Sherry Country

El Maestro Sierra

Bodegas Grant

D.O. Jerez-Xérès-Sherry y Manzanilla de Sanlúcar
[official D.O. website]

Sherry Country

> Bodegas César Florido
> Bodegas Grant
> El Maestro Sierra
> La Cigarrera

The D.O. of Jerez-Xérès-Sherry y Manzanilla is the home of Spain's most famous wine: sherry. While the climate here on the southern end of Spain is largely Mediterranean, the Atlantic Ocean creates a unique microclimate in Sherry Country. The denomination is situated near Cádiz bounded by the 3 towns of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María, and Sanlúcar de Barameda. This area is on the west-facing side of a large cape, and the Atlantic Ocean moderates the hot winds blowing down from the central plateau. This climate, along with the chalk-heavy soils that glaze over in the heat of summer to trap in moisture from the spring, creates perfect conditions for grape vines.

Flor

Fine Sherry can be dry or sweet. The best dry Sherry is made from the Palomino grape grown on chalky soil called albariza, which resembles that of Cognac and Champagne. Following fermentation of the Palomino grapes to complete dryness, the young wine is fortified to 15% alcohol by volume and transferred to used, 500L oak butts (barrels). There, a phenomenon occurs that is unique to Jerez: some butts develop a thick white layer of yeast called flor (flower), which covers and seals the wine. A wind called the Poniente, which comes in from the west, brings cool moist air from the ocean, creating conditions favorable for the flor to grow. This prevents the wine beneath from oxidizing or turning into vinegar. Flor cannot be reliably induced or controlled. Wines that are aged exclusively under this flor are known as wines that have undergone a biological aging. Wines where no such flor is present are known as oxidative wines. There are also wines that undergo both biological and oxidative aging.

Types of Sherry

Biological Aging: Fino, Manzanilla
Oxidative Aging: Oloroso, Pedro Ximénez, Moscatel
Hybrid Aging: Amontillado, Palo Cortado

Fino
If it seems the flor will remain, the wines of greatest delicacy and finesse are then fortified (by an addition of brandy) to about 15% alcohol. If as they mature these wines fulfill their promise of elegance, they will ultimately be classified as "Fine."
Serving Temperature: 45º F

Manzanilla
The coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda produces a special Fino called Manzanilla. Because of its unique microclimate the wines aged in Sanlúcar are lighter in texture and are distinguished as a separate type of wine.
Serving Temperature: 45º F

Since Fino and Manzanilla remain unoxidized, due to the protective layer of flor, they should be served cold and need to be consumed as soon after bottling and opening as possible. See "Freshness and Fino: How to Read the Lot Numbers" for more information.

Amontillado
While under flor, some of the more robust Finos may be reclassified for development over time as Amontillado, a special type of aged Fino that has been allowed to oxidize, taking on characteristic bronze tones and hazelnut aromas and flavors.
Serving Temperature: 58º F

Palo Cortado
Sometimes the flor grows in unusal or unexpected ways; it may not grow fully or it may die off early. The resulting sherry undergoes a unique, chaotic combination of biological and oxidative aging, as opposed to the controlled conditions of an Amontillado.
Serving Temperature: 58º F

Oloroso
If the flor seems unlikely to remain, or the wines lack the delicacy requisite of Fino, some producers immediately fortify them to about 18% alcohol, to be classed after aging as Oloroso or the rare Palo Cortado, and then possibly blended to make Cream Sherry, for which demand remains strong.
Serving Temperature: 58º F

Pedro Ximénez & Moscatel
The grapes used for unblended sweet wines are usually Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel, grown on clay or sandy soils. These dark, raisiny, extraordinarily concentrated wines, made from shriveled grapes dried on wicker racks following the harvest, can acquire enormous complexity with a long period of cask aging: up to 50 years! Cream Sherries, an English invention, are sweet blends, usually of dry Oloroso base wine with Pedro Ximénez.
Serving Temperature: 45º F

Solera

The maturation of Sherry is unique. Sherry was once and occasionally still is aged according to its vintage. But as trade with England reached its height in the 19th century, shippers made a useful discovery about aging these wines: by withdrawing just a small portion from each butt for bottling, and replacing it with an equal portion of younger wine of similar quality and style, they were able to create in 3-4 months a wine identical to the original. This accounts for Sherry's remarkable consistency.

Each lot of similar wines is called a solera and is maintained in multiple stages called scales or criaderas. Wine for bottling is drawn only from the oldest scale, often also referred to as the solera. Several times a year, as much as 30%, but more typically 5-10%, of the contents of the oldest scale is bottled. This is replaced with wine from the next oldest, which itself is then replenished with younger wine, and so on successively until one reaches the sobretable, or top criadera composed of un-aged wine. The solera will have at least three criaderas but may contain more depending on the wine and the style. This process of refilling criaderas from the younger barrels is called "running the scales."

Some Fino and Manzanilla soleras consist of hundreds of butts in many scales and are bottled as often as twice a month, to ensure freshness. Very old soleras of other styles might consist of only two butts and may be bottled as seldom as once a year. It is a brilliant, flexible system for maintaining consistently high quality. It allows the shipper to draw on an infinite number of styles.

Almacenistas

In the city of Jerez de la Frontera, and the coastal towns of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María, the larger shippers are not the only producers of Sherry. For years, a tenacious group of professionals called almacenistas (stockholders) have maintained their own small cellars, supplying the shippers with stocks of rare and unusual, uncompromising, completely dry wines for blending purposes. In 1997 the laws changed, allowing almacenistas with small stocks to bottle wines.

Aging Designations

Each year, the major houses offer limited-production selections from several top almacenistas who mature their wines according to the same high quality standards. These Sherries come from small soleras bottled as seldom as once a year. A label designation such as 1/20 indicates that the bottling is from a solera consisting of only 20 butts! These are consummate expressions of fine, handcrafted, traditional dry Sherry. These are Sherry's greatest wines.

Old sherries can receive a special designation indicating an approximate age of the soleras. There are four designations:

12-Year
Wines that have an average age of 12 years in solera.

15-Year
Wines that have an average age of 15 years in solera.

VOS (Vinum Optimum Signatum/Very Old Sherry)
Wines at least twenty years old.

VORS (Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum/Very Old Rare Sherry)
Wines at least thirty years old.

Freshness and Finos

Finos and Manzanillas are at their best while still fresh, to help you ensure that the bottle of Fino or Manzanilla is as fresh as possible we have a lot number printed on the back label of every one of our bottles of both Fino and Manzanilla. Each winery uses the bottling date as their lot number. Example photos for each label are located below.

La Cigarrera Manzanilla

L-11-2010: November 2010

El Maestro Sierra Fino

L-03-2010: March 2010