The Sherry of Jerez

tasted 14 Sherrys today and I am pretty sure that I have officially entered into the world of wine-geek wannabe. It started with New Zealand Sav Blancs but now I find myself hoping to get invited to those somewhat elusive “for the media only” wine events that are mostly for buyers, expert spitters and writers (which I kinda sorta am!)

Up until a few weeks ago I knew two things about Sherry.. Its really sweet, it has an easily identifiable smell and I love soaking my sponge cake in it when I make a real deal authentic English triffle. Oh, and supposedly the Queen’s mum drank a few bottles a day.

Today I learned the facts-the basics, essentially SHERRY 101!

Sherry comes from Spain’s oldest wine making region, Jerez and the winemaking practices of Sherry producers date back to ancient times! Sherrys used to be just the “after dinner thing” or “the dry thing you cook with” but in the last 10 years Sherry has made a serious comeback and is showing up in cocktails, wine lists and everything in between (whatever that is).

The Process is something like this: Harvest time is late August and early September. The Mosto (or Must) is the fresh grape juice extracted with light pressure-the first mosto is used to make Sherry. There are two fermentation stages, the quick and the slow. During the quick part, most of the sugar is converted to alcohol and CO2, in the second slower stage, more fermentation takes place. Final white dry wine is around 11 to 12.5% alcohol. BUT the biggest kept secret to Sherry’s diversity is in the Flor! The Flor is the yeast that shows up on the wine surface after the fermentation takes place. The winemakers decide if the wines will age with or without flor-fortification takes place, (at different alcohol levels) then the fortified wines are transfered to oak barrels to begin the aging process. The lower alcohol products are fed lots of Yeast flor, but in the higher alcohol products, the flor is killed off. The wines are then aged based on the “criaderas y solera” system-barrels are stacked according to age in three to four levels. Sherrys are blended thus they have no vintage, minimum aging is 3 years, although they are usually aged longer.

Here is the full Sherry Spectrum!

Fino-bone dry, aged with yeast, best chilled, goes with seafood and soups, taste like almonds

Manzanilla-slightly darker then fino, but similar bone dry taste. Goes well with almonds, cheese and olives (tapas!)

Amontillado-Amber colored with hazlenut bouquet. Light and smooth, goes with hot and spicy foods

Oloroso-Initially dry, amber colored, overtones of nuts, pairs best with spicy cured meats like jamon serrano

Palo Corto-Very rare, smells like Amontillado, higher alcohol, beginning to get sweeter, goes well with duck and game

Cream-Intense aroma, velvet, full bodied (AKA alotta alcohol), drink over ice

Moscatel-Very sweet dessert wine made only from sun dried Moscatels-drink with dark chocolate or figs

Pedro Ximenez-Dark mahogony, deep bouquet of raisins, smooth, sweet, full bodied, balanced, serve over icecream or with dark chocolate.

 

So there you have it, from light bone dry fino to the dark mahogony Pedro. Sherry is making a huge comeback and its not just for dessert anymore. The Manzanilla through Oloroso is very food friendly (likea Riesling I bet)-but of course as it gets sweeter-goes better with the desserts.

Drink Sherry-make Sherry Cocktails-Its the spirit of the month.

 

(Ps some of this info was slightly plagerized from the Sherry council of America literature, but hey, they want me to spread the word and I am giving them credit here so its ok)

About rachel zemser