Sherry - a wine of tradition
By Mike McDougall
A fortified wine from Andalusia produced only in and around the town of Jerez in the Cadiz region. The Spanish producers have since registered the Sherry / Jerez / Xeres name and will prosecute anyone else in the world trying to use it. It is thought that Jerez has exported wines since at least Roman times. Today Sherry accounts for the largest portion of Spain's wine exports, reaching no less than fifty countries and making superb profits for the winery owners. The wine attained "domain d'origen" (DO) status in 1933.
The traditions of Jerez and wine go back over two thousand years, thousands of amphora were shipped to Rome, and the high alcohol content meant that the wine travelled well without spoiling. From the 12th century wine from the region was exported to England. England are long-time consumers of the beverage and the name "sherry" comes from the Arab word for the city of Jerez – "Seris" or "Sherish" evolved into the word we know today.
Sherry's popularity continued to bloom and by the 16th century it was thought to be the finest of all wines. Sherry's popularity continued to grow and a boom in the 19th century meant that producers could barely keep up with the demands of northern Europe, particularly England and Holland, who remain the two biggest consumers of the wine today. The output has stabilised in recent times and the value of the wine has gone up, increasing profitability for the Spanish producers.
The Sherry region is located in several towns around Jerez de la Frontera in the Cadiz region of Andalusia; there is also a small producing area in the neighbouring province of Seville. The area is typified by rolling hills and limestone soil that has the superb water retention necessary to see out the dry summer months. The average temperature in the growing season in 17.5°C and moisture is carried to the vines by westerly winds coming in from the sea. This softens the arid summer climate of the region and also takes the sting out of the warm westerly winds. With 270 sunny days every year and no frosts or hail, conditions are ideal for viticulture, aided by steady rainfall between the moths of October and May.
There are three main grape varieties used to create Sherry – Palamino Fino, Pedro Jimenez and Moscatel, the latter two being mainly used in the production of sweet sherry. The real secret of Sherry's production lies in what is known as the "Crianza" process. After the grapes are harvested and pressed they undergo a first fermentation for ten days. After a few months the wine is ready for classification. For this process, a taster is needed and it is crucial that his/her sense of smell and taste in highly developed and the taster must determine which type the wines are going to be. This unique process allows the wine to grow on its own and develop naturally into the most suitable type of sherry. There are four main types that are produced: Fino – a pale a delicate sherry, Amotillado which is an older, richer version of the Fino variety, Oloroso is a rich, dark mahogany coloured wine and the Cream sherry is a blend of Oloroso and the Pedro Jimenez grape and has a sweet finish to compliment its rich flavour.
About the Author
Mike McDougall has five years experience working as a travel writer and marketeer. He is currently working to provide additional content for http://www.babylon-idiomas.com/, a Spanish language school with an excellent presence in Spain and Latin America.
This work is covered by a creative commons licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/uk/
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