Sherry is a fortified wine, meaning that brandy is added. In the case of Sherry, the brandy is added after the fermentation process has been completed. It is produced in Spain in an area encompassing in the neighborhood of 50,000 acres. Other places that produce Sherry type wines are United States, Latin America and South Africa.
There are 2 grapes that are used in making a true Sherry, the Palomino and the Pedro Ximénex. Sherry wines can be either sweet or dry. To make a dry wine, the grapes are sent to be processed as soon as they are harvested. To make a sweet wine, the grapes are laid out in the sun. As the sun shrinks them, they become more concentrated and sweeter.
Each type of wine has something unique in its process and with Sherry it is the fact that it is exposed to air by filling the oak barrels just to the 2/3 level and using a loosely fitting cork, just the opposite of other wines where the barrels are full and the corks tight.
All Sherry’s are blended wines, meaning that they are blended with favoring wines in a very complicated process involving wines from many different years, in some cases up to twenty different vintages. This way, the taste of the Sherry from one year to another is as close to being the same as it possible can be. Sherry is matured in casks for years and then it is graded as Palma, which is very dry, Raya, full and rich, or Palo Cortado, an intermediate variation.
Palma Sherries include aperitif wines such as amontillado which is light with a nutty flavor and manzanilla another pale and dry variety , Palo Cortado includes fruity tasting varieties such as Oloroso, which has a deep mahogany color and higher alcohol content and amoroso and Raya Blends produce the sweet golden or brown varieties. Fino is a pale dry variety that should be served chilled. Pedro Ximénez has a dark color and the aroma of raisins. Cream Sherry is a blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez.
There are also Sherries that are considered dessert wines. These are flavored with darker and more syrupy varieties of wine. The alcoholic content of Sherry ranges from 15 to 23%.
Store Sherry in the fridge and pour straight from the bottle. Use a dessert wine glass or white wine glasses or even flutes. Store Sherry standing up so there is not too much contact with air. Sherry is one type of wine that does not have a designated serving temperature. Finos and Manzanillas are best served chilled, sweet Sherries go good over ice and other can be chilled or served at room temperature.
An Introduction to Sherry