Sherry is 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 formed by the cities Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María, together with six neighbouring municipalities. The soil in this region is chalk / limestone based, and 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.
Major styles of sherry wine
Sherry wine can be dry (Vinos Generosos), naturally sweet (Vinos Dulces Naturales) or sweetened through blending (Vinos Generosos de Licor).
Contrary to what most people think, the majority of sherry is dry. It is basically an aged white wine. Within the dry sherry category, there are two major styles: those that are biologically aged (under a layer of flor yeast – Fino / Manzanilla type) and those that are oxidatively aged (in absence of flor – Oloroso type). 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.
When it comes to sweet sherry, the most important difference is the fact that it can be naturally sweet or “artificially” sweetened by blending dry styles of sherry with sweet wines or grape syrup. Naturally sweet sherry can be produced from Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel grapes that 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 is added, or arrope, grape must that is cooked and highly concentrated 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: