September 27, 2016
The Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen Street West, Toronto
Walk-around: 6:30-9:00 p.m
Ticket price: $ 75 per person
Do you know what Shakespeare, Allan Poe and Benito Perez Galdós have in common? Do you know what a venenciador is? Have you ever tried a sherry wine?
First of all: These three writers you might have had to read in literature class, have more things in common I guess, but as we are talking about Foods and Wines From Spain, we turn to them because they all wrote about one of our more iconic wines… Sherry!
Secondly. The venenciador is the professional who pours the wine from the venencia into a catavino. The venencia is a special cup traditionally made of silver and fastened to a long whale whisker handle. Here you have a picture which will confirm or rule out what you were picturing in your minds:
And last but not least… what is Sherry? Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown in the Sherry triangle, an area in the south of Spain in province of Cádiz between Sanlúcar de Barrameda, El Puerto de Santa María and Jerez de la Frontera.
We call it ‘Sherry’ in English as an angliziation of the Spanish word ‘Jerez’. It has a protected designation of origin status, and it was in fact, the first designation of origin recognized under Spanish law in 1933.
Sherry wines offer a wide range of types. The variety is traditionally an identifying characteristic of these wines. The different decisions made by the winemaker during this traditional process results in three different types of Sherry wines, all coming from white grapes. These decisions vary from the conditions of the harvest, the origin and type of the grape, the pressure applied at the time of obtaining the juice to the kind of batches of base wine. Finally, the taster has to sample each batch.
In order to present the three big groups of Sherry wines, we will explain the main factors which apply to this diversity: the vinification and the ageing.
The process of vinification
The way in which the grapes are transformed into “must” or young wine, also known as vinification, is one of the key elements of the diversity of Sherry wines. Another key element is the fact that there are three kind of grapes used which are all white grapes: Palomino, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel.
The vast majority of grapes used for the production of Sherry wine, undergo vinification procedures which involve complete fermentation and result in dry wines. Dry wines are those which have practically no significant quantities of residual sugar (not transformed into alcohol). Dry wines are called “Generosos” and these are divided into five types:
- Palo Cortado
The vinification process undergone by the Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grapes varieties has its own characteristics. In this case the goal is to create a wine containing the maximum amount of sugar possible and these grape varieties haven been chosen precisely for that reason. The fermentation process in this case is much slower, due to extremely high concentration of sugars. These are the Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel wines, named ‘Naturally Sweet Sherry Wines’.
It is, therefore, the type of fermentation which results in different type of Sherry wines: fermentation complete, which makes it possible to obtain totally dry wines (“generoso” wines), or partial fermentation, resulting in extremely sweet ones (Naturally sweet sherry wines).
The blending of these two different types of wine will in turn produce wines with different levels of sweetness (the “generosos” liqueur wines), which are:
- Pale Cream
There are two types of crianza in the Jerez region:
When it consists of storing and developing wine in wooden butts, influenced by surrounding conditions, it’s known as envejecimiento (maturing) or oxidative ageing. The wines subjected to this process acquire darker tones.
When the process takes place under a film of yeast know as velo de flor, it is called biological ageing.
It is the decision of the bodeguero to fortify the wine with wine-distillate to bring its alcoholic content up to either 15% volume or to over 17%, which will determine whether the film of yeast resting upon the surface will survive or not, and consequently determine the type of ageing the wine will undergo and the organoleptic characteristics it will acquire with the passage of time. This way there will be different types of ‘generosos’.
But, what is it with with Sherry? Why is it now the subject of conversations?
This wine took over the world until the end of the XX. Century but then seemed to lose popularity.
Now, a new generation that unites tradition with modern is taking back this treasure born in the south of Spain. Today Sherry is being enjoyed from London to New York. In fact at Bar de Ollaría, Tokyo, you can find now the widest range of sherries in the world.
After decades of declining sales, Sherry wines seem to be resurrected thanks to big wineries, enologists, small producers, chefs and wine lovers. Even though the market exports fell in 2015 by 2.1% Sherry, the appreciation of the soils and the old vineyards has lead to this new interest in Sherry. So much so that every high-end restaurant has a Sherries on their wine lists and Sherry bars are opening in places like London, New York and Tokyo.
The countries with import the most Sherry are the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany, USA, Belgium, France, Canada, Sweden and Japan. Even in the Spanish market, where the sales were falling in 2014,they increased in 2015 especially the cream style, the dry and the Pedro Ximenez. “ Now the supply and demand have reached a balance. People are recognizing Sherry again as a wine and not justas a sweet drink for grannies.” Says Eduardo Ojeda, enologist at Grupo Estévez”, a Sherry wine producer Bodega.
Meanwhile, in a corner of the Barrio Bajo of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, “la Taberna der Guerrita” is fully crowded midday on a Saturday. The place gets its name by his founder Manuel Guerra, Guerrita, and has been around since 1978. On the tables you find salted tuna “Mojama de Barbate”, chicharrones, Iberian ham, beers and glasses of wines with the slogan of the tavern ‘Escondida desde 1978’ (Hidden since 1978, in Spanish).
Armando Guerra was working in a marketing company in Madrid some years ago. Now he is the Director of the premium wines of the Barbadillo wineries, and he has been one of the principal contributors to the rebirth of Sherry wines. He has been asked many times, why he would be working for a wine which has limited sales. But what the others don’t know is that some Sherries are now selling for 75% more than they did six years ago.
The tastings that Armando Guerra organizes each summer include worldwide experts and are one of the best examples of the renewed interest in the wines coming from the triangle formed by Sanlúcar, El Puerto de Santa María and Jerez de la Frontera., in Cadiz.
Interested on #Sherrywines? Then DON´T MISS our Sherry Wines event! By your tickets here.
Banco, P. (2016). Jerez, la resurrección del vino. El País Semanal. 04 de abril de 2016.