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Amontillado sherry in a typical Catavino glass

Sherry is a Spanish fortified white wine from Andalusia that has undergone a special aging process. The term "sherry" comes from the Moorish name Sherish (Phoenician Cera , Latin Ceret ) for the present day Jerez de la Frontera . Sherry was made known worldwide through English trading houses in the 18th and 19th centuries .


The sherry triangle

As a result of the production process, the sherry develops an aroma that is characteristic only for this wine, reminiscent of almonds and yeast, sometimes also of hazelnuts and walnuts. The main characteristic of almost all sherries is that they are first made from a dry white wine from the Palomino grape. After fermentation is complete, this wine is mixed with brandy and fortified from the original 11 to 13 percent alcohol by volume to 15.5 percent. It then matures in the air in about four-fifths full (mostly 600-liter) barrels, whereupon a carpet of pile yeast forms on the young wine , which protects the wine from oxidation and at the end almost completely ferments the sugar in the wine . All sherries are therefore originally dry. This type of reductive ripening is called "biological expansion". Oloroso sherry, on the other hand , ripens oxidatively , without flor yeast. It is fortified to about 17% alcohol to kill the flor yeast. The cellar master decides whether a wine becomes a Fino or an Oloroso.

Some types of sherry are added to wines or musts from the Moscatel or Pedro Ximenez grape varieties before they are bottled . The grapes of these grape varieties are not pressed immediately after harvest, but first dried on bast mats. The juice from these grapes is then highly concentrated, and the wine yeast does not convert all of the sugar into ethanol . Therefore, as described, only palomino, Moscatel de Alejandría and Pedro Ximenez may be used for sherry production. Other grape varieties are only grown in the province of Cádiz for table and country wine production.

Sherry is blended from wines of different vintages during its barrel aging ( Solera system ). Sherry (or Jerez ) is protected as a designation of origin: only wines from the Andalusian "city triangle" Jerez de la Frontera , Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María , the DO Jerez / Xèréz / Sherry y Manzanilla de Sanlúcar Barrameda , may be called sherry become.

Soil and grape

The region in which sherry can be produced has an area of ​​around 10,500 hectares. The climate and soil are ideal for producing wine: the average temperature is around 17.5 ° C, in summer temperatures rise to up to 40 ° C. Rain falls about 75 days a year, a total of about 600 liters a year per square meter.

The best soils in this area are the Albariza . The name comes from the white limestone soil . This gives the subsoil a layered structure that stores the water well. The surface of the Albarizas pulverizes very easily. As a result, the floor is covered with a kind of fine powder that reduces evaporation. The Albarizas are mainly found on the mountain slopes.

The Barros, on the other hand, are the soil in the valleys. They are loamy and rich in humus . Today, however, hardly any cultivation takes place on these soils.

The third type of soil is found in the Jerez area: the arenas are very sandy, with a low proportion of clay. They contain iron oxide , which turns them red. These soils are preferred for growing Moscatel.

The yields on the soil types are quite different: The Albarizas deliver very high quality wines with a low yield, the wines of the Barros are stronger and simpler, the yield is higher. In the arenas , the production quantities are very high, the quality of the wines is rather average.

A large number of grape varieties were cultivated until the 19th century. Today, vines with the Palomino-Fino grape can be found on 94% of the area . There are also Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel , which are mainly used as blended wines and, thanks to their rich sweetness, control the development of the individual types of sherries.

Varieties and trade names

Sherry is produced in different variants and offered under corresponding trade names, which get their peculiarity mainly from the alcohol content, the age and the degree of oxidation:


