Sherry wine has really gotten a bad wrap by many people over the years and much of it centers around cheap mass-produced versions from wineries in California. The original dry sherry is made in Southern Spain in a town called Andalucia, where it has been made in wineries for centuries. Sherry wine is considered a fortified white wine which naturally gives it the dry characteristic.

A common misconception about sherry is that it is a sweet white wine and one of the main reasons for this is that in the mid-20th century much of the sherry produced in the US was a sweet variety. At the same time, the Brits and Spanish kept true to the drier variety that was made famous in Spain. There are many misconceptions about sherry wine that often scares people away for trying it.

What is Sherry Wine and where does it come from?

Sherry wine is a fortified white wine that has a unique dry taste that should be paired with food. It was originally produced by winemakers in Southern Spain using locally grown grapes. True Sherry can only be made in the tiny area in Southern Spain. However, there are many different “knockoffs” that have made their own version of Sherry and turned it into a sweet, dessert-style wine by adding chemical colors and flavorings. 

Like in the case of Champagne, which is fiercely protected by the French and only wine made from Champaign grapes from the Champagne region in France can be called Champagne. The Spanish government does not vigorously protect its trademark name, but it still remains that only Sherry made in the tiny region in Spain can authentically be called Sherry wine.

Is Sherry wine too strong?

One of the primary reasons why Sherry wine gets a bad wrap is that it considered extremely strong, much more so than most white wines on the market. This is likely why dry Sherry has frequently been referred to as whiskey of the wine world, which in layman’s terms it is meant to be savored. However, it truly is its strong flavor and higher alcohol content that gives it a much-deserved reputation.

When it comes to comparing the amount of alcohol in wine the level is expressed in a percentage of alcohol by volume and it is clearly stated on the outside of the bottle. The amount of alcohol by volume in a typical bottle of wine range from 6% on the lower end and upwards to 16% on the stronger end. Sherry wine, on the other hand, falls between 15% and 20% ABV (Alcohol By Volume) and this is generally thought to be why Sherry is frequently drunk in smaller amounts (normally 3oz.).

Types of Dry Sherry Wines

Just like other wines, there are several different types of Sherry wines and each one has its own characteristics. There is much to enjoy when it comes to Sherry, but only if you are dealing with authentic Sherry wine.

The following are all types of Dry Sherry Wine:

Fino & Manzanilla - Is considered to be the lightest of the four types of Sherry Wine which is aged in barrels protected from exposure to oxygen by a heavy layer of flor. It is typically aged for 2 to 10 years. Its unique characteristics make it perfect for it to be paired with cured meats and other foods.

Amontillado - Sherry is fortified white wine and the Amontillado Sherry is much stronger the Fino Sherry is when during the aging process the protective flor fades and oxidation begins the dry Sherry begins to changes some of its characteristics. You will see a darker color, a salty and nutty flavor.

Palo Cortado - The Palo Cortado style of Sherry Wine is a less common type of Sherry and it has unique characteristics that set’s it apart from the others. Its uniqueness occurs when the flor yeast unexpectedly dies, this leads to the exposure to oxygen. The oxygenation increase makes it much different from the Amontillado Sherry.

Oloroso - Oloroso Sherry is the darkest and strongest of all the types of Sherry which is likely caused by the lack of flor during the aging process and the extended exposure to oxygen. This type of Sherry is much more aromatic, nutty and typically consumed much like a good Kentucky Bourbon.

What is meant by Sherry is fortified white wine?

The term fortified which is frequently associated with dry Sherry wine refers to the fact that during the early days when everything was shipped by tall ships, casks of wine would be opened and brandy would be added to them in order to prevent spoiling of the wine due to the barrels being exposed to high temperatures. The brandy would act as an antiseptic and kill off any bacteria that would potentially contaminate the wine like it would the drinking water.

In case you did not realize that Sherry wine is actually a blended beverage, just like scotch and champagne as well. The blending occurs during the aging process as they use a system called Solera. The concept is designed to mix the different ages of the wine in barrels as they are stored in a warehouse. The use of a process called fractional blending in which small amounts of the Sherry being stored if barrels from previous years added to another barrel. This mixing or blending is done two to four times a year until the Sherry in the barrels is ready to be bottled.

Why is the Solera method of aging dry Sherry wine so important?

The use of the Solera method of adding some of the Sherry from a younger batch of Fino type Sherry helps to keep the layer of flor (yeast) that keeps the Sherry inside the cask from being exposed to oxygen. It is micro-nutrients found in the newer Sherry that helps to feed the flor. If this process did not continue until the Sherry was ready to bottle, the yeast would most likely die and the Sherry would then oxygenate which would change its characteristics and become one of the other types of Sherry when it is ready to be bottled.
October 12, 2019 by Last WineDown