Q&A TO COME
Q. Is sherry a wine or spirit?
Sherry is DEFINITELY a wine, yet a special style of wine. Sherry belongs to the category of Fortified Wines, in which grape spirit is added to the original juice as part of the winemaking process; a centuries old technique that helped Sherry wines and others such as Port or Madeira, withstand long voyages by sea and age beautifully.
Q. What is a fortified wine?
Fortified wines are fermented base wines that have had a neutral grape spirit added to raise the ABV. Dry Sherries have had the neutral spirit added after fermentation is complete and there is little to no residual sugar and an ABV between 15 - 20%.
Q. What glass should you serve sherry in?
For tasting and enjoying Sherry, use a tulip shaped glass to allow the complex aromas to develop. An ISO glass or a copita for a smaller, more traditional option, is ideal.
Q. Can you drink sherry alone?
Of course! It is incredibly food friendly, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed by itself before or after a meal or just with friends.
Q. What is Flor?
Yeast that forms a ‘veil’ over the surface of the wine, giving it bready flavors. Certain sherrys are aged under Flor for various amounts of time.
Flor is an essential part of creating Sherry, either preventing or allowing oxidation of the final product to determine the style. When Saccharomyces yeast is able to develop over the top of the aging wine, it feeds on the oxygen in the barrel, protecting it and creates flavors of sea spray, citrus and bread dough for Fino and Manzanilla styles of Sherry. If the flor does not form, the wine will have a rounder, fuller texture as well as darker, nuttier and richer flavors that you find in amontillado, palo cortado, oloroso and pedro ximenez styles.
Q. What is oxidation?
The process through which sherrys are exposed to oxygen and get their golden, amber or brown color. Not all sherries are oxidized but the majority of styles see some oxidation.
Q. What is a criadera?
A group of 600 liter American oak barrels or butts that have a single age of sherry wine. A series of criadera make up a solera. Typically there are four to five criadera in a solera but it can be up to 14.
Q. What is the Solera System?
An aging system for Sherry wine where various vintages are blended together fractionally down rows of large barrels. Wine is withdrawn from the criadera containing the oldest wine for bottling, making room for liquid to move down from the youngest to the oldest barrels.
Q. How long does Sherry last once opened?
After opening, Fino and Manzanilla Sherries should be consumed within a few days and stored closed in the refrigerator.
Amontillados can last for a few weeks and olorosos can last several months after being opened as they are less fragile due to their intentional oxidation and potentially higher sugar content. PX sherries can last for years as long as they are properly stored.
Q. Should I refrigerate Sherry once opened?
Finos and Manzanillas should go in the fridge. It’s not necessary to refrigerate the oxidative styles.
Q. At what temperature should Sherry be served?
Fino and Manzanilla drink best slightly cool, between refrigerator temperatures (35 to 45 degrees) and cellar temperature (45 to 65 degrees). Amontillado, palo cortado and oloroso Sherries should be served slightly warmer, closer to cellar temperature.
Q. What are the typical Sherry pairings?
Seafood and tapas! Think salt, olive oil and mayonnaise, all traditional to the region with its hot Mediterranean climate and proximity to the sea.
Q. What are the styles of Sherry?
Finos and Manzanillas start the Sherry spectrum and are generally considered the “dry” styles. They are the leanest and palest of the sherries that are aged biologically under a layer of flor for their entire lives. If these styles are left to age and the flor dies, it becomes an amontillado with slightly nuttier flavors while still maintaining the characteristics from its previous life under the layer of flor. The next step is a palo cortado, which spends less time under the flor than an amontillado and thus is richer and rounder. Oloroso never spends time under flor and is full, nutty and almost syrupy with the impression of sweetness. Pedro Ximenez sherries are made from dried grapes of the same name and are a quality sweet oxidative style.
Q. What is en rama?
It means “raw” and these sherries are either minimally filtered or unfiltered.
Q. Is Sherry sweet?
Sweet Sherries make a relatively small part of a bodega’s production. The best are made from dried pedro ximenez and moscatel grapes, with sweet and cheap blended “cream” sherries that are mostly made for the export market
Q. What are the grapes used to make Sherry?
Sherries are made from all white grapes. Palomino is used to make 95% of all sherries as it is disease resistant and vigorous. Moscatel is used to make a sweet wine for blending. Pedro Ximenez is used to make the sweet style of sherry of the same name. It’s disease prone and has incredibly low yields so it is becoming increasingly rare.
Q. Where is Sherry made?
The vineyards for Sherry are centered around Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa María in Andalucía. The climate is heavily influenced by the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean with sea breezes from the Gulf of Cadíz mediating the extreme temperatures.
Q. What is albariza?
A stark white soil that reflects light back up to the vines, helping them to ripen. It's light and soft, so it has to be tilled by hand and it holds just enough water to prevent the vine from dying during the long, often drought ridden winters. The rolling hills that have the best albariza soils are known collectively as Jerez Superior.
Q. Can Sherry be made outside of Jerez?
No. It’s a protected style inside of the European Union. Also, the yeasts that make up the flor are unique to the region and any attempts to transplant it has resulted in it mutating or not surviving, guaranteeing that Sherry will only be truly made in Jerez.