Whether they are fashionable or not, what we are sure of is the fascination generated by Sherry wines, the great wine treasure of our geography. We start our summer course of Sherries for beginners with some basic notes on its origin, elaboration and aging, and 10 suggestions to put into practice what we have learned. Who could go back to being an amateur.
To talk about the origin of Sherry wines we have to move to Cadiz in the late eighteenth century: the most important port in the country and a strategic point for trade with England. Sneak into those ships that transported wines headed with alcohol to ensure their qualities in overseas trips. And reach until the early nineteenth century, to the independence of the American colonies, when the Spaniards returned with money to invest in the Sherry wine market. Although we can also recover the reviews that great writers such as Shakespeare, Cervantes, Lord Byron or Fleming wrote about its benefits.
Columbus, Magellan or the English royal family were the great prescribers and ambassadors of these wines outside our borders. The former stocked up on sherries to embark for the New World and the latter spent more on wine than on weapons when he prepared his naval tour around the world in 1519. On the third is the fault of the corsair Francis Drake, who sent 3,000 boots of Sherry to the Queen of England after looting the Jerez wineries.
Honoring a traveler past, Sherry wines are now exported to countries around the world: from the United Kingdom to Canada, passing through Brazil, Australia or Japan, among many others, with a great reception and appreciation by consumers. But Jerez is Jerez and today it has the importance it has in the world of wine due to three peculiarities: the albariza, a white and blinding earth that retains water and provides the characteristic salinity of these wines; the palomino grape, from which the must comes, and the conjunction between biological aging under flower veil and oxidative aging in American oak barrels (Jerez barrels) with the system of criaderas and soleras.
Thanks to this unique procedure, genuine from the Marco de Jerez, the youngest wines are blended with the oldest ones year after year, gaining these in freshness and youth, and those in body and solidity of their elders. Reproducing the quality of the same wine over time in a kind of blend of vintages.
The rows of boots rest in the imposing cellars-cathedrals.
Sherries are fortified wines because they exceed 17 degrees of alcohol. Something that arises from an atypical elaboration process, inheritance of that traveling need, which begins with a first fermentation of the musts, at the end of which the veil of flower yeasts occurs.
From here, the cellar foreman decides whether to fortify (add wine alcohol) the base wine to determine its aging. A process that will give rise to the different types of sherry. Ten, to be exact: fino, manzanilla, amontillado, oloroso, palo cortado, PX, Pale Dry, Pale Cream, Medium and Cream. Sweet, powerful and creamy, the least, and mostly dry, light and saline; all made from three white varieties: palomino, Pedro Ximénez or moscatel.
Different types of wine for different tastes and moments. Because it is precisely its variety and versatility that makes it possible to accompany a complete meal only with sherries, from the appetizer to the dessert. The pairing options they offer are endless, hence great chefs and sommeliers praise their possibilities.
To understand Jerez you need to go to Jerez. Walk among the rows of boots of its imposing wineries-cathedrals and let yourself be seduced by the charm of the small harvester cellars. You have to smell, taste, close your eyes and evoke all those centuries of bottled history. To fall in love with Jerez you need to want to enjoy. Here are 10 good ways to get started.
AMONTILLADO LOS ARCOS (LUSTAU)
Aged for four years under a veil of flower and with an oxidative aging of four more years in the Jerez winery of the Emperatriz Eugenia, Los Arcos de Bodegas Lustau is an excellent wine to enter the universe of the generous Andalusians. A classic amontillado, with good balance and prominent character. Price: 12.50 euros.
UNCLE PEPE TRES PALMAS (GONZÁLEZ BYASS)
With 10 years of aging under a veil of flower that give it a captivating personality, Tres Palmas is one of the four oenological wonders of the Tío Pepe Finos Palmas Collection. A wine that marks the limit between fino and amontillado, ideal to pay homage with strong flavors, at any time of the year. Price: 41.95 euros.
FINO AÑADA ECOLÓGICO EN RAMA 2015 (WILLIAMS & HUMBERT)
Launched on the market in 2018, this fino en rama born in the payment of Burujena (Trebujena) was the first ecological fino of the Marco de Jerez. A wine that has remained in static aging for three years, without moving from the same boot. Fresh, sharp, dry and very mineral, elegant and balanced. Pure vice. Price: 16.90 euros.
REGENT (SANCHEZ ROMATE)
Aged for more than 15 years in one of the oldest wineries in Jerez – official supplier of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom and the Sacred Apostolic Palace of the Vatican (there is nothing) – it is one of the most appreciated wines of the Marco. Its value for money makes it perfect to delve into the "mystery" of the cut stick. Price: 15 euros.
MANZANILLA LA GITANA EN RAMA (HIDALGO)
The freshest, lightest and most delicate face of Sanlúcar chamomile is that of La Gitana, made by Bodegas Hidalgo from palomino fino selected from the best payments of the Marco de Jerez: Balbiana and Miraflores. A chamomile with an eight-year biological ageing, bottled unfiltered (on the branch) to maintain its purity. From the boot to the cup. Price: 12.50 euros.
OLOROSO EL ALFÉREZ (PEPE RODRÍGUEZ DE VERA)
Sopla Poniente is Rodríguez de Vera's commitment to the Marco de Jerez and its satellites, whose wines are born from the collaboration with large wineries in Andalusia. The Ensign is an intense, elegant and very particular oloroso, which leaves no one indifferent. For advantaged palates. Price: 47.60 euros.
The cream is one of the most versatile wines of the Marco de Jerez, sweet but not cloying, with a touch of tremendously addictive acidity, and perfect to drink alone or with a block of ice. Bodegas Viuda de Manjón makes it from a selection of olorosos of oxidative aging, sweetened with Pedro Ximénez. A delight that does not understand moments or seasons. Price: 15.95 euros.
THE MANZANILLA BOOT PASSED 90 (NAVAZOS TEAM)
The long aging of this chamomile (14 years on average, hence its nickname of "pass") from a solera of 15 boots carefully selected by Equipo Navazos, provides power, complexity and also balance, with oxidative notes of the most elegant. A chamomile to pass the level. Price: 39.90 euros.
XIMÉNEZ-SPÍNOLA OLD HARVEST
A Pedro Ximénez of oxidative aging out of the ordinary. It was going to be a raisin juice, but an incomplete hydration during the 1964 harvest led it to be what it is today: the wisdom of the criaderas bottled. A unique wine in which the PX shows notes similar to those of the palo cortado or the oloroso, without losing the subtlety and elegance that characterizes this variety. Price: 24.50 euros.
PALO CORTADO VORS (TRADITION)
Tradición is the only winery in the Marco de Jerez dedicated exclusively to old wines catalogued as V.O.S. (Very Old Sherry) and V.O.R.S. (Very Old Rare Sherry), with more than 20 and 30 years of aging, respectively. This cut stick comes from Domecq soleras of the eighteenth century and Croft wines of 1970 and 1982 and its average aging exceeds 32 yearss. Blessed glory. Price: 73 euros.