Mention the name ‘Sherry’ to an English person and the first thing that comes to mind is probably an image of their grandmother sipping delicately from a glass. But Sherry, or ‘Jerez‘ as it is known in Spain, is a serious drink with centuries of tradition and history. The drink is currently enjoying something of a revival among younger generations of curious drinkers.
The Origins Of Jerez
The names ‘Sherry’ and ‘Jerez’ both come from the Arabic transliteration ‘Sherish‘ which was the name of the town where the drink was first produced in Spain. Although Sherry was first produced in Spain, it was the Moors, who invaded Spain in the 8th century, that introduced the technology required to fortify wine. By the 16th century, Spanish Jerez was widely considered the finest wine available throughout Europe and it was also at this time that the drink’s ongoing relationship with the United Kingdom first began. It was in the 16th century that Sir Francis Drake brought back nearly 3,000 barrels of Sherry to England with him, creating the undeniable love that the British have for Sherry. Today the name ‘Sherry’ is exclusively reserved for fortified wines produced between Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María, in the Cádiz province of Spain.
What Actually Is Sherry?
If you are unfamiliar with the drink, you might be wondering what Sherry is and how it differs from ordinary wine or spirits. Technically, Sherry is what is called a ‘fortified wine,’ meaning that it has a stronger alcohol content than regular wine. The basis for Sherry is wine produced by the fermentation of white grapes, sugar and yeast, which create alcohol. One of the main differences between Sherry and other fortified wines, such as Port, is that the distilled alcohol is only added once the fermentation process is over, whereas in Port it is added half way through the fermentation process.
A Very Special Method Of Aging
Once the wine and brandy are blended, comes the time for the Sherry to be aged, giving it its smooth flavour and balance. The young Sherry is put in large wood barrels and aged through a traditional process known as Solera. This is a centuries-old method involving anywhere between three and nine barrels of Sherry, which were filled at different intervals. At the end of each year, part of the content of the oldest barrel is extracted and bottled for consumption. That barrel is then topped up with liquid from the second-oldest barrel, which is in turn topped up from the third-oldest and so on and so forth. This method was introduced as a way of introducing consistency in the quality and flavour of the Sherry.
Types Of Sherry
There are a variety of different types of Sherry which vary greatly in aroma, alcohol content and sweetness. Most dry Sherries are predominantly made from Palominos grapes and the sweet Sherries are made from either Moscatel or Pedro Ximenez grapes. Typically, sweeter Sherries are consumed with desserts or contrasted with sharper flavors, such as that of blue cheese. On the other hand, dry Sherries are best enjoyed as an apéritif and served slightly chilled. The dry Sherries are the Fino,Oloroso, Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Manzanilla while the naturally sweet Sherries are the Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez.
So next time you’re looking for something a little different to get your taste buds going, why not try one of these superb Spanish drinks.