The famous Spanish dessert wine was named after the city of Jerez de la Frontera (Jerez on the Border) in the province of Cádiz (Andalusia), which lies deep in the south and has been a centre of wine, liqueur and brandy production since the Middle Ages. In 711, Spain came under Arab rule, but wine continued to be produced despite the Islamic ban on alcohol. Caliph Alhaken II decided to grub up the vines in 966, but the locals successfully argued that some of the grapes were also processed into sultanas, which the Muslims fed on during their campaigns. Therefore, only a third of the vines were destroyed. As early as the 12th century, Spanish winegrowers sent sherry to England and received English wool in return. It was at this time that the wine got its name, derived from the Arabic name of the town "Sherish" or "Xeris". It was considered one of the best wines in the world at that time. The conquest by the Castilian king Alfonso X (1221-1284) in 1264 brought Jerez back under Christian rule. The Christians allegedly even gave their horses to drink from the wine before a battle in order to get them revved up. In 1483, the city fathers of Jerez passed the first legal regulation for the production of sherry, which included detailed instructions for harvesting, the condition of the leather wineskins, ageing and trade practices.
Sherry was excellent for long sea voyages due to its durability. The Portuguese navigator Ferñao de Magellan (1480-1521), for example, bought 417 wineskins and 253 casks of sherry in 1519 before setting out on his voyage around the world. In 1587, the English privateer Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596) attacked the Spanish city of Cadiz and stole 2,900 barrels of sherry, thus London came to enjoy this wine. It quickly became immensely popular and an English fashionable drink. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an absolute fan of sherry, drinking a considerable quantity every day in his favourite pub, the Bear Head Tavern. Time and again, this wine was mentioned by name in scenes of his works (Richard III, Henry IV, The Merry Wives of Windsor). The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV). In this context, Shakespeare - and sherry - was also involved in the naming of sparkling wine (see there). In the 19th century, Spanish companies settled in Jerez, some still exist by name today. Wines were produced all over the world under the name Sherry, the brand or name was only protected in the EU in 1996.
The vineyards in the DO area of Jerez with the full name "Jerez/Xérèz/Sherry y Manzanilla de Sanlúcar Barrameda" cover about 10,500 hectares of vineyards. Most of the vineyards face the Atlantic Ocean. In the past, vines were planted on all soil types, but today they are almost exclusively planted on the bright white chalk soil Albariza (lat. alba = white). This soil is the first secret of Sherry's success, along with climate, grape varieties and the winemakers' long experience. The vines are planted in rows (liños) oriented in a north-south direction. This ensures maximum exposure (sunlight) throughout the day. The most important grape variety for sherry is Listán (Palomino), the sherry grape par excellence with about 90% of the cultivation area. It contributes to the special character of the wine. In addition, small stocks of the varieties Muscat d'Alexandrie (especially in the Chipiona area) and Pedro Ximénez are cultivated, which are mainly used to sweeten special sherry varieties.
The sugar and acid content of the grapes is decisive for the start of the harvest. The grapes are usually harvested by hand; the grapes are collected in baskets ("arrobas" of 11.5 kg each) so that they are not damaged. Exactly 62 of the baskets make one carretada, the amount of grapes needed for 500 litres of must. The grapes, intended for sweet wines, are exposed to the sun during the day on mats of esparto grass to increase the sugar content, which lowers the already low acidity even more, and covered at night so that they do not suffer damage in the damp, cool night air. This sun treatment lasts at least 48 hours. In a traditional process, yeso (gypsum) is added to the grapes before they are pressed. Usually, the type of sherry to be produced is decided at the pressing stage. Fermentation usually takes place in steel tanks with a capacity of up to 40,000 litres at temperatures between 22 and 24 °C. Some bodegas use the fermentation method. Some bodegas use fermentation in new oak barrels (botas or barricas).
Once fermentation is complete, it is decided which wine is suitable for which type of sherry. Each barrel is checked and classified by the capataz (cellar master). The barrels are marked with diagonal chalk lines (raya = line or stripe, or palo = stick, see for Palo Cortado) in four categories according to their value. This coding varies slightly from bodega to bodega. One dash (una raya) is given to fine, elegant wines that are...
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Technischer Lehrer, staatl. geprüfter Sommelier, Hotelfachschule Heidelberg