When I was growing up I remember my grandmother always having a glass of “cream sherry” at our dinner table. She gave me sips and I thought how sweet and tasty it was. It was a drink I definitely associated with older people. For the past 10+ years and since I had begun studying about wine and fortified wines like sherries, I realize that there is a lot more to this beverage than the sweet stuff.
I just read the latest edition of Food & Wine Magazine, where Ray Isle discusses the up and coming and very trendy Sherry bars in London and I realize that this is a drink I also want more people to know about.
Sherry is made in Southern Spain, in Jerez. It is made just like all wine is made, by fermenting grapes and in this case, they are mainly white Palomino grapes. Then, it’s up to the winemaker to decide what type of Sherry he/she wants by adding grape brandy. The light-bodied sherries like fino and the manzanillos age in barrels with a layer of yeast called flor. The flor protects the wine from oxidation and creates a minerally and dry flavor. They are about 15% alcohol. The darker and more nutty sherries like olorosos are ‘oxidized’ meaning that the flor is not able to develop on the w ine and these create more full-bodied sherries that are about 17% alcohol. There are more styles too like amontillado, palo cortado, sweet and of course, the cream.
Then, the wine is aged in oak barrels in a process called the solera system. Basically the wine is stored in barrels on top of each other and every now and again, wine in one barrel is moved to a lower barrel and so on so that newer wine mixes with older wine and at the point of bottling, a barrel can contain wine from many different vintages.
One of the great things is that with all the different styles sherry is great to pair with food. This is why to read about the trend of sherry bars in London was so exciting to me and I am hopeful that we can see more of this trend in the U.S. Afte4r all, it’s not all just the cooking sherry you see on supermarket shelves (that is really just salted liquid) or the very sweet sherries of the olden days. This is a fantastic wine to have and not just with paella.
The Wining Woman