This week, I will be featuring five different styles of Sherry. I know when I say “Sherry’, most people think of cooking sherry but I assure you, it should not be judged on that! They run the gamut from bone dry and salty, all the way to full syrupy dessert wine. Sherry wines originate from the Sherry Triangle in Southwestern Spain around Jerez. Sherry wines are made from Palomino, Moscatel de Alejandria, and Pedro Ximenez (PX) grapes. Palomino is the most common and accounts for at least 95% of sherry. While all Sherry is fortified (meaning alcohol is added above what the wine has naturally occurring), the styles of Sherry differ in their production methods, which we will also discuss along the way!
One thing all Sherry styles have in common is the solera aging system. In this system, it is common for barrels to be stacked 3 high (but it is not uncommon to reach up to 7). Before the newest wine can be placed into the barrels to age, some wine must be removed. Starting on the bottom, a fraction of the wine is removed to be bottled. Next, the equivalent fraction of the wine from the middle barrel is moved to the bottom barrel. This allows space for the same fraction of the top barrel to be moved to the middle so the newest wine can be put into the top barrel. This cycle can continue for decades or even centuries. For this reason, most of these wines will not have a vintage date.