Sherry is a fortified wine, produced in Spain’s sherry triangle. Located in the province of Andalucia, this triangle consists of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María. The soil in this region is chalky, limestone based, and provides the perfect conditions for growing the Palomino grape, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel, the three grapes used for making sherry wine.
Depending on your source and the way they look at it, you will find there are two types of sherry, or three, four, eight, ten or eleven.
Two major styles of sherry
In fact there are two major categories of sherry: those that are biologically aged (under a layer of flor yeast – Fino and Manzanilla) and those that are oxidatively aged (in absence of flor – Oloroso). Two intermediate styles exist (Amontillado and Palo Cortado), they start as a biologically aged wine but gradually loose their layer of flor and continue their maturation in the oxidative way. All of these wines are naturally dry, but there are also two types of naturally sweet wines (Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel) as well as a category of artificially sweetened wines (called Cream sherry or Dulce).
For more information about the most important styles of sherry, follow the links below:
In its official sherry classifications, the Consejo Regulador defines four types of sweetened sherries according to the sugar level (Dry, Pale Cream, Medium and Cream) as well as a separate Dulce category, which is naturally sweet. In practice though, the only significant difference is whether they are artificially sweetened or not, and I think it’s easier to see them as one group of sweet sherries made from Palomino grapes (contrary to Moscatel or PX).