Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Five More Things I Learned About Sherry

"If penicillin cures illnesses, sherry revives the dead."
--Alexander Fleming

There are plenty of fascinating items to learn about sherry. I recently posted an article, Ten Things I Learned About Sherry, but while pondering my recent trip to the sherry region, I realized there is even more that I learned and wanted to share. So, here is a supplement to my original post, adding five more intriguing items about the realm of sherry. Though as I mentioned before, sherry is a wine, some of these new items will show how sherry is also unique in its own way.

1) Sherry is a product of many generations.
Wine usually is the product of a single wine maker. Even non-vintage wines, which may combine wines from a few different years, are still usually the work of a single wine maker. But, as sherry is an aged wine, from three to seventy+ years, it is more often a product of generations. Different generations may have to work the solera system, emptying and refilling the barrels a few times each year. The sherry cannot just sit in a single barrel for 20 or 30 years. All of the work is not necessary for a normal wine, which often can just sit. Thus, with sherry, there seem to be few, if any, famous wine makers but rather instead the winery itself garners the reputation based on the quality of their sherries.

2) Sherry needs quick harvesting.
When harvest times arrives, it is essential that the Palomino grapes be collected very quickly to prevent oxidation, which is a danger as soon as the grapes are harvested. This danger has led to a growth of machine harvesting, which can accomplish the procedure much more rapidly, lessening the effect of oxidation. Though other wineries may have issue with machine harvesting, as it is thought to be rough on the grapes, sherry bodegas don't have that same worry. Oxidation is a far greater concern than worrying about bruised fruit. Some bodegas don't even engage in presorting, just accepting all of the grapes that were harvested. Speed is essential.

3) Sherry bodegas need cooperage departments.
Numerous wineries purchase barrels from various coopers, but they rarely seem to have their own coopers on staff. Plus, if one of their barrels, which may be new or only a few years old, is damaged, it is often fairly easy to get it repaired. But for sherry bodegas, most have their own cooperage department as their barrels are so essential to their business. The sherry barrels are regularly and constantly examined for any problems. Plus, it is more difficult to repair their barrels, which may be over 100, or even over 200 years old. They must then locate old barrels or staves which can be used for repairs, and that is not as easy as finding a new barrel. Barrels are the lifeblood of the bodegas, so they need a "doctor" at ready.

4) Sherry should be chilled.
Though ultimately it is a matter of preference, the recommedation is that you drink your sherry, especially fino and manzanilla, slightly chilled. This should best showcase the tastes of the sherry, and it is my preference as well. Keeping your sherry, especially after it has been opened, in the refrigerator is also a good idea. Once opened, fino and manzanilla should last at least a week in the refrigerator, though one winery owner claimed manzanilla can last indefinitely in the refrigerator. Once opened, an amontillado can last 2-3 weeks and an oloroso for 4-6 weeks, in the refrigerator.

5) Sherry is excellent for cockatils.
In the Boston area, it seems that sherry is most popular currently for use in cocktails. All types of sherry, from fino to oloroso, can be used in cocktails and can add some delicious flavors and aromas. Check restaurants like Toro and Eastern Standard for some sherry cocktails (and one of my future projects will be to compile a list of some of the best sherry cocktails in the area). While in Jerez, I had some rebujito, basically just Sprite and fino, which I found quite refreshing and easy-drinking. Online, you can find some alternative recipes for rebujito. Many classic cocktails can be modified with sherry, from the Jerezini to the Jerezhattan. Experiment with sherry, and see what types of cocktails you can create.

Please, give Sherry a chance!

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