The famous Spanish dessert wine was named after the town of Jerez de la Frontera (Jerez on the border) in the province of Cádiz(Andalusia), which is located 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 despite the Islamic ban on alcohol, wine continued to be produced. Caliph Alhaken II decided to clear the vines in 966, but the locals successfully argued that some of the grapes were also made into raisins, on which the Muslims fed during their campaigns. Therefore, only a third of the vines were destroyed. Already in the 12th century, Spanish winegrowers sent sherry to England and received English wool in return. It was at this time that the wine took its name, derived from the Arabic name of the city "Sherish" or "Xeris". At that time it was considered one of the best wines in the world. 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 wine to drink before a battle to get them up. In 1483, the city fathers of Jerez passed the first legal regulation on the production of sherry, which included detailed regulations on the harvest, the composition of the leather wineskins, the ageing process and trade practices.
Due to its shelf life, sherry was excellently suited for longer ship journeys. The Portuguese navigator Ferñao de Magellan (1480-1521), for example, bought 417 tubes and 253 barrels of sherry in 1519 before setting off on his world voyage. In 1587, the English privateer Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596) attacked the Spanish city of Cádiz and robbed 2,900 barrels of sherry, thus allowing London to enjoy this wine. It quickly became very popular and an English fashionable drink. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an absolute sherry fan, he enjoyed a good quantity of sherry every day in his favourite pub "Bear Head Tavern". Time and again this wine was mentioned by name in scenes of his works (Richard III., Heinrich IV. The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV). In this context Shakespeare - and the sherry - was also involved in the naming of the sparkling wine (see there). In the 19th century, Spanish companies settled in Jerez, some of which still exist by name today. All over the world wines were produced 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 vineyard area. Most of the vineyards are located towards the Atlantic Ocean. In the past, vines were planted on all types of soil, today almost exclusively on the bright white chalk soil Albariza (lat. alba = white). This soil is the first secret of success of sherry, along with climate, grape varieties and the long experience of the winegrowers. The vines are planted in rows (liños), which are oriented in a north-south direction. This ensures maximum exposure (sunlight) throughout the day. The most important grape variety for sherry is Listán(Palomino), which is the sherry vine par excellence, with about 90% of the area under cultivation. It contributes to the special character of the wine. There are also small stocks of Muscat d'Alexandrie (mainly in the Chipiona area) and Pedro Ximénez, 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. Harvesting is usually done 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 a Carretada, the necessary quantity of grapes for 500 litres of must. The grapes intended for sweet wines are exposed to the sun during the day to increase their sugar content on mats of esparto grass, which further reduces their already low acidity, and covered at night so that they do not suffer damage in the humid, cool night air. This sun treatment lasts at least 48 hours. In a traditional method, yeso (plaster of Paris) is added to the grapes before pressing. Usually, the decision as to which type of sherry should be made from the material is made during the pressing process. 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 fermentation in new oak casks (Botas or Barricas).
After fermentation is complete, a decision is made as to 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 under Palo Cortado) in four categories according to their value. This coding is slightly different depending on the bodega. A dash (una raya) is given for fine, elegant wines that...