Foods and Wines

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Andalucía

The ancient lands of southwestern Spain have been planted to vineyards for nearly 3,000 years.

To most visitors, the Sherry wine–producing parts of Andalucía appear as more moonscape than landscