzanilla is an especially light variety of Fino Sherry made around the port of San Lucar de Barrameda.
- Amontillado is a variety of Sherry that is first aged under flor and then exposed to oxygen, producing a sherry that is darker than a Fino but lighter than an Oloroso. Naturally dry, they are sometimes sold lightly to medium sweetened but these can no longer be labelled as Amontillado.
- Oloroso (‘scented’ in Spanish) is a variety of sherry aged oxidatively for a longer time than a Fino or Amontillado, producing a darker and richer wine. With alcohol levels between 18 and 20%, Olorosos are the most alcoholic sherries. Like Amontillado, naturally dry, they are often also sold in sweetened versions called Cream sherry. As with Amontillado “Sweet Oloroso”, “Rich Oloroso” and “Oloroso Dulce” are prohibited terms.
- Palo Cortado is a variety of Sherry that is initially aged like an Amontillado, typically for three or four years, but which subsequently develops a character closer to an Oloroso. This either happens by accident when the flor dies, or commonly the flor is killed by fortification or filtration.
- Jerez Dulce (Sweet Sherries) are made either by fermenting dried Pedro Ximenez (PX) or Moscatel grapes, which produces an intensely sweet dark brown or black wine, or by blending sweeter wines or grape must with a drier variety.
- Cream is a type of sweet sherry first made in the 1860s by blending different sherries, usually including Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez.
Traditionally, wines have been widely used in Jerez gastronomy and other areas of Western Andalusia. Also, the multitude of possibilities offered by its wide range, makes them frequently used in the new signature cuisine. However, they can perfectly accompany a multitude of meals, such as:
Fine and Manzanilla perfectly accompany the appetizer (tapas, olives, soft cheeses, seafood …) to soups and white fish.
The amontillado makes pairing with the cured cheeses, soups, consommés, the blue fish and the white meats.
The oloroso wants red meats and hunts.
The Pedro Ximénez, accompany the sweets and blue cheeses.
Pale Cream combines with foie and fresh fruit.
The Medium to accompany pâtés and quiches.
The Cream house with all kinds of pastries.
Temperature to be served
The Fino and Manzanilla should always be served between 7 and 9 ° C.
The Amontillado and the oloroso between 13 and 14 ° C.
The Pedro Ximénez and the muscatel around 15 ° C.
The Pale Cream at about 10 ° C.
The Medium between 10 and 11 ° C.
Cream at about 13 ° C or with ice.