In this article WabiHost will introduce you to a Spanish wine that has been a classic for centuries: Sherry (Jerez in Spanish). According to some experts, this is one of the most complex wines in the world. It has a Denomination of Origin seal that protects its production and quality, so it’s definitely worth taking a look at what makes it such a great wine. 

A bit of history

Although people have been making wine in Andalusia for about 3,000 years, it wasn’t until the XIII or XIV Century that they discovered how to make sherry. They basically found out that by adding extra alcohol to the wine, this could last longer. 

In 1587, the famous British pirate Sir Francis Drake looted 2,900 barrels of this precious wine from the city port of Cadiz. He took this unique Spanish wine back to England where it became super popular. 

Elaboration: a brief description

To get sherry, you first need to ferment the must from a variety of grape called Palomino. This produces a dry white wine to which wine alcohol is added until you get 15% or 16% vol. Then you have to transfer the mix to an oak barrel which is filled only to its 2/3. This allows the humid air from the Atlantic to create a thin white coat on the surface of the wine. That is a fungos that protects the wine from oxidation and gives certain aromas. 

However, to allow deeper aromas and flavour to evolve, some varieties of wine are let to stand in contact with the air. Sometimes other varieties of wine are added to make them sweeter.

The typical method to age sherry is piling up barrels in three stories. In this curious method, a wine that sits at the bottom of the pile gets some of the wine sitting on top of it. The one in the middle received a bit of the one on top. This method (here explained very roughly) is called solera. 

Varieties and their characteristics 

  • Fino: Light, golden in colour and dry. 15,5% to 17% vol. Usually taken as an aperitif. 
  • Manzanilla: Light in colour and aroma and very dry. This variety comes from Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
  • Amontillado: It’s much darker and more intense than its siblings. 16% to 18% vol and it could be dry or semidry. In terms of flavour, it’s usually slightly bitter and a bit nutty. 
  • Oloroso: This one is much stronger as its alcoholic vol sits between 18% and 20%. Dark, more bodied and with a strong nutty flavour.
  • Pale Cream: A fino Palomino variety to which concentrated must is added. 
  • Cream: Wine made from Pedro Ximenes grapes is addded to an oloroso variety to give its characteristic sweetness and deep colour.
  • Palo Cortado: Dark and with an alcoholic vol that sits between 18% and 20%.
  • Pedro Ximenes: Sweet and dark with a strong aroma similar to raisins. 

Cooking with sherry

This recipe is a true classic in Spanish cuisine. It’s not difficult to find it on many menus of good restaurants but it’s equally easy to make it at home. 

Kidneys in sherry

Ingredients:

2 beef kidneys 

3 tsp of olive oil

1 small onion (diced)

2 garlic cloves (chopped)

1 small glass of dry sherry

250 ml of stock

Crushed black pepper to taste

A bunch chopped parsley

Cut the kidneys in halves and clean them thoroughly keeping them in salty water for two hours. 

Dry them very well and slice them. 

In a hot pan with olive oil, sauté the diced onion and the garlic. 

Add the kidneys and cook them lightly. It is very important not to overcook them as they will become rubber. 

Add the sherry and the stock, cover the pan and cook for 5min to low fire. 

Season well with salt, pepper and parsley before serving. 

If you don’t like kidneys, you can replace them with clams for example. Try different ingredients and let us know your results!

Where to taste Sherry in Madrid

If you’d like to taste good sherry but haven’t got the chance to visit Andalusia, you can sample some really remarkable ones in Madrid. 

La Venecia

This bar is a classic, not only for its old-fashioned decore but also for its sherry selection.

Taberna Palo Cortado

This tavern serves Andalusian food and of course some good sherry. 

Next time you come to Madrid, join one of our Foodie Walks. You’ll taste some of the most classic products of Spanish cuisine in a traditional market in Madrid.