Glasses of Sherry [Sack (England); Vino de Jerez, Xérès (Spain); Apera (Australia)]

Real Sherry is made in and around Jerez, Spain, and only in Spain, by a complex "Solara" system where new wine is put in the top barrels of a stack of barrels and slowly works its way to the bottom as it ages. The name "Sherry" can be used only for wine from the designated Jerez region of Spain. The exception is the United States where the name can be used with a prefix, such as "California Sherry".

Sherry is made in many quality grades and prices and in several steps from dry to sweet. The photo shows dry (Fino) on the left, medium dry (Amontillado) in the center and very sweet Cream Sherry on the right. Most Cream Sherry is exported to England where sweet wines are highly appreciated.

Sherry is one of the premier wines for use in cooking and can stand in for some other fortified wines that may not be so easy to find.

For drinking, fine grades of Fino and Manzanilla should be consumed quickly, as for regular wines, but lesser grades suitable for cooking, having a 17% alcohol level, can be stored in a cool place away from light for a few months.and still be good for cooking. Sweeter grades can be stored longer than dry.

Sherry is made from white Palomino grapes, except the very sweet dessert versions which are made from Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel grapes or a blend. After full fermentation, sherry is fortified with brandy to bring up its alcohol level. It is then aged in a Solera for a minimum of 3 years. Except for the non-Palomeno desert types sherry is fairly dry, but is sweetened before bottling to a degree determined by the producer.

Types of Sherry

For each type there are numerous producers, and each may generate a somewhat different flavor and sweetness. The only way to tell exactly what a type tastes like is to taste it, and than stick with that producer if you like it. The type definitions below are a general guide.

  • Fino:   The lightest colored and dryest traditional variety of sherry. It is aged under a cap of yeast "flor" so it remains pale. This is the primary type to use for cooking.
  • Manzanilla:   This is a very light colored version of Fino Sherry.
  • Manzanilla Pasada:   This is Manzanilla aged longer and exposed to oxidation to make it darker and richer.
  • Amontillado:   Aged first under yeast "flor", then exposed to oxygen, this wine is darker than Fino but lighter than Oloroso. It is fairly dry but is sometimes sweetened lightly or moderately before bottling. This sherry is often used for cooking where a wine sweeter than Fino is desired.
  • Oloroso:   is aged longer than Amontillado and becomes darker, richer and 18% to 20% alcohol. It is fairly dry.
  • Amoroso:   A sweetened form of Oloroso.
  • Palo Cortado:   A specially aged Amontillado which is darker and more like an Oloroso.
  • Jerez Dulce:   Sweet desert sherries made from Pedro Ximénez or Muoscatel grapes and often blended with some less sweet sherry. It is rarely used in cooking.
  • Cream Sherry:   Popular in England and North America as a sipping sherry, it is a blend of sweet wine from Pedro Ximénez grapes and less sweet wines such as oloroso. It is not often used in cooking.
  • Vinegar:   Until recent times sherry that went to vinegar was an embarrassment to the producer, but it is now one of the most prestigious wine vinegars and fetches a good price.

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