May 1, 2011

Fortified Wines: Sherry

Regional Location:
Jerez (Sherry/Xeres) is in Andalucia, the south west corner of Spain on the Atlantic Ocean.

The region is strongly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, the sea breezes alleviate the extremes. Winters are mild and damp, with most rain falling between autumn and spring (650mm). Sanlucar on the coast can be as much as 10 degrees lower than Jerez, which is 20km inland. The Levante/ is a piercing dry dusty wind that picks up from the south east.

There are three main types of soils:
Albariza – white chalky looking soil with a high 40% limestone content, clay & sand. Albariza is dazzling white. It dry’s without cracking, slowly releaseing moisture to the vines during the growing season. 80% of Jerez Superior have Albariza soils.
Baro soils have more clay, they produce fuller, courser wines with higher yields.
Arenas are sandy soils, yields are twice as high, but quality is poor.

Grape Varieties:
There are now 3 authorised grape varieties to produce sherry:
Palomino of which there are 2 types Paolomino Basto (Palomino Jerez) & Palomino Fino. Palomino Fino once grew exclusively around Sanlucar, has now been accepted as the most suitable variety for sherry production. Relatively susceptible to downy mildew, it responds best to warm, dry soils. Regular, high yielding, without irrigation and low in both acidity and fermentable sugars.
Pedro Ximenez thin skinned grapes predominantly grown in Montilla-Moriles, where it accounts for 70% of all plantings. Prone to disease it is no longer grown widely in Jerez.
Muscat of Alexandria (moscotel gordo blanco) A distinctive grapey flavour, used for sweetening.

Originally planted in a hexagon pattern tresbolillo, vines are now planted in rows to aid mechanisation. Vine density is around 4100 vines/ha and yields are set at 80hl/ha. Vines are trained on wires and pruned using the vara y pulgar system which is similiar to Guyot.

Palomino is harvested at 11 degrees Baume, usually on or around the 8th September. Grapes are destalked, pressed (horizontal plate/pneumatic). The legal extraction rate is 72.5 litres from 100kg. Acid is adjusted with tartaric acid, settled using centrifugation then fermented in stainless steel. Cold stabilisation is essential prior to bottling. 1st selection of grapes for fino vs oloroso is made in the vineyard. Fino grapes come from Albariza soils and the best free run juice, Oloroso from clay soils. Fermentation takes place at a fairly high temperature (up to 28 degrees) as primary fruitiness and fermentation esters are not desired. Wine destined for fino is fermented at a lower temperature. 2nd selection takes place after ferment. Wines are classified in January, and then again in late spring, when Fino styles are fortified (with midad y mitad: 50% alcohol at 95.5% abv and 50% young wine) to 15.5% abv, and oloroso styles are fortified to 17.5% abv. The wines are stored in casks before entering the solera.

Solera System:
A fractional blending system that helps to maintain a consistent style. A solera contains a number of butts each called a criadera. The last criadera is named also the solera. The size of a solera can range from 3 – 14 criaderas, and only 33% of the wine in a solera system can be withdrawn each year. Running the scales: is withdrawing wine from the solera butt, which is replenished from the 1st criadera and so on…

Fino/Manzanilla: Butts are filled 5/6 of their 600-650litre capacity, because flor needs alcohol and oxygen to feed off. Flor grows thicker and quicker in Sanlucar because of the cooler, humid temperatures which account for the differences between Manzanillo, Jerez Fino & Puerto Fino. Being heat sensitive the flor can die during summer in the hottest zones. Flor is kept alive by the solera system which nurtures the flor by providing nutrients. A fino solera will ‘run the scales’ about 2-3 times per year, which will in turn keep the flor alive for approx. 10 years.

Oloroso: Are fortified to approx 18%, they are aged in contact with air and will turn dark brown and concentrate with age. The alcoholic content may increase with slow evaporation up to 24%.

PX & Moscatel: Pedro Ximenez or Muscat of Alexandria grapes are dried in the sun to become raisins. The sugars are so concentrated, that fermentation stops after around 5% abv, leaving high levels (typically 200-400g/l) of unfermented sugar.

Sherry Styles:

filles at 5:55 pm

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