Regarded by many wine specialists as a neglected wine treasure, Sherry is traditionally drunk from a Copita which is a special tulip-shaped glass. Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes specially grown in Andalusia in Spain, is produced in a variety of styles. Enjoying protected origin status, all wine labeled as “Sherry” must essentially come from the Sherry Triangle located in the Cadiz province of Spain. This region follows a predictable climate with about 70 days of rainfall alongside 300 days of sunshine every year. Together with dry & hot summers winds from ocean bring moisture to vineyards so as to enable clays in soil retain water below surface.
Unique Albariza Soil
There are three varieties of soil found in the grape growing Sherry Triangle region. Albariza, almost white is a light soil which is one of the best for growing Palomino grapes. A blend of chalk, limestone, clay & sand, Albariza is able to preserve moisture even during hot summers. Barros consisting of chalk & high clay compost is the other dark brown soil utilized in grape cultivation. Arenas, is a yellow soil comprising of chalk along with a comparatively high sand content.
Of these Albariza is most suitable for Palomino grape cultivation which by law must constitute 40 percent of grapes used in Sherry production.
Variety of Grapes
Sherry production in Spain is accredited to be having over 100 varieties of grapes in the past. However, only three varieties of white grapes are now used in the making of Sherry.
- Palomino is the dominant variety of white grape used in the production of dry Sherries. The wine coming of Palomino is very bland with neutral characteristics, which makes it an ideal choice for Sherry winemaking style. Almost 90 percent of Sherry wines come from Palomino grapes.
- Pedro Ximénez is the other variety of grapes which is normally used to produce sweet wines. After harvesting these grapes are normally sun-dried for two days so as to concentrate the sugars.
- Moscatel is another variety of grapes which is less common but used for production of sweet wines.
- Other countries in other parts of the world often use several other varieties of grapes in the production of Sherry-style of wines.
Process of Fermentation
Harvested early in September, Palomino grapes are lightly pressed to extract Must. Primera Yema or extract of the first pressing produce Fino & Manzanilla. The Must from second pressing known as Segunda Yema is utilized in the production of Oloroso. Subsequent pressings are generally used for distillation & production of lesser wines & vinegar. Fermented in stainless steel vats, this Must generates a dry white wine with 11-12 percent content of alcohol.
Soon after fermentation the wine is sampled & stored in casks with distinct markers according potential of wine. Sherry is then distilled & fortified using La Mancha. It is mixed in a two-stage procedure with mature Sherry first in a 50/50 blend & then further with younger Sherry in selective proportions to ensure that strong alcohol does not shock & spoil the younger Sherry. Aged in the Solera for 3 years at least, it is ensured that each bottle of Sherry also contains some much older wine.
Sherry the Product
Once bottled, Sherry does not age with time. Though fit for immediate consumption Sherry can also be stored for years without any loss in taste or flavor. Stored upright in a cool, dark place some Sherries will continue to develop in bottle for some years. Other fragile types should be consumed just as other unfortified wines. Some Sherries are sold in half bottles where the remaining wine is thrown away if not drunk on the same day. While, some blended cream Sherries can last weeks or months after opening as the sugar content serves as preservative.