Sherry is one of the most famous fortified white wine varieties. It is mainly produced in the coastal town Jerez to the southwest of Spain.
Jerez is one of the oldest wine producing regions in Spain, gained its DO status in 1933. Both “Sherry” in English and “Xérès” in French originate from the name of this town. Palomino is the key grape variety, which thrives in the local albariza soil (a type of white chalky soil). Pedro Ximenez (PX) is another important variety, which is generally used for sweetening purposes. It can also be made into a fine, dark, raisiny dessert wine by itself.
Sherries can be produced in many different styles, but all of them have been fortified with high alcohol spirits, and aged for at least three years.
There are mainly two basic styles of Sherry at the beginning of the winemaking process: Fino and Oloroso — after first fermentation, more delicate wines are assigned to make Finos, whereas richer and heavier wines are made into Olorosos.
With a minimum alcohol of 15.5%, Finos are dry, light-coloured and are best consumed young. One specific Fino style worth mentioning is Manzanilla — it has a distinctive salty character, and for that it is considered the most fashionable Sherry nowadays.
The full-bodied Olorosos, on the other hand, are fortified to an alcohol level of 18%. Many of these powerful dry Sherries are sweetened by the Pedro Ximenez grape to neutralise the meaty, savoury palate, and some of these Sherries are labelled as “Cream”.
In order to help people to recognize the very old vintage Sherries, the VOS (Vinum Optimum Signatum) and VORS (Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum) categories are applied, which indicates 20 and 30 years of aging respectively.
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