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Just Add Oxygen
If you’ve shopped at Pour Richard’s, you know that Cassie and I are both *persistent* about certain things. Please don’t call us ‘bossy’. We prefer ‘extremely passionate about certain beverages which we believe everyone should try.’
You know…. Like rosé. Bubbly. Port. Aged rum, sour beers, and certain obscure Spanish, Portuguese, or Italian grapes. Riesling. And now Sherry. Seriously, people. You are not drinking nearly enough Sherry. If you still think of Sherry as a jug of that sweet, sticky stuff Grandma drank, you are way behind the times. From bracing Finos and Manzanillas to nutty Amontillados, and rich Olorosos to complex, sweet Pedro Ximinez and beyond, Sherry is as tasty as it is fascinating.
Sherry is a vast and complicated subject. One of the oldest wines in the world, already in full production during the Moorish occupation of Spain, Sherry became all the rage in England when-after the fall of Cadiz in 1587- Sir Francis Drake shipped 3,000 sherry butts to England. Thus began the English love affair with sherrish, or ‘sack’. And like most love affairs, this one depends upon some oxygen.
Oxygen is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas, so it’s somewhat ironic that it plays a major role in creating the taste of one of the world’s most distinctive wines. But it does; while oxidation is considered a fault in most wines, in many sherries, it’s a virtue.
True sherry is made by only 3 communities in Jerez, deep in the heart of southern Spain, 98% of it from the Palomino grape. After its initial fermentation, it is judged or ‘typed’. The finest, most ethereally scented batches are fortified with grape brandy to reach 15+ degrees alcohol. They will age under ‘flor’, a yeast particular to each sherry bodega, and emerge as Fino or Manzanillla. These are also known as biologically aged sherries.
Less delicate wines are fortified to 18 or 19 percent and intentionally oxidised, destined to become Olorosos, both dry and sweet. Additional styles of Sherry are created when the flor in a barrel dies off naturally (Amontillado) or is intentionally destroyed (Palo Cortado), allowing these wines to take on nutty, oxidative qualities. All this, and we haven’t even touched on Pedro Ximinez or Moscatel, let alone solera aging, almacenistas, or criadera levels. For the average wine drinker, it’s more than a bit confusing.
Luckily, we just happen to have an excellent plan for you to learn more about Sherry: come to our Taste of Spain tasting next week. Among all the Rioja, Priorat, Cava, and Albarino, we’ll also feature several Sherries and Malagas (an adjacent region with related wines). Try a taste of these delicious and historic wines.