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The name of the famous Spanish wine was the city of Jerez de la Frontera in the province of Cadiz ( Andalusia ), which has been a center of wine, liqueur and brandy production since the Middle Ages. Got in 711 Spain under Arab rule, but despite the Islamic alcohol ban wine continued to be produced. Caliph Alhaken II decided this in 966 clear of the vines, but the locals successfully argued that some of the grapes were too raisins processed, which the Muslims fed on their campaigns. Therefore only a third of the vines were destroyed. The Spanish winegrowers sent sherry to England as early as the 12th century and received English wool in return. During this time the wine got its name, derived from the Arabic name of the city "Sherish" or "Xeris". At that time it was considered one of the best wines in the world. The conquest by the Castilian king Alfonso X (1221-1284) in 1264 brought Jerez back under Christian rule. Before a battle, the Christians reportedly even gave their horses drinking wine to put them on. In 1483, the city fathers of Jerez enacted the first legal regulation for the production of sherry, which detailed instructions for vintage, Texture of leather wineskins, the expansion as well as trading practices.

Because of its durability, sherry was ideal for longer cruises. For example, the Portuguese seafarer Ferñao de Magellan (1480-1521) bought 417 hoses and 253 kegs of sherry in 1519 before he started his world tour. In 1587 the English privateer Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596) attacked the city of Cádiz in Spain and stole 2,900 barrels of sherry, which brought London to this wine. It quickly became extremely popular and became an English fashion drink. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an absolute sherry fan, he allowed himself a considerable amount every day in his pub "Bear Head Tavern". Again and again this wine was mentioned by name in scenes of his works (Richard III, Henry IV, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV.). In this context, Shakespeare - and the sherry - was also named for the sparkling wine (see there) involved. Spanish companies settled in Jerez in the 19th century, and some still exist by name. All over the world, wines were produced under the name Sherry, the brand or name was only protected in the EU in 1996.

The sherry area

The vineyards in the DO area Jerez with the full name "Jerez / Xérèz / Sherry y Manzanilla de Sanlúcar Barrameda" cover around 10,500 hectares. The vineyards are largely in the direction of the Atlantic Ocean. Used to be on everyone soil types Vines planted, today almost exclusively on the bright white chalk floor albariza (lat. alba = white). This floor is the Sherry's first secret of success besides climate. varieties and the long experience of the winemakers. The vines are planted in rows (liños), which are oriented in a north-south direction. This gives you maximum sun exposure throughout the day. The main grape variety is Listán ( Palomino ), with about 90% of the growing area, the sherry vine par excellence. It contributes to the special character of the sherry. In addition, there are still small stocks of varieties Muscat d'Alexandrie (especially in the Chipiona area) and Pedro Ximénez cultivated, which are mainly used to sweeten special sherry variants.

The production of the sherry

For the start of reading is the Sugar- and acidity the grapes crucial. The vintage is usually done by hand; the grapes are collected in baskets (“Arrobas” of 11.5 kg each) so that they are not damaged. Exactly 62 of the baskets make one Carretada, the required amount of grapes for 500 liters of must. Grapes intended for sweet wines are exposed to the sun during the day to increase the sugar content on mats made of Esparto grass, which further reduces the already low acidity, and covered at night so that they do not suffer any damage in the damp, cool night air. This sun treatment lasts at least 48 hours. In a traditional process, the grapes are pressed before they are pressed Yeso (Plaster) added. Usually, when pressing, you decide which type of sherry should be made from the material. The fermentation usually takes place in steel containers with a capacity of up to 40,000 liters at temperatures between 22 and 24 ° C. Some bodegas use fermentation in new oak barrels (botas or barricas).

After fermentation is complete, a decision is made as to which wine is suitable for which type of sherry. Each barrel is checked and classified by the Capataz (cellar master). The barrels are marked with oblique chalk marks (raya = line or stripe, or palo = stick, see Palo Cortado) according to their value in four categories. This coding is slightly different depending on the bodega. A line (una raya) is awarded for fine, elegant wines that are good Flora sentence for finos, manzanillas and later amontillados. Two lines (dos rayas) receive full-bodied wines, where no floral start is to be expected and which are therefore intended for Olorosos. Three lines (tres rayas) are given to all wines whose development cannot yet be foreseen and which are therefore classified again after a few weeks. The inferior wines with sour, rough taste get four lines (cuatro rayas) and are for distillation or the production of vinegar certainly. The wines of the first three groups are now left to their own devices. A second evaluation takes place after no earlier than nine months, when the sherry types are finally determined.

Sherry barrel with pile layer and Catavino glass
Left: From El Pantera - Own work , CC BY-SA 3.0 , link
Right: Riedel Glas, Sommeliers series

The wines of the first group are fortified to about 15% vol alcohol (Encabezado) and mature in oak barrels with about 600 liters. The barrels are filled to five sixths, so that an air chamber of two hand's width forms, which the growth of the very important Flors allows. The spontaneous formation of the yeast on the wine surface prevents this oxidation for the types Fino and Manzanilla. This layer isolates the wine from the air, removes alcohol and supplies it with typical flavors. Storage in warehouses on the ground floor is a characteristic of the expansion, whereby the constant draft through the openings in the halls makes this possible. The modern warehouses are now air-conditioned for this purpose.

