Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the town of Jerez (Jerez de la Frontera), Spain. In Spanish, it is called vino de Jerez.
The word "sherry" is an anglicization of Jerez. In earlier times, sherry was known as sack (from the Spanish saca, meaning "a removal from the solera"). In Europe, "Sherry" is a protected designation of origin; in Spanish law, all wine labeled as "sherry" must legally come from the Sherry Triangle, which is an area in the province of Cádiz between Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María.
After fermentation is complete, sherry is fortified with brandy. Because the fortification takes place after fermentation, most sherries are initially dry, with any sweetness being added later. In contrast, port wine (for example) is fortified halfway through its fermentation, which stops the process so that not all of the sugar is turned into alcohol.
Sherry is produced in a variety of styles, ranging from dry, light versions such as finos to darker and heavier versions known as olorosos, all made from the Palomino grape. Sweet dessert wines are also made, from Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel grapes. Sherry is regarded by many wine writers as "underappreciated" and a "neglected wine treasure".
Once bottled, sherry does not benefit from further aging and may be consumed immediately, though the sherries that have been aged oxidatively may be stored for years without losing their flavor. As with other wines, sherry should be stored in a cool, dark place.
Sherry is traditionally drunk from a copita, a special tulip-shaped Sherry glass. Recently, young people drink it mixed with lemonade soft-drink and ice. It is called Rebujito, although it was popular in the Victorian age, known as sherry-cobbler.
- Fino ('fine' in Spanish) is the driest and palest of the traditional varieties of sherry. The wine is aged in barrels under a cap of flor yeast to prevent contact with the air.
- Manzanilla is an especially light variety of fino Sherry made around the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
- Manzanilla Pasada is a Manzanilla that has undergone extended ageing or has been partially oxidised, giving a richer, nuttier flavour.
- Amontillado is a variety of Sherry that is first aged under flor but which is then exposed to oxygen, producing a sherry that is darker than a fino but lighter than an oloroso. Naturally dry, they are sometimes sold lightly to medium sweetened.
- Oloroso ('scented' in Spanish) is a variety of Sherry aged oxidatively for a longer time than a fino or amontillado, producing a darker and richer wine. With alcohol levels between 18 and 20%, olorosos are the most alcoholic sherries in the bottle. Again naturally dry, they are often also sold in sweetened versions (Amoroso).
- Palo Cortado is a variety of Sherry that is initially aged like an amontillado, typically for three or four years, but which subsequently develops a character closer to an oloroso. This either happens by accident when the flor dies, or commonly the flor is killed by fortification or filtration.
- Jerez Dulce (Sweet Sherries) are made either by fermenting dried Pedro Ximénez (PX) or Moscatel grapes, which produces an intensely sweet dark brown or black wine, or by blending sweeter wines or grape must with a drier variety. Cream Sherry is a common type of sweet sherry made by blending different wines, such as oloroso sweetened with PX.
Sherry in culture
There are many literary figures who wrote about Sherry: William Shakespeare, Benito Pérez Galdós, Alexander Fleming and Edgar Allan Poe (in his story The Cask of Amontillado).
Some images are also part of Spanish tradition, like the shape of the Toro de Osborne, or the bottle of Tío Pepe.
In Walt Disney's "Mary Poppins", Mr. Banks has a sip of sherry every evening alongside his pipe at precisely 6:02 every evening.
On the popular sitcom Frasier, the show's namesake character and his brother Niles are often seen drinking sherry as an after-work treat. The drinking of sherry became so iconic of the series and indicative of the relationship of Frasier and Niles, that it was used as a metaphor to hark the end of the series: when sherry ran out in the series, it became obvious that the way of life that grew in the series was about to die.
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Sherry - A True Spanish Wine Treasure, wine.about.com
Jerez wine history, www.carspain.com