Sherry is a category of traditional fortified wines produced in the province of Andalusia in southern Spain. The designation of origin is one of Spain's oldest.
How is Sherry produced?
Sherry is made using two major methods: oxidative and non-oxidative. Wine is exposed to oxygen during the aging process in the former, resulting in distinct nutty qualities. The wine is shielded from the air in the latter, which is used for manzanilla and fino Sherries, by a frothy, waxy coating of living yeasts called flor, which floats on top of the wine in a barrel that is 75 percent full. These yeasts, unlike traditional fermentation yeasts, eat alcohol and oxygen instead of sugar. Acetaldehyde, a chemical that gives these Sherries their particular acidic aroma, is one of the byproducts of this activity.
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The solera system, which is a multi-barrel method of fractional blending and maturing, is shamefully absent from any discussion about Sherry. Each sort of Sherry has its own solera, which is explained below. Consider rows upon rows of barrels stacked on top of one another. When the producer has to bottle, a portion of the oldest wine is pulled from the bottom barrels (called the solera). The vacant space is then filled with wine from the 1st criadera, the next level of barrels (Spanish for nursery). The wine from the second criadera is added to these barrels, and so on.
Where Sherries are produced?
The historic sherry triangle, which included the cities of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa Maria, as well as six other communities, is the traditional production area of Sherries. The chalky/limestone soil in this area is ideal for growing the Palomino grape, Pedro Ximénez, and Moscatel, the three traditional sherry grapes.
There are 7 basic types of Sherry wine as the following.
This is a sort of fino (made in the presence of flor) that is especially reminiscent of the sea, with saline, sea-spray character, and a floral tone reminiscent of chamomile. It is produced solely in the seaside town of Sanlucar de Barrameda. These are dry wines that are also delicate and crisp, and they should be served chilled within a day or two of purchase. The alcohol content is 15-17 percent.
Fino is a dry Sherry with almond aromas that is acidic and yeasty. Fino, like manzanilla, is a light-colored wine that pairs well with olives, almonds, and shellfish when served chilled. The alcohol content is 15-17 percent.
Amontillado is a deliberate hybrid style that starts as a fino and progresses to its solera over four to six years. Then it's fortified with more alcohol by volume (abv), which kills the flor. The wine is transferred to a different solera at this time and continues oxidative aging. Amontillados get their darker, amber color from this procedure, as well as notes of roasted nuts, tobacco, spice, and dried fruit, as well as the tangy attributes of a fino. These can be dry or sweetened with a pinch of powdered sugar. The alcohol content is 16-22%.
Olorosos are dark-colored wines made in a fully oxidative style. They have a full-bodied, thick, and complex flavor, as well as a silky texture and a highly nutty flavor. These are usually quite dry reds with a dash of PX thrown in for good measure. Oloroso is frequently offered at the end of a meal, maybe with hard cheeses. The alcohol content is between 18 and 20%.
5. Palo Cortado
Palo cortado, the "accidental" sherry, is a rare kind. This style starts out as flor and is designed to become fino or amontillado later on. Then, for unknown reasons, it loses its flor prior to fortification and begins to oxidatively evolve like an oloroso. The end result is a wine with incredible elegance and complexity, a luscious texture, and aromatic and flavor components that are reminiscent of both amontillado and oloroso. The alcohol content is between 17 and 22 percent.
Cream Sherry is prepared by adding 11 percent or more residual sugar to an oloroso base wine. These wines have fig, chocolate, dried fruit, and roasted nut characteristics and can be served as an after-dinner drink or dessert wine. There is also a lighter variation known as pale cream sherry. Alcohol content ranges from 15.5 to 22%.
7. Pedro Ximénez
Pedro Ximénez is manufactured from the Pedro Ximénez grape. The sugars are concentrated by air drying the berries on mats for a week or two. The juice is strengthened and added to a solera after partial fermentation. These are dark, rich dessert wines with molasses, raisins, toffee, and fig notes and residual sugar content of 40 to 50 percent. It's a fantastic dessert wine on its own, but it's also delicious when poured over ice cream for a sumptuous treat. The alcohol content is between 15 and 22 percent.
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