The barrel volume has a close and important connection with the flor yeast layer. The pile draws alcohol from the wine and liquid is lost through the barrel wall. Due to the volume and the surface, the alcohol content always remains the same. If one used smaller or larger barrels, the balance would be disturbed and the flor yeast would die, since it only forms between 14.5 and 16% vol. The second wine group is fueled up to 17.5% vol and thus prevents the pile formation. When it is poured into the barrels, the aging process begins, under the influence of oxygen, from which the wines known as Oloroso emerge.

The Solera system

The aging and blending technique for sherry is mostly called "Solera" or "Criadera-Solera". Strictly speaking, Solera refers to the bottom row of barrels (from suelo = soil) with the oldest wine. This technique makes the sherry something very special. Traditionally, sherry matures in rows of casks (escalas) of the same type, but with different stages of maturity. The oldest row is in the bottom row and the youngest in the top row.

Up to a third of sherry is regularly taken from the bottom row for consumption. This is called "saca" (withdrawal). This amount is replaced from the row above, the so-called "criadera" (breeding or storage), which in turn is replenished from the next higher position until finally the top row is filled with young wine from the Sobretablas or Añadas system. The filling on a row of barrels is called "Rocío". As a result, all existing vintages are mixed together. The withdrawals and fillings in the different rows are called "Correr Escalas" (tier run).

The mixture of wines, which is also known as "Trasiegos", has to be done very carefully. There is a special staff for this, the "Trasegadors" (decanters). These work with their own technical devices, which are used, for example, to homogenize the wine. Neither the yeast workshop nor the "cabezuelas" (barrel deposits) may be whirled up. The properties of the older wines are transferred to the younger ones, so that quality and type always remain almost the same. Most sherries go through six to seven, in extreme cases up to 14 Solera levels. Today the barrels are often no longer stacked in the classic form, but in different groups, sometimes in different bodegas.

Sherry - Solera system and labels

For the producers, both the amount of wine taken and the time of the removal, depending on the type of sherry, are precisely defined and the houses are kept a closely guarded secret. The average aging time for a wine is determined by the quotient, which results when the total wine stock in the system is divided by the amount of the annual withdrawal. According to the requirements of the Control Council, this quotient must be greater than two. Only wines with at least two years of aging may be marketed.

The Soleras of exquisite sherries are only refilled with wines from the best vintages and harvests, so that in bad years (without refilling with new wine) no sherry can be bottled from the lowest barrels. In general, the minimum ripening period of sherry is three years, an amontillado under seven years is almost impossible and sophisticated brands ripen up to 15 years and longer. If the finos slowly lose their pile, a biological ripening process can occur in addition to the biological aging under pile. It is first converted to Fino-Amontillado and then to Amontillado. In the Manzanilla, this process begins with the Manzanilla Pasada, which also changes to Amontillado.

The Sherry types

The range of the many types of sherry ranges from light to dark and from dry to sweet. Regarding the color, the following generally applies: the lighter, the drier - the darker, the sweeter. The sherry is always a white wine; there is no Tinto variant (red wine), although the color can be very dark. A basic distinction is made between three large types of sherry. These are, firstly, the Fino and Manzanilla , which have matured without oxygen under pile, and the Amontillado , which mature under oxidation, secondly, the Oloroso , matured under the influence of oxygen, and thirdly, the Palo Cortado types in terms of taste between Amontillado and Oloroso.

Fino - the classic sherry
The classic bone-dry sherry with a light, golden yellow color and a typical almond aroma, which is relatively young to enjoy compared to the other types. In Sanlúcar de Barrameda he is called Manzanilla (see below). The grapes mostly come from the lower, cooler areas. It ripens under a thick pile layer without any oxidative influence. The alcohol content is between 15 and 18% vol. A fino is the basis or preliminary stage for the two versions Amontillado and Palo Cortado. As described above, however, a wine originally intended as a Fino can still become an Oloroso over the years if the pile layer dies off by itself and the wine has a fragrant (oloroso) character.

This full-bodied and flavor-intensive Fino variant initially develops under pile; at this stage the wine is a fino. By Spriten Over 16% vol alcohol or blended with an old Fino, the flor yeast dies and an oxidation phase is carried out. After maturing for 12 to 15 years it is called Fino-Amontillado, after more than 15 years it is called Amontillado. Depending on aging, the color changes from dark gold to light brown to blackish brown. The delicate and spicy aroma is reminiscent of hazelnuts. A real amontillado is completely dry. However, there are also low-quality semi-sweet products that are blended from rayas and sweet wines. The alcohol content is between 16 to 22% vol.

