Sherry like Port and whisky is anther drink that is associated with Christmas and if I am to be honest also with my Gran. Sherry has however done away with the image of being a drink only for the old with the appreciation of dry sherries which are now almost fashionable. Unlike a cream sherry they are the original Spanish thing and are a great wine to have before starting a meal.
Sherry comes from the south of Spain and is named after Jerez, a town in the region. The name sherry is actually an anglicised version of the towns name. Jerez has been producing this type of wine since 1100 BC.
Sherry is a fortified wine. This means that extra alcohol is added to the liquid at some stage of its manufacture. The fortification of sherry takes place after fermentation. In fact all sherry is dry naturally and sweetness is added to the wine later on in the process. It is in fact alleged that Columbus sailed to the new world with a good stash of sherry on board as it is a wine that travels well – maybe something to think on when you do your next long distance voyage!
There are several main types of this wine: fino; Manzanilla; Amontillado; Oloroso and Pala Cortado. These are all dry sherries to turn it into a cream sherry Pedro Ximenz of Moscatel Wine has to be added.
The fermentation process of sherry is a fairly complex one. The grapes from the Palomino variety are pressed gently to extract the juice. The juice that is used to make sherry is only ever the first pressing of the grape – any further pressings are used to make wine of a lesser quality or to make wine vinegar. The juice is then fermented in a vat producing a wine with a fairly low alcohol content (10 – 11%) After the wine has fermented it is tasted and a classification given to it. This determines how the wine will be fortified. The fortification process uses a distilling wine and the resulting sherry can be anything from 15 – 17.5% alcohol content.
The wine is then stored in casks or barrels made from oak (This oak is nearly always from North America as it is slightly more porus than its European counterpart) The wine is aged and goes through a weird process of moving it through different barrels for a minimum of three years after which it is ready to drink and is therefore bottled.
Fiona Muller has been writing for over 20 years. She is a qualified journalist and has worked in food and drink writing for the last few years. For more information about Sherry go to www.laithwaites.co.uk