To many of us sherry conjures up memories of an aunt or grandma having a glass of sherry, probably cream sherry…and did you pause to notice that cream sherry is not creamy. Just what is cream sherry? And how many types of sherry are there? I am sure some would ask, ‘what is the point of sherry – no one every drinks it’.
After an intense 4 day visit to the Jerez region where I visited our new sherry producer Guttierez Colosia, I can say with conviction if there is only one drink I could have for the rest of my life it would be sherry (footnote that with the option to include champagne now & then). It has extraordinary flexibility and can ease you through a hot afternoon (fino), start off a meal (fino), carry you through it (fino, oloroso, amontillado) and finish it too (px).
When is sherry a sherry?
For now some basics: sherry is produced in the south western area of Andalucia in Spain, in the triangle from the Atlantic coastal town of Sanlucar across inland to Jerez and back down to the Atlantic & Guadalete River juncture of El Peurto de Santa Maria. Unlike ‘normal’ wine making where much of it is done in the vineyard, sherry is all about the aging at the bodega (or cellar). In contrast to wine making, sherry needs humidity, warmth & salt to give its distinct character. And the wine is aged above ground in old oak and in an oxidative environment, for several years, none of which is ever a ‘vintage’. Interestingly while grape quality is important, the grapes do not necessarily have to be grown in the region; however the wine must be aged in the region to be called Sherry.
How is sherry made?
You may be familiar with the term solera? This is just part of the process of sherry production. All sherry is fortified, and it is made of either palamino grapes or pedro ximenez grapes. Grapes are picked, usually in early September; these are then crushed and the juice is fermented to wine. The wine is then brought to the bodega where it undergoes the extraordinary long haul of becoming either a dainty fresh summery, salty fino, a richer amontillado, an intense brooding Oloroso or a downright unctuous pedro ximenez. Amongst these principal styles of sherry there are also cream sherry, dry & sweet. These tend to relegated to cellar doors & supermarket shelves.
In the case of Gutierrez Colosia,