This light yellow Fino variant is also known as "Señorita among the sherries". It matures under pile and comes exclusively from the Sanlúcar de Barrameda area at the mouth of the Guadalquivir river. Due to the strong Atlantic winds prevailing here, the wine has a typical, slightly salty and bitter taste. Because of the humid air that cools in the summer, the yeasts last all year round and, unlike Jerez, there is far less risk of the pile layer dying off.

First it is called Manzanilla-Fina and after further maturation it is called Manzanilla-Pasada. The alcohol content is between 15 and 19% vol. The name derives from "manzana" (apple), which means the freshness. A second variant names "manzanilla" (chamomile) as the origin because the wine has the typical smell.

This main variant occurs without a pile layer under an oxidative influence. The Oloroso is darker, fuller in body and stronger in aroma than the types Fino and Amontillado. The dry one Amber- to mahogany-colored wine has a distinctive, fragrant nut aroma (oloroso = fragrant). It is one of the longest-lasting wines with an incredible shelf life of 50 to 100 years. The alcohol content is between 17 and 22% vol.

Palo Cortado
This variant cannot (supposedly) be produced in a targeted manner, only about one barrel in a thousand becomes a Palo Cortado under non-controllable conditions. That is the official saying. With the quantities of many producers that come onto the market every year, one has to doubt this legendary explanation. Palo means "stick" or "thick line". The barrels are marked according to their quality with thick lines (rayas or palos) (see above). A Palo Cortado is made from a quality originally intended as Amontillado. If the flor yeast suddenly dies in a barrel and there is premature intensive oxygen contact, the wine can no longer become an amontillado due to the lack of flor yeast. But a pure-bred Oloroso is also no longer possible, since the wine started as an Amontillado.

With appropriate suitability, a wine of this type is only then designated as Palo Cortado by the cellar master. The "palos" (lines) are crossed out, figuratively "cut off". This gives the meaning of Palo Cortado = "cut stick". Now he goes through a longer one oxidative Process. The mostly dry wine has the hazelnut-like scent of an Amontillado and the taste or body of an Oloroso. The alcohol content is between 18 to 20% vol. But there are also sweet versions.

In addition, there are numerous sub-variants that are produced using a wide variety of methods and recipes, depending on the manufacturer. Some of them are:

This type was created especially for the Northern European taste, it is not very popular in Spain. The sweet, dark wine matures without a pile layer with an oxidative influence. It is a blend of Oloroso with sweet wine (Dulce). For simple creams, a sugar solution or must is used, for better creams arrope (thickened grape must) from Pedro Ximénez and with the best creams (then Amoroso) Pedro Ximénez sherries long matured in the Solera process. The alcohol content is 15.5 to 22% vol.

More similar to the Cream, milder and slightly sweet guy. The alcohol content is around 15% vol.

Medium dry
A semi-dry, mahogany-colored wine with a spicy aroma. It is an amontillado blend of young, sweet wines. The alcohol content is 15 to 22% vol.

Pale cream
A sweet Fino variant with a pale color (pale = light) and a piquant aroma. The alcohol content is between 15.5 to 22% vol.

Pedro Ximénez (PX)
A sweetly developed variant from the grape variety of the same name, which is sometimes called " Trockenbeerenauslese “Is referred to as the sherry. The grapes are exposed to the sun and thereby lose moisture. An old PX sherry is almost syrupy and black-brown in color with intense aromas of dried plums and raisins. The alcohol content is between 15 to 22% vol.

The pleasure of sherry

Old sherries in particular receive an age certificate on the back label ( VORS = 30 years and VOS = 20 years). In Spain the sherry is drunk from special glasses. The tulip-shaped Catavino tapers upwards and catches the bouquet. Traditionally, the sherry with the Venencia (Silver cup on a long stick) taken from the barrel and poured into the glass in a high arc. The fino variants and manzanilla should be served chilled, the other sherries should be served chilled. In principle, sherry bottles should be kept upright (without cork contact) and kept dry and dark. Opened bottles have to be corked again.

The sherry producers

Well-known sherry producers and trading houses are Tomás Abad, Herederos de Argueso, Antonio Barbadillo, Agustin Blázquez, Bobadilla, Bodegas Internacionales, González Byass, Luis Caballero, Croft. Domecq, El Maestro Sierra, José Estevez, Jesús Ferris, Garvey, Hidalgo La Gitana, La Guita, Harvey's. Emilio Hidalgo, M. Gil Luque, Lustau, Marqués del Real Tesoro, Hijos de Rainera Pérez Marín, José Medina, Los Infantes de Orleans-Borbón, Osborne. Paternina, César Florido Romero, Pedro Romero, Sánchez Romate. Sandeman Terry Valdespino, Valdivia, Williams & Humbert, Delgado Zuleta and Don Zoilo. Most producers also produce one Brandy de Jerez, Small, private sherry businesses are registered under the name Almacenista designated.

Sherry bottles from different producers

Additional information

All tools, work and measures in the vineyard during the growth cycle can be found at Weingarten Care, Complete lists of the numerous cellar techniques, as well as a list of wine, sparkling wine and distillate types regulated by wine law are under the keyword winemaking contain. There is extensive wine law information under the keyword wine law,

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