It ripens under a thick layer of pile without any oxidative influence. It is a light, straw-yellow, dry sherry that has spent between three and ten years in the solera , with an alcohol content of usually 15 and up to 18 percent. A Fino ("the fine one") is the preliminary stage for the two sherry varieties Amontillado and Palo Cortado. It should be drunk chilled (around 5–7 ° C) and is suitable as an aperitif and with food.
Manzanilla is a special type of Fino that comes from the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda . This Fino variant also ripens under Flor and comes exclusively from the Sanlúcar de Barrameda area. Because of the Atlantic winds that prevail here, the wine has a typical, slightly salty and often bitter taste. The alcohol content is usually 15% or slightly above. The ideal drinking temperature is 5–7 ° C.
This full-bodied variant initially develops under pile for several years. At this stage the wine is still a Fino with around 15.5% alcohol. The fino then develops into amontillado when oxidation in the air begins due to the death of the flor yeast layer. This death can happen in two ways:
a) suddenly, by adding alcohol to 16 to 18% vol.
b) gradually, due to age, mostly after ten to 15 years.
In the latter case one speaks of a “real amontillado”. Depending on the age, the color develops from an amber-colored gold tone to light brown to mahogany. The transition stages are called Fino Pasada, Fino-Amontillado and Amontillado-Fino. The delicate and piquant aroma is reminiscent of hazelnuts and almonds. A real amontillado is completely dry. The alcohol content is between 16 and 22% vol. However, there are also sweetened variants. The name Amontillado literally means "in the manner of those of Montilla ". The ideal drinking temperature is around 12-16 ° C, depending on age and sweetness.
An Oloroso is created without a pile layer under oxidative influence. In terms of aroma, an Oloroso is stronger than a Fino and usually more complex than an Amontillado. Basically it is dry, amber to mahogany in color with a fragrant nut aroma ( oloroso = "fragrant"). The alcohol content of an Oloroso is between 17 and 20% vol. In addition to the dry variant, there are also sweetened varieties. The ideal drinking temperature here is also around 12-16 ° C, depending on age and sweetness.
Palo cortado
The Palo cortado is originally a very rare, mahogany-colored sherry. The Palo- ( palo : “stick”, or analogously “thick line”) Cortado combines the fresh notes of the Amontillado with the full bouquet of the Oloroso. The sudden death of the flor yeast turns a wine originally developed as a fino into a palo cortado. It then goes through a longer oxidative process. Its aroma is reminiscent of nuts or almonds and is mostly developed dry with an alcohol content between 18 and 22% vol. The name comes from the tradition of crossing out the chalk mark that marks a barrel as “Fino” ( cortado = capped) when the flor yeast dies. Nowadays, accidental yeast death rarely occurs due to the more controlled production methods. That is why most Palo Cortados today are only styled wines. The ideal drinking temperature is around 12-14 ° C.

"Vinos Generosos de Licor"

The medium is a fortified wine made by a blending process ( cabeceo ). The base wines are mostly amontillados or wines that have mostly matured through oxidative expansion and also have a certain biological expansion behind them. Medium have a degree of sweetness between 45 and 115 grams per liter. The ideal drinking temperature is around 12-14 ° C.
Cream is usually the result of a good Oloroso and a naturally sweet wine or rectified grape juice concentrate that are blended together. A cream should be dark ruby ​​red and an alcohol content of 16 to 18% vol. to have. The sugar content is between 115 and 140 g / l.
Pale Cream
The pale cream is a blend of fino or manzanilla and rectified grape must concentrate. The use of rectified concentrated grape must - a product that contains only the sugar from grapes and a portion of the organic water from it - as a sweetener is generally preferred to naturally sweet wines because the final mixing process retains the typical pale yellow original color. The sugar content is between 45 and 115 g / l. Pales and creams can be enjoyed from ice-cold to around 10 ° C.

"Vinos de Jerez Dulces Naturales"

Pedro Ximénez
The Pedro Ximénez white wine grape , which is seldom grown in the sherry triangle and probably imported by a German named Peter Siemens , which, according to legend, was named after the Spanish corruption of his name, is the basis of the eponymous sherry Pedro Ximénez . In Jerez, it is usually used to make a luscious, sweet sherry with around 17% alcohol and a strong raisin-like aroma. De facto, however, the majority of the grapes now come from Montilla-Moriles , where the vine thrives better on less calcareous soils. Pedro Ximénez, or PX, is also used to sweeten originally dry amontillados and olorosos to make mediums or creams. The ideal drinking temperature is 10-14 ° C.
It is relatively seldom produced these days, is chestnut to deep mahogany in color, has a thick consistency and a complex texture. On the nose it shows notes of muscatel and floral aromas. On the palate it is moderately sweet, has taste sensations of the varietal wine, hints of flowers, a slightly dry and bitter finish. The ideal drinking temperature is 10-14 ° C.

