Copyright 2023 The Secret Sherry Society
Hoog Soeren 126, 7346 AG Hoog Soeren
Most of the members of the Secret Sherry Society are, what you could call, ’empiricism enthusiasts’. Believing in learning by experience.
Unraveling all of Sherry’s secrets is sure to take you more than one lifetime. To satiate your curiosity we’ll let you in on the first seven secrets of this age old treasure.
In the deepest south of Spain, the right terroir is crucial to the growing of grapes. Our beloved Sherry triangle, between Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María is blessed with its unique Albariza soil.
This deep layer of age old seabed is rich in calcium. The loose rock functions as a sponge, absorbing the rains of winter. Preserving it for hydration during the scorching Spanish summers.
The name Sherry is derived from Arabic. As in other places in the south of Spain, you will still find some of their heritage. The distillation of alcohol which they used for their medicine in the case of Sherry making.
With overseas travels taking many weeks, winemakers used alcohol to fortify their wines. Unknowingly (or maybe they did?) opening the doors for the wines to develop their extraordinary soul and spirit.
Laid to rest in their barrels, winemakers discovered a miraculous, natural influence on their wines. Wines fortified up to 15˚ developed a layer of yeast on top, called ‘flor’, shielding the wine from oxidation. Resulting in an exceptional dryness and a particularly fragrant nose. The style is known today as ‘Biological ageing’.
Wines fortified up to 18˚ and over developed an entirely different character. They were too strong to develop flor and so were exposed to oak and the elements from birth. Outspoken, full bodied, bold and complex, this style was to be called ‘Oxidative ageing’.
Having discovered the true souls of their wines, the winemakers, like all good parents, developed a practice to mature and refine their progeny into its full potential. A system called ‘soleras y criaderas’.
Wine is bottled from the oldest row of barrels. About a third is taken out, and refilled by the same amount from the next row of barrels. This process travels all the way up until the last barrels are replenished with this year’s harvest.
The oldest wines are continuously passing on their wisdom and character, while the young wines help retain a youthful spirit. Some criaderas (systems) are well over one hundred years old.
Up until now we have been talking about the first seven types of Sherry. Dry wines made from the Palomino grape, with exceptionally fresh, vibrant and oak aged flavours. The sweeter Sherries that most would be more familiar with come from different grapes. And complete the Sherry spectrum with four dark, full bodied variations.
Made from Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel varieties, the grapes of the sweet Sherries are laid out in the sun for several days after harvest. Concentrating their flavours. After which they are oxidatively aged to produce strong willed, outspoken wines of great character.
Ages went by as the Sherry secrets became known to a select company of lovers, families that had built their lives around these grapes and their curious nectar. Passed down from generation to generation, these people refined their craft.
Now known as bodegas, the houses and their families take care of these ancient treasures just as their ancestors did. To make Sherry is to live it, and to spend your days taking care of her and her many secrets.
No two Sherries are alike, and in that they very much mirror humanity, Sherry’s greatest admirer. Now that you know the first few secrets of the wonderful world of Sherry, it’s time to spread your wings and discover it for yourself.
Where will you begin? And where will your travels take you? We would love to be your guide and humble companion on this road of self discovery. We cannot tell you where you will end up, but we know a very good place to start your journey.
A centuries old secret begging to be discovered.