How are the different sherries made
I will start by explaining the production of the most common sherry, a dry sherry produced with the Palomino grape base wine. To make it simple, the way the wine is aged, “biological” or “oxidative”, will depend on the juice. If it is the juice of the first press or if it comes from the second press.
DRY BASE WINE WITH BIOLOGICAL AGEING
It is called biological ageing because it is aged in contact with the “flor”, which means flower in Spanish. “flor” is a layer of yeast that feeds on the glicerin of the base wine and stays at the top, to prevent the wine coming into contact with the oxygen. To create this layer it has to be fortified with Brandy to around 15%, as the yeast dies above this.
Within this process different types of sherry can be produced such as:
The base wine of the first press is fortified to 15-17% and is always under the “flor” during the ageing process for minimum 2 years. It can’t be made in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Same style as the Fino, but it must be aged in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where it is aged under marine conditions, like salty winds, affecting the tasting notes of the wine. Interestingly, It usually also has a lighter colour than a Fino.
One of the rarest and best wines of the world. It is the pride and joy of the winemaker as years ago it had to “appear” instead of being “made”. It starts in the same way as the Fino and Manzanilla. Suddenly, the layer of flor starts to die and it starts to suffer oxidative ageing. Nowadays some winemaker in the wine cellar creates it by: Breaking the “flor”; Joining two “criaderas” a fino/manzanilla and an oloroso; Or by adding fino/manzanilla to a “criadera” that has palo cortado. Then add more brandy increasing the alcohol to >17%, killing the flor completely. We know that the process is similar to the amontillado, but it undergoes more oxidation ageing. Therefore, Palo cortado is closer to the Oloroso than to the Amontilllado in texture but it has partly, the nose of an amontillado.
Same style as the Fino and Manzanillaa. However it can be done with the first or second second press. After several years, when it reaches the line of barrels on top of the solera. The winemaker will add more brandy increasing the alcohol to >17%, killing the flor completely. After it undergoes oxidative ageing.
The best amontillados are formed after 9-10 years, when the flor dies naturally. The rest of the ageing time, it undergoes oxidative ageing. Therefore the process is similar to the Palo cortado, but with less oxidation compared to the Palo cortado.
DRY WINES AGED BY OXIDATION
By adding brandy over >17% to the base wine of second press juice, the yeast dies and the ageing process starts changing colour to a dark brown and it is aged for a minimum of two years.
As they oxidise there is more evaporation, therefore concentrating more alcohol, this is why you will find bottles of Oloroso higher in alcohol.
Pedro Ximénez (PX):
PX grapes are sun-dried to increase the density of sugar and this is then partially fermented and then fortified with Brandy to ≥15% and aged by oxidation. Pedro Ximénez is considered the sweetest wine of the world together with the Australian Rutherglen Muscat with over 300g/l of residual sugar. Reaching up to 500g/l!
Moscatel de alejandria:
The wine is made in a similar way to PX, and sometimes is blended together, but using Moscatel of Alexandria grapes.
ADDING SWEET TO DRY BASE WINES
Pale Cream sherry:
Fino or Manzanilla sherry is mixed with a sweet wine if it is an expensive bottle, if not it can also be mixed with just grape juice made with the sweet grapes.
Mix Amontillado or Oloroso with a sweet sherry or wine and then age it for a bit longer together. The residual sugar is 5-115g/l.
Mix Oloroso with a sweet sherry or wine and then age it for a bit longer together. The residual sugar is >115g/l.
Bristol cream sherry:
Mix of different dry sherries like Fino sherry, Amontillado sherry, Oloroso sherry with sweet PX sherry.
We also have to think that the longer the sherry stays in the barrels, the more complexity and density there will be. This is due to evaporation through the pores of the barrels, and this is why the price increases so much. There is a name for those old sherries, Very Old Rare Sherries (VORS), they must be aged for over 30 years!!
Enotourism in Cádiz
If you want to join our small group tours in our Sherry & Tapas Tour, or other tours, contact us. We will learn to differentiate sherries, learn how to do a wine tasting, and how to pair wine. We will learn about the local traditions and the local history through its gastronomy. Come and join Explore la Tierra in Vejer de la Frontera, Cádiz, Spain!!