Sherry

You are soooo lucky this isn’t a audio blog.  Because I’d be doing my best Sherry, Sherry baby…, by the Four Seasons and the dogs would howling and the cats running for cover.

img_2765We touched on this before, my singing?  No, that some places are so identified with the wines produced there that the wine and the place become synonymous.  Champagne in France. Port in Portugal. Chianti from Chianti.  Sherry is the wine of southern Spain.

Now when most people think of people drinking Sherry, they think of nice little old ladies, with funny hats and lace gloves.  Which is a hoot to the folks in Jerez Spain where the good Sherry’s are made.  There it is the drink of Spanish men; manly men, bullfighting, cigar smoking, big mustaches, guitar playing, flamenco stomping, macho men!  Ole’!

Wine was introduced to Spain by the Phoenicians around 1100 BC.  Of course we had the Romans, a post would not be complete without mentioning the Romans. Then we had the Moors conquered Spain around 711 AD and they brought the technology of distillation and the practice of fortifying wine with brandy.  And some people don’t like the Muslims?  Did you know that Sherry style wines have traditionally been made in Iran?   Don’t tell the Mullah’s.

Christopher Columbus took sherry on his voyage to the new world which would make sherry the first wine drank in the new world.  And when Magellan sailed around the world, he took more sherry than gunpowder. Drake made sherry big in England after he sacked Cadiz in 1587.  The UK is the largest market for sherry and many of the styles of sherry were developed for the Brits.

Three white grapes can be used in making sherry; Moscatel, Pedro Ximenez, but most often the grapes is Palomino.  Now they do love horses in Spain but the grape is not named after the horse, it’s named for Ferman Yanes Palomino the thirteenth century knight to King Alfonso X.  They were the king’s wine supplier.

There are two broad categories; “fino” type which are light, dry and crisp, and the “oloroso” type which are fuller bodied darker in color, nutty and sometimes sweet.  Under these categories there are seven styles of sherry ranging from bone dry to super sweet.

Under the “fino” flag we have Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, adn Palo Cortado.  On the “Oloroso” banner we have Oloroso, Cream and Pedro Ximenez:

Manzanilla delicate, crisp, and a little salty.  Once open drink within two days

Fino very pale and dry serve well chilled

Amontillado is an aged fino deeper colors and more nutty taste.

Palo Cortado rare, dry aged for a long time.

Oloroso  long aged and exposed to oxygen, nutty flavor very  rare.

Cream crafted for the British and export market sweeten with a large amount of Pedro Ximenez. Want a great cocktail mix equal parts of Cream sherry with Campari vermouth serve over ice  with a twist of lemon, definitely Giffy recommended.

Pedro Ximenez dark, dense and super sweet.

Sherry has a vocabulary that is unique to itself.  Each style of sherry has its own “solera” which is a process of blending wine of different ages similar to what they do with champagne and port. Solare in Spanish means on the ground which means the oldest barrels are the lowest.  This process is a story  on it’s own.  Very labor intensive.

Flor is a yellow foam in a barrel of sherry.  The sherry solera is only filled about three quarters to allow room for the flor.  It’s cause by Saccharomyces yeast and bloom spontaneously.  It means flower.  This flor taken to other places in the world dies or mutates assuring the sherry can be made in only one place in the world.  Flor is critical Fino and Manzanilla sherry.  Flor protects the sherry from oxidation.  If the Flor does not develop the sherry is destine to be Oloroso.

Almacenistas are individuals  often doctors, lawyers and businessmen who own family soleras.  Some of the major manufacturers of sherry today were once Almacenistas.  Some of these family sherries are now being brought to market.  These wines are not necessarily better but they are unique!

Something I learned about vermouth, port and Sherry, just because they are fortified wines once open they will not last forever, usually depending on the wine  couple of days to four months.  They should be refrigerated after opening.  Like vermouth you can buy sherries in half bottles.

Our wine is Lustau East India Solera Sherry.  The monicar “EAST INDIA”  goes back to the 16th Century where trading ships sailing to the “Indies” would lash sherry barrels to the decks as ballast.  What they found was sailing through the tropics with the high heat and high humidity gave the sherry a smoother texture.  Today they recreate this effect in a special aging room with high heat and humidity.  The wine is a cream style.  A blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez.  Color is a dark amber.  You’ll taste brown sugar, maple syrup, beer nuts and spice raisins.  I love the wine.  I tried it as an aperitif, sipped it after my meal, made cocktails with it and have sat in the dark watching the fire on a snowy night and liked that the best.  For under $20 this wine is a great find.

 

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One thought on “Sherry”

  1. Update on the Sherry story.

    Some one has said they would cook with Sherry but can see themselves drinking it. Cooking Sherry, as found in the super market is not true sherry. It is made from a cheap base wine that is true, but it has been heated to give it a baked, caramel flavor and then a ton of salt is added. Wretched stuff!

    Sherry vinegar is made in separate “Bodegas” in Spain. It’s expensive and has a nutty faintly salty taste nothing like Italy’s balsamic vinegar. Sherry vinegar is aged between 5 to 20 or more years; the longer it’s aged the more complex the tastes becomes.

    If you are going to cook with Sherry skip the supermarket and buy an inexpensive sherry. If you are going to drink it buy a half bottle of good sherry or plan on paying a min of $20 for your sherry.

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