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White Grape

28 Jun 2024

The GlenAllachie’s Guide to Sherry

Sherry is a largely misunderstood category of wine. It’s often believed that all Sherries are a sickly sweet and dark tipple; we’re at hand to set the record straight.

Brush up on your knowledge and have your eyes opened to all that Sherry has to offer with this easy-to-understand guide.

What is Sherry?

Sherry is a type of fortified wine made in southern Spain’s Andalucia region. Sherry is made with white grapes, most commonly the Palomino or Pedro Ximénez varieties.

The ‘Sherry Triangle’ sits within the border lines of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María. The region boasts its own DO (Denominación de Origen) which regulates the grapes and ageing process.

To create fortified wine, a neutral spirit is added during the vinification process which boosts its ultimate ABV to a much higher level than standard wines. In the case of Sherry, the strength typically sits at between 15% and 22% ABV.

What are the Sherry styles?

Fino

Known for its pale appearance and delicate flavour profile, Fino is the driest style of Sherry. It must be biologically aged for at least two years under a ‘flor’: a naturally occurring yeast layer that prevents oxidation.

Manzanilla

Exclusively produced in the Spanish coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Manzanilla is similar to Fino but with a more salty, maritime profile. It is subjected to biological ageing under a ‘flor’ yeast layer which prevents oxidation.

Amontillado

Beginning its life as a Fino, Amontillado is a medium-dry Sherry which undergoes biological ageing followed by an additional maturation period without a ‘flor’. This stage of oxidative ageing develops a richer colour and more robust characteristics.

Palo Cortado

Typically combining the dryness of Fino with the nuttiness of Oloroso, the Palo Cortado style occurs when the ‘flor’ yeast layer naturally dies on wine which was originally destined to be a Fino. It is by far the rarest Sherry style on the market.

Oloroso

Subjected to extensive oxidative ageing without a ‘flor’ yeast layer, Oloroso, which roughly translates to ‘fragrant’, is the darkest dry Sherry style renowned for its pronounced nutty, dried fruit qualities.

Pedro Ximénez

Made with very ripe white grapes of the same name that were air-dried to concentrate the sugars and lower the water content, Pedro Ximénez is a dark, sweet style aged in casks for many years in a solera system, developing a thick consistency.

How is Sherry aged?

Biological

Ageing under a yeast layer called a ‘flor’ to prevent oxidation. The ‘flor’ creates an anaerobic environment, which causes the wine’s glycerol levels to drop. This subsequently leads to a dry wine with a largely savoury profile.

Oxidative

Ageing without a ‘flor’ yeast layer allows the wine to experience extended contact with air, in turn, developing a deeper colour and richer flavour. That said, it does not always result in a sweet Sherry.

Solera System

To create a solera, casks are stacked in a triangular structure with the oldest wines at the base and the youngest at the top. Every so often, wine is removed from the lower casks and replaced with newer wine from the upper casks. This process is called fractional blending, and it ensures greater consistency with multiple vintages present in every cask.

What are the key differences between each style?

What is The GlenAllachie Sherry Series?

The Sherry Series is a set of six single malt Scotch whiskies intended to demonstrate the interesting distinctions between each of the Sherry cask styles, beyond the typical Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez which are widely used in Scotch whisky maturation. Each bottled at nine years old, the whisky underwent the same initial ageing period in former Bourbon barrels before entering the various Sherry cask types for the same length of secondary maturation.

“We’re exploring the influence of different Sherry cask types with whisky of exactly the same age and cask history. The lengthy secondary ageing period brings the incredible nuances and variations delivered by the Sherry maturations to the forefront. With the Sherry Series, we’re trying to achieve something special that would create intrigue and provoke discussion.” – Billy Walker, Master Distiller

The second instalment of single malts joining The Sherry Series will be released in the coming months.