It´s November, and it´s International Sherry week, but growing up in Scotland, Sherry was kept for special occasions such as Christmas. At that time of the year, my old aunt always had a Christmas Sherry trifle on the go. This was not like the kind you buy from a box with instructions on the side. This was authentic! One whiff was all you needed to know to confirm this as fact.
However, if this is your idea of Sherry, perhaps it is time for a rethink. After all, Spain is the home of Sherry. International Sherry week started on November 6, and continues until November 11.
When is a Sherry not a Sherry?
Sherry is a fortified wine made from grapes grown near Jerez. It only comes from DO Jerez in the province of Cadiz in Southern Spain. This is in the same way; Champagne only comes from AC Champagne in France. Therefore, the only area in the world where Sherry can be produced is within the DO of Jerez. (DOP Jerez-Xérès-Sherry).
This area is what we call the Sherry triangle. The bodegas that produce the Sherry within this triangle are in the cities of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria.
When to enjoy Sherry?
You can enjoy a glass of Sherry almost any time, and with almost any food or snack, even chocolate and desserts.
There are 8 different styles, from fresh & dry to rich and sweet – you can´t fail to find one to work with your meal.
- Fino (this is the driest and palest)
- Manzanilla (a light variety of Fino)
- Amontillado (dry and darker than a Fino but lighter than an Oloroso)
- Palo Cortado (character closer to Oloroso, but unique due to the yeast (flor) breaking
- Oloroso (darker, richer, and more alcoholic)
- Cream (a mix 80% Oloroso, 20% PX)
- Moscatel (sweet and dark)
- Pedro Ximenez (PX) (the sweetest of all)
Steeped in history and tradition
Spanish Sherry wines are made from white grapes, aged through an ancient solera system that mixes different vintages. The result could be anything from a crisp, lightly coloured Fino or Manzanilla to a darker and stronger Amontillado, Oloroso, or Palo cortado. However, if you love something sweet, try Cream Sherry (80% Oloroso, 20% PX), or Moscatel, or Pedro Ximenez (PX) which is one of the sweetest in the world.
In 1587 Sir Frances Drake launched his attack on the port of Cadiz setting fire to many boats, including the Spanish Armada which was under construction. He successfully stole nearly 3000 barrels of Sherry and delivered them to Queen Elizabeth I of England. This began the love for Sherry among the British.
Since then, Shery was shipped to the UK in their casks. However, due to the amount of Sherry consumed, there was an abundance of empty casks. And by the 1800s the Scots were developing “local moonshine” (later to become whisky). Therefore, it made economic sense to use the surplus barrels to contain the whisky. It added colour and flavour to the drink.
However, nowadays Sherry is transported in bottles and the Whisky industry must buy their casks from cooperages in Jerez. These cooperages make casks from Spanish grown American oak which are then filled with specific types of Sherry and left for years to season the casks, ahead of being shipped empty to the whisky industry in Scotland.
You can of course, still make the most amazing Christmas Sherry trifle using the finest quality Sherries here in Spain. But don´t just keep the Sherry for Christmas!
Related post: The art of Sherry from the heart of Jerez