Sherry is a series of traditional fortified wines, produced in an area in the province of Andalucia, in the south of Spain. The denomination of origin is one of the oldest in Spain. The production area traditionally consisted of the so-called sherry triangle. This is formed by the cities Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María, plus six neighbouring municipalities. The soil in this region is chalk / limestone based. It provides the perfect conditions for growing the Palomino grape, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel, the three traditional grapes used for making sherry wine.
Depending on your source, you will find there are two types of sherry, or three, four, eight, ten or eleven. It all depends on your angle. However the official website of the D.O. Jerez-Xérès-Sherry distinguishes ten types of sherry wines.
Major styles of sherry wine
Diversity is, without doubt, the principal characteristic trait of Sherry Wine. The variety of styles marks its identity with attributes that are difficult to find in any other wine region. In general sherry wines are classified into three major categories:
- Generosos: dry wines made from Palomino grapes (Fino / Amontilado / Palo Cortado / Oloroso)
- Dulces Naturales: naturally sweet wines almost exclusively made from Moscatel or Pedro Ximénez and named after the respective grapes
- Generosos de Licor: blended wines, made from a base of dry wines that are sweetened by adding a naturally sweet wine or concentrated grape must. There are three sub-types: Pale Cream / Medium / Cream
Dry sherry wines
Sherry is basically an aged white wine and contrary to what most people think, the majority of sherry is dry. Within the dry sherry category, there are two major styles: those that are biologically aged (under a layer of flor yeast – Fino type) and those that are oxidatively aged (in absence of flor – Oloroso type). Then two intermediate styles exist (Amontillado and Palo Cortado). They start as a biologically aged wine but loose their layer of flor at a certain point and continue their maturation in the oxidative way. All of these wines are made from the Palomino grape.
Sweet sherry wines
On the other hand there is sweet sherry. Within this category there is naturally sweet sherry, or sherry that is sweetened by blending dry wines with sweet wines or grape syrup. Naturally sweet sherry can be produced from Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel grapes. They are harvested late and often dried in the sun before being pressed. The blended sweet sherries on the other hand start from a base of dry Palomino wines, to which PX or Moscatel wine is added. Winemakers can also add grape must or arrope, grape must that is cooked down until it forms a kind of syrup.
Sherry types in detail
For more specific information about the most important styles of sherry, follow the links below: