Hugh Johnson, the well known wine authority and writer draws an interesting comparison between sherry and champagne. Both wines are white. Both wines are distinctly different from table wines: one is a sparkling wine, and the other is a fortified wine. Both need long traditional treatment to achieve their special characters. Both have a distinction given them by the chalk soil required for best qualities. Both are at opposite ends of the climate spectrum for grape growing and "both are revivifying aperitifs, of which you can drink an astonishing amount in their countries and only feel more alive than you have ever felt before".
Authentic sherry comes from only one place in the world... from Jerez De la Frontera in Spain. Our sherry was made by one of the leading producers in Jerez, Fernando A. de Terry, for the shipping firm of Savory & James. Many sherry shippers have English origins. They order blends to individual specifications and export them under their label.
In the simplest of forms, the classification of sherries falls into three main categories based on the level of sweetness. Fino for dry, Amontillado for medium sweet, and Oloroso or Cream for sweet. The first two are also characterised by having developed "flor" in their ageing process. (A crusty yeast that develops in the wine, and imparts a flavor)
All Spanish sherry involves a lengthy ageing process by the Solera system. Basically it consists of transferring young wine to a barrel, ageing it for a while, then adding some of it to a barrel containing older wine, and then repeating the process to some still older wine. These barrels are stacked in rows, one row on top of the next, with the oldest at the bottom, and the youngest at the top in huge bodegas (above ground storehouses). It is said: "the key to the solera system is that the aged sherries in the bottom barrels educate the younger sherries which are placed into them by giving them character and taste of the old sherry".
The principal grape used is the Palomino. Small quantities of Pedro Ximinez and Mantuo Canoczo grapes are also used. After picking, the grapes are spread on grass mats in the sun to concentrate their juice. They are then pressed and fermented. Solera ageing, blending, clarifying, and fortifying follows, to produce the final form of each type of sherry.
Our sherry is deep golden yellow in color. It has a clean nutty aroma, with a hint of the fruit coming through. It has a dry taste, which continues into a nutty, fruity character, then finishes with a hint of the "flor" taste that is so characteristic. Serve well chilled, as an aperitif, with bold flavored hors d'oeuvres meats, sharp cheese, smoked foods. Try this Mediterranean tradition!