Last week I did some notes on Port so this week is on another fortified wine , that of sherry.
Sherry is a wine that is fortified with brandy after fermentation is complete thus all sherries are dry at the beginning. A sweet sherry is a dry sherry sweetened with Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel wine.
Sherry had a reputation in Europe at the end of the 16th century as the world’s finest wine with Columbus earlier on bringing sherry on his voyages to the New World. It first became popular in Britain when Sir Francis Drake took the seaport of Cadiz in 1587 and brought the sherry back with him.
A unique fermentation process is used to make sherry beginning with the wine being aged in 600 litre North American oak casks which is slightly more porous than French or Spanish oak. This gives a sherry a chance to experience oxidative aging which is the main contributor to it’s aroma. Also a nutty aroma and taste becomes apparent because of this oxidative aging.
The casks are stacked one upon another in what is called the solera system. What takes place in each barrel will depend on the variety of yeast found naturally in Andalucia Spain where sherry is made. This yeast is called flor.
In the casks themselves there is about a 2 fists space at the top to allow the flor to develop. The flor is not pretty to look at as it appears as a thick white foam on the surface of the must. The vitner will decide by it’s thickness whether he will make a fino sherry or a medium dry or sweet sherry. If it is thick it will be a fino sherry and a thin flor will be sweeter.
The solera system which is unique to sherry is when the casks have some of their juice racked and moved to a lower cask and this keeps going till the blending process is complete and the sherry type is decided upon. You can imagine how skilled the winemakers are when doing the racking and arriving at the final product!
A minimum of 3 years is spent for a sherry in the solera system that can be anywhere from 3 to 9 casks stacked.
When storing sherry it should always be kept in a cool dark place and upright to minimize the wine’s exposed areas. As it doesn’t get any better with age once a sherry bottle is opened it should be drank from 1 week to a few months or it will start to lose it’s flavour.
Serving temperatures with dry sherries are cold while sweet sherries are served at room temperature.
Some type of sherries are;
Fino – Driest and palest
Manzanilla – A variety of fino sherry found in Salucar de Barrameda
Amontillado – Aged first under a cap of flor yeast the sherry is then exposed to oxygen which produces a result darker than fino and ligher than oloroso. Thus a medium sherry.
Oloroso – Oxidized longer and is darker and richer. A sweet sherry.
Palo Cortado – it is found somewhere between an amontillado and an oloroso. Aged like a crisp amontillado but having a character rich like oloroso.
Cream Sherry – made from oloroso sherry.
A food match for a dry sherry would be a plate with olives or tapas from Spain. Cashews or any salty food is also a good match for a dry sherry whereas an oloroso that has been aged is excellent for a sweet dessert.