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Sherry Wine

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Sherry Wine

       Diversity is one of the identifying characteristics of sherry: finos, olorosos, pedro ximenez... And all of this from just three types of grape, all white, but also thanks to an absolutely genuine production process. The production process includes a series of decisions to be made by the vintner at different stages which will decide the final destiny of each wine, thus producing the different "families" of sherry wine and different types defined according to colour, bouquet, taste and structure.

    Fino

       Ranging from bright straw yellow to pale gold in colour. A sharp, delicate bouquet slightly reminiscent of almonds with a hint of fresh dough and wild herbs. Light, dry and delicate on the palate leaving a pleasant, fresh aftertaste of almonds.

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    Manzanilla

       A very bright, pale straw coloured wine. A sharp, delicate bouquet with predominant floral aromas reminiscent of camomile, almonds and dough. Dry, fresh and delicate on the palate, light and smooth in spite of a dry finish. Light acidity produces a pleasant sensation of freshness and a lingering, slightly bitter aftertaste.

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    Oloroso

       Ranging from rich amber to deep mahogany in colour, the darker the wine the longer it has been aged. Warm, rounded aromas which are both complex and powerful. Predominantly nutty bouquet (walnuts), with toasted, vegetable and balsamic notes reminiscent of noble wood, golden tobacco...

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    Cream

       Ranging from chestnut brown to dark mahogany in colour this wine has a dense, syrupy appearance. A strong oloroso bouquet in the nose combines with a hint of sweetness reminiscent of roasted nuts, such as in nougat or caramel. Full bodied and velvety in the mouth with a well balanced sweetness,...

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    Moscatel

       Ranging from chestnut to an intense mahogany in colour, with a pronounced density and tearing. The characteristic varietal notes of muscatel grapes stand out in the nose with the presence of the floral aromas of jasmine, orange blossom and honey suckle in addition to citric notes of lime and grapefruit and other hints of sweetness...

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    Pedro Ximenez

       A dark, ebony coloured wine with pronounced tearing and a thickness to the eye. In the nose its bouquet is extremely rich with predominantly sweet notes of dried fruits such as raisins, figs and dates, accompanied by the aromas of honey, grape syrup, jam and candied fruit, at the same time reminiscent of ...

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Grapes

There are only three white grapes grown for Sherry wine-making:

  • Palomino: the dominant grape used for the dry sherries. Approximately 90 per cent of the grapes grown for Sherry are Palomino. As varietal table wine, the Palomino grape produces a wine of very bland and neutral characteristics. This neutrality is actually what makes Palomino an ideal grape because it is so easily enhanced by the Sherry winemaking style.
  • Pedro Ximenez: used to produce sweet wines. When harvested these grapes are typically dried in the sun for two days to concentrate their sugars.
  • Moscatel: used similarly to Pedro Ximenez, but it is less common.

Sherry-style wines made in other countries often use other grape varieties.

The type of aging

   A fundamental differentiating factor is the aging system by which sherry wines evolve within their wooden casks. Those wines which are subjected exclusively to biological ageing, protected from direct contact with the air by a natural film of yeast forming upon their surface, will conserve their initial pale colour and light, as well as acquiring a series of aromatic notes and particular flavours, fruit of the yeast from which the film is formed.

   It is the decision of the vintner, to fortify the wine with wine-distillate to bring its alcoholic content up to either 15% volume or to over 17%, which will determine whether the film of yeast resting upon the surface will survive or not, and consequently determine the type of ageing the wine will undergo and the organoleptic characteristics it will acquire with the passage of time.

Fermentation

   Another fundamental difference is the way in which the grapes are transformed into "must" or young wine, a process known as vinification.

   The Palomino grapes are harvested in early September, and pressed lightly to extract the must. Only the must from the first pressing, the mosto de yema, is used to produce Sherry; the product of additional pressings is used for lesser wines, distillation and vinegar. The must is then fermented in stainless steel vats until the end of November, producing a dry white wine with 11-12 per cent alcohol content.

   The vinification process undergone by the Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel grape varieties, has it own very different characteristics. The goal of the oenologist is to create a wine containing the maximum amount of sugar possible. These grapes undergo the process of "soleo", or sunning: to be spread out on mats under the sun for several days so that the grapes may dry out, what is referred to as "pasification" (a term coming from the Spanish word "pasa" or raisin). The fermentation process of must obtained from pressing "raisined" grapes which have undergone this procedure gets underway very slowly, due to the extremely high concentration of sugars. This fermentation is then detained by the bodeguero by adding wine alcohol, in such a way that only a small part of the sugar is transformed into alcohol.

    It is, therefore, the type of fermentation: complete or partial, which makes it possible to obtain totally dry wines ("generoso" wines), or extremely sweet ones (sweet natural wines). Blending these two different types of wine will in turn produce wines with different levels of sweetness ("genoroso" liqueur wines).

Fortification

   Immediately after fermentation, sherry wine is sampled and the first classification is performed. The casks are marked with the following symbols according to the potential of the wine:

/ a single stroke indicates a wine with the finest flavour and aroma, suitable for fino or amontillado. These wines are fortified to about 15 per cent alcohol to allow the growth of flor.
/. a single stroke with a dot indicates a heavier, more full-bodied wine. These wines are fortified to about 17.5 per cent alcohol to prevent the growth of flor, and the wines are aged oxidatively to produce oloroso.
// a double stroke indicates a wine which will be allowed to develop further before determining whether to use the wine for amontillado or oloroso. These wines are fortified to about 15 per cent alcohol.
/// a triple stroke indicates a wine that has developed poorly, and will be distilled.

Aging

   Aging is without a doubt the decisive stage in the Sherry production process: the most prolonged in terms of its duration and a stage which witnesses the appearance of organoleptic characteristics which give rise to a whole range of different types of Sherry wines.

   The fortified wine is stored in 160-gallon casks that are made of North American oak, which is slightly more porous than French or Spanish oak. The casks, or butts, are filled five-sixths full, leaving "the space of two fists" empty at the top to allow flor to develop on top of the wine.

   Sherry wine is then aged in the solera system where new wine is put into wine barrels at the beginning of a series of three to nine barrels. Periodically, a portion of the wine in a barrel is moved into the next barrel down, moving the wine gently to avoid damaging the layer of flor in each barrel. At the end of the series only a portion of the final barrel is bottled and sold. Depending on the type of sherry wine, the portion moved may be between five and thirty percent of each barrel.

   So the age of the youngest wine going into the bottle is determined by the number of barrels in the series, and every bottle also contains some much older wine. Sherry is aged in the solera for a minimum of 3 years.

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