Other names

Almacenista are not sherries in the categorized sense, i.e. sherry style, but a facility that is attracting more and more interest among sherry fans. This is used to describe sherries that are traditionally produced by small, private companies and that the Almacenistas (Spanish: "storer") have stored and matured for over 30 years.
Almacenistas in the narrower sense are mostly wealthy citizens who make sherry as a sideline or hobby and do not bottle their sherries themselves. Traditionally, they sell them openly in so-called ventas (“sales halls”) to the neighborhood and to restaurateurs who bring plastic containers with them. The better Almacenista sherries are sold to large sherry companies that use them to improve their own soleras or have been bringing them out under the name of the Almacenista for several years. The best Almacenista qualities, however, are consumed within the families of the respective Almacenista and do not get into the trade.
The term Almacenista is also legally protected for such sherry from the Jerez de la Frontera region . All types of sherry and manzanilla can be found in Almacenista versions and are almost always of exceptional quality. Fractional numbers on the label (1/8, 1/17) indicate the number of barrels in the Solera system from which the wine comes; the smaller the number below the fraction line (i.e. the number of barrels), the rarer and consequently more expensive the wine.
“En Rama” is understood to be a slightly filtered or unfiltered Fino or Manzanilla that has not been cold-treated. This wine tastes like a barrel and is therefore valued among sherry lovers. En Rama wines are perishable and should be drunk as soon as possible after bottling and no later than four months afterwards.
Fino Pasada / Manzanilla Pasada
This is a particularly long matured Fino or Manzanilla ( pasada = "gone too far"). Due to the slowly dying flower yeast and the resulting oxidation, it is usually a little darker than the reductive wine from which it was made. In terms of taste, it is stronger and also has salt almond notes. Pasada is the precursor to the oxidative ripening process leading to amontillado. The ideal drinking temperature is 7–10 ° C.
This designation conceals two special categories with certified ages: the first for wines over 20 years old and the latter for wines over 30 years old. In order to obtain the certificate, the wineries have to submit their wines to the judgment of an independent examination board. These wines are sensory and laboratory tested by carbon-14, ester, ash or dry extract analysis and must be of exceptional quality.

In the Montilla-Moriles wine-growing region , the Pedro Ximénez grape variety is used to produce sherry-style wines from dry to sweet, which can be of excellent quality. However, they are not allowed to use the protected name sherry.

Influence on the types of sherry

The different types of sherry are based on different initial alcohol contents and a resulting more or less pronounced development of the pile and / or oxidation. If the pile is missing or if it is only spotty, the wine can oxidize more strongly.

Amontillado is a fino in which, due to the high alcohol content, at the end of the ripening process the pile has almost completely died (residual sugar from the grapes and phenols are completely consumed, and the yeast can no longer find any nourishment) and the wine can begin its oxidative ripening in direct contact with air .

The difference between Fino and Manzanilla comes about in such a way that the flor in the hotter region of Jerez only develops properly in spring and autumn (partly dies in summer and winter), but in Sanlúcar de Barrameda it is right on the coast due to the milder microclimate receives around the year.

Oxidative wines

Other well-known oxidative wines are: Glacier Wine , Madeira , Port Wine and Vin Jaune .


Sherry is mostly made from grapes from the Palomino Fino grape variety . The fermentation first gives a dry white wine with an alcohol content of 11 to 13 percent. Although most bodegas also produce Brandy de Jerez , this matured brandy is not used to fortify dry white wine, but simple brandy - mostly from the La Mancha region. The fortified wine (young wine, also known as 'Mosto') usually first matures in steel or concrete tanks for a year. Then it is expanded and blended in a special process, the “Solera (y Criadera)” system.

The Solera Process

Solera process (Lustau, 2019)

(See also main article: Solera system )

The solera process can be imagined as follows: At least three (often more) rows of barrels are stacked on top of each other. The row of barrels on the floor is called Solera ("the one that lies on the floor"), the rows above are called Criaderas . They are numbered from bottom to top. The sherry intended for sale is always taken from the lower row of casks. Only a third of the content is removed from each barrel. The amount withdrawn is then refilled from the row of barrels. This second row is in turn refilled from the third row above. This principle continues up to the upper row of barrels. The amount removed there is now replaced with young wine ( Mosto ).

In this way, the young wine moves from top to bottom through the system and is continuously blended with the older vintages below. On the one hand, this principle is one of the building blocks that create the unique sherry taste. On the other hand, it guarantees that the quality of the individual sherry brands will remain the same for many years, as the weaknesses of one vintage are leveled out by blending with other vintages. In addition, the Solera ensures that fresh wines are added to the flor yeast so that it does not die.

In reality, however, the criadera levels are usually not on top of each other, but often even in different bodega buildings, and the barrels lying on top of each other in a bodega usually all contain the same criadera level. When filling, hoses and pumps are used to transfer the barrels of a criadera to those of the next stage. This is the only way to ensure that the often 10 or more criadera levels that are involved in the production of a sherry do not crush the casks below.

Flor yeast

Flor yeast in a barrel (Valdivia in Jerez, 2008)

Flor stands for flower / blossom. The name arose from the special form of the flor yeast, which "blooms" floating on the wine. The production process for the sherry types Fino, Manzanilla and Oloroso is an important feature.

The barrels in which the wine is blended are not completely filled, but at most 85 percent. In addition, the barrels are not hermetically sealed, but the bung sometimes remains open or the barrel is ventilated from time to time. In this way, the surface of the wine (initially) comes into contact with air. Because of the proximity to the sea, the air is relatively humid, and the temperature in the aboveground wine cellars ( bodegas ) is usually around 17 to 25 ° C. With sherries with an alcohol content between 14.5 and 16% (ie Finos and Manzanillas), this combination favors the formation of a special yeast layer on the surface, the pile . This protects the wine from the air, prevents it from oxidizing and gives it its sherry-specific aroma. The French yellow Jura wine Vin Jaune (→ Château-Chalon ) and the Tokaj produce comparable yeast films .

When the sugar in the wine is used up, the flor yeast begins to aerobically convert part of the acids contained in the wine into acetaldehyde . At the same time, the yeast cells are surrounded by a layer of wax that allows the yeast to float. The wax on the surface of the wine prevents further oxygen from entering, which would encourage the growth of acetic acid bacteria .

With Oloroso Sherry the alcohol content of the wine is increased to at least 17% in order to prevent the formation of flor yeast and to allow a certain degree of oxidation.


Sherry cellar (González Byass, 2003)

Wine has been produced in the Jerez area for over 3000 years. The Roman historian Avenius reports that the Phoenicians brought the first vines from the land of Canaan to the region around 1100 BC . According to Theopompus , there was already a flourishing wine trade center near Gibraltar 400 BC . The name Xérés for this region comes from this time, which was derived from the Greek word ξηρός ( xerós = "dry").

While belonging to the Roman Empire from 206 BC. From AD 476 to AD 476, amphorae containing wine were exported in large quantities. With the conquest by the Romans, the name changed to Ceret. At the beginning of the Great Migration , the area came under Gothic rule for around 300 years. The Visigoths cultivated the cultivation of wine and refined the wine production with great success , until in the year 711 Tāriq ibn Ziyād , the governor of Tangier , crossed the Strait of Gibraltar with 7,000 soldiers. That was the beginning of centuries of rule by the Moors over what is now Spain.

In 966, Caliph Al-Hakam II ordered the clearing of the Jerez vines, as Islam did not permit the consumption of alcoholic beverages. In order to save the vineyards, the residents successfully argued that some of the grapes were made into raisins and that the alcohol was used for medicinal purposes. About two thirds of the vines could be saved.

In 1264 Jerez was recaptured by Alfonso X. Wine quickly became the region's most important export. The oldest evidence of wine exports to England dates back to 1340. The English, who were already the main buyers at the time, later turned sherish into sherry and gave the drink its current name.

In the two centuries that followed, wine exports increasingly became the region's economic base. In 1402 Heinrich III forbade the destruction of vines or their replacement by other crops. More and more attention was also paid to quality. From 1483 the edict of the Raisin Producers and Grape Harvesting Committee in Jerez of the Jerez City Council stipulates the production of viticulture, the closing of the barrels and the fact that the barrels should bear the names of the producers.

On April 19, 1587, Sir Francis Drake entered the port of Cádiz with his fleet . There they sank and damaged many ships of the Spanish Armada, which was preparing an attack on England. Then Drake sailed back to England with a booty of 2900 barrels of sherry. After arriving in London, the sherry became known at the English court and in aristocratic circles and was popular under the name Sack . Today it is assumed that this name is derived from the Spanish saca ("bottling").

After a violent attempt by the British to take possession of the port of Cádiz failed in 1625, the first wave of peaceful traders came from England, Ireland and Scotland. Timothy O'Neale started out as a trader in 1724; he was one of the first to settle in Jerez. The Scots Sir James Duff and James Gordon and the Irish William Garvey and Thomas Osborne followed him at short intervals. Around the same time the company "Averys and Harveys" was founded in Bristol . Companies emerged that, based on old tradition, took stock that had been rejected and carried out the necessary blending. For the first time, the sherry industry developed its own structures. Around the year 1775, the system for aging sherry , the solera process, was developed in Jerez, apparently as a result of sluggish sales, which was supposed to guarantee a uniform quality.

Around 1870 sherry peaked in popularity. But soon after, sherry went out of style and heels fell. In addition, phylloxera began to devastate the region's vineyards from 1894 . As a result, traders and producers had to live off their stocks for years. In 1933 the Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Jerez-Xérès-Sherry was founded. This control body still regulates the production, quality and export of the wine and watches over the protected designation of origin Sherry .

Sherry exports reached their next high around 1940, but that didn't last long either. In the 1960s and 1970s, the José María Ruiz Mateos family bought many bodegas; In 1961 she founded the Rumasa company . Among other things, this dominated so large parts of the sherry market that in 1983, when the new socialist government was expropriated, a shock went through the industry, with the result that the sherry business collapsed.

After years of disputes, the European Union decreed on January 1, 1996 that from this date onwards only the wine may be called 'Sherry', which is produced according to the established, traditional methods in the legally protected growing area DO Jerez / Xèréz / Sherry y Manzanilla de Sanlúcar Barrameda is produced and bottled. In 2000, the age certification VOS ( Vinum Optimum Signatum / Very Old Sherry ) - 20 years and VORS ( Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum / Very Old Rare Sherry ) - 30 years was introduced. The age information relates to the average age of a sherry.


Economical meaning

Around 302,000 hectoliters of sherry are currently exported annually. The main customer countries are Great Britain , the Netherlands and Germany .


Typical bodega in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

The “Sherry Triangle” is opened up for tourism through the “Wine Route” ( Ruta del Vino ), which starts in Jerez de la Frontera , leads through Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María and ends in Chiclana de la Frontera . Many producers in the Jerez area offer guided tours of their wine cellars. Well-known manufacturers are Sandeman , Domecq, Williams and Humbert (Dry Sack), Osborne (in El Puerto de Santa Maria ) and the small Bodegas Tradición S. L. with an art collection in their rooms.


The venencia , a narrow ladle with a long handle, is part of the sherry culture with which the venenciador scoops the sherry out of the barrel through the bunghole and then pours it in a high arc into the typical catavino (sherry glass). Allegedly this artistic form of serving, which exposes the wine to intensive contact with the air, leads to the optimal development of its aroma. The trowel is also used to pierce the pile yeast layer.

Using sherry barrels for whiskey

Disused sherry barrels are used in Scotland for the storage of whiskey . The barrels in which the sherry was shipped from Spain were originally used for this. Since this is no longer allowed by law, people have gone over to buying Solera barrels or filling specially made barrels in Spain with sherry for a while. During the years of maturation of the whiskey, the sherry remaining in the pores of the wood (typically 5 to 10 liters) together with the tanning and aromatic substances present in the wood are released from the barrel and have a significant influence on the taste and color.

See also


Web links

Commons : Sherry  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k Sherry Wines - Taste, Discover, Love . In: Sherry Wines . November 19, 2015 ( [accessed June 10, 2017]).
  2. ^ Viticulture of the DOP Jerez-Xeres-Sherry - Spanish wine-growing region for sherry. Retrieved June 10, 2017 .
  3. ^ Peter Liem, Jesús Barquín: Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla. Manutius, 2012, ISBN 978-0-9859815-0-1 , page 5.
  4. ^ SPIEGEL ONLINE, Hamburg, Germany: SPAIN: At any price - DER SPIEGEL 9/1983. Retrieved June 10, 2017 .
  5. Exports | Wine stats. Retrieved June 10, 2017 (American English).