Sherry Education

intro to sherry (1)I honestly believe that sherry the most misunderstood (as well as the most mistreated) wine in the world. For many the name usually conjures up images of grannies and Christmases when a rather musty bottle of something sweet would be produced from the back of a cupboard. But nothing could be further from the truth, and although I had long known, having lived in Spain for many years, that a majority of sherries are dry, and that a nice fino or manzanilla are just the thing to drink with your jamón, cheese and olives, I have to admit that it was only recently, about five years ago, that I started to get a feel for the deeper qualities of this versatile wine.

The first thing to know about sherry is that it is a fortified wine which is produced in a small region in the province of Cádiz, known as the Sherry Triangle, that is roughly bordered by the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María. This Denomination of Origin was founded 80 years ago by the Consejo Regulador (Sherry Council), which has worked tirelessly to maintain this special recognition of these very exceptional wines. The soil and climate in this region play an important part in the distinct characteristics of sherry wines.

The other distinguishing factor about sherry comes from its unique ageing and blending process, known as the Solera System. With rare exception there are no vintage sherry wines. Sherry is always aged in American oak barrels, usually holding 600 litres, but they are only filled to 500 litres, and bottling only takes place from the solera casks, the ones closest to the floor (suelo). But these casks are never emptied. Depending on the bodega 200-300 litres will be removed for bottling, which is then replaced from the 1st Criadera (nursery), and in turn this is replaced by the next Criadera (there can be up to 5 or more Criaderas) until finally the new wines from the last harvest (sobretablas) are introduced into the system. This is known as fractional blending, and it helps guarantee a consistent quality which is not dependent on any particular harvest [to be continued]…

See all the sherry bodegas I have visited here…

For more information about my Sherry & Tapas Tour get in touch at…

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