For many people, sherry is a sticky and unappealing liquid that sits in a decanter toward the back of their bar, which is brought out occasionally for the benefit of elderly relatives. But there is so much more to sherry than that. Personally, I think that it is a wonderful drink and severely underrated.
“Sherry” is a blanket term that covers a multitude of varieties. All sherries are produced in an officially designated area that includes the towns of Jerez (“sherry” is thought to be an English bastardization of “Jerez”), El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Its cornerstone is most often a white wine grape, Palomino, which is best grown in a chalky, limestone-rich soil called albariza.
How Sherry Is Made
After the juice from the grapes is fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine is transferred to barrels and fortified with neutral grain spirits. Space is left at the top of the barrels to allow a layer of yeast called flor to develop on top. This protects the wine from further oxidation. The flor also imparts aromas of nuts and salt to the wine. Almost all sherries are nonvintage, as they are blends of older and newer wines.