Sherry, a magical Spanish wine that has meandered through history with such force that it has played a central role in the works of literary geniuses such as Shakespeare and Poe. No other beverage played such a central role in the colonization and exploration of the New World. When Magellan set out to circumnavigate the world, he spent more on Sherry than he spent on weapons during his entire journey. As fortified wine, he was better able to make the long journey across oceans. As the first New World wine, sherry remains important in the wine world today.
Traditional Sherry begins its life in the vineyards of the Cádiz region of Spain. It is made with three types of grapes native to the region, palomino, Pedro Ximénez and Muscat. After being harvested by hand, they are gently squeezed to obtain the first must. Only this first pressing is used to produce Sherry, this ensures the highest quality of the wine. The pressing is immediately reserved for fermentation.
After the initial fermentation, the new wine is tested for quality and divided into one of three categories. The lighter, paler wines will be set aside to become Fino and Amontillado, Sherry’s highest grade. The slightly darker but still clean wine will be set aside to become Oloroso, a darker Sherry. The third category destined to become Sherry will require further development before its final product can be determined.
Once its destination has been decided, the wine begins its journey through the solera, a cascade of barrels through which the wines will be moved. This is a time-consuming journey, as each year some wine is moved from one barrel to the next in the line. With a small portion of the previous year’s wine in the barrel, these soleras are passed down from generation to generation. There is always a small amount of wine left in the last barrel, so over the years the last barrel in the solera will still have a very small amount of the first wine put into it, this wine can sometimes have several hundreds of years and helps ensure a balanced and uniform product. A real taste of history!
Today, Jerez does not have the importance it used to have. I can guarantee that today more is invested in building a ship of the line than in Jerez in its pantry. However, it is one of the most historic of the wine family and one of the most versatile wines available today. Sherry can be served as an aperitif, drunk neat, and also makes a great addition to cooking. Try this wine cake recipe from www.beyond-wine.com.
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 5 oz box vanilla instant pudding
- 3 eggs
- vegetable oil
- SHERRY CREAM (must be cream)
Set oven to 350
Mold to grease and flour
Mix all the ingredients indicated on the box and half the amount of water using the sherry cream for the other half. Bake approx. 40 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool slightly and edge the edge with a fine knife before removing. Drizzle a glaze over the cake, powdered sugar with a touch of lemon juice or vanilla.
I hope this has enlightened you to the delights of sherry, an Old World wine making its way into the new millennium. Visit www.beyond-wine.com for wine accessories and everything you need to enjoy your glass of sherry, from glasses and decanters to stoppers and pourers. For a limited time, get a free barrel stave candle holder with any purchase of $150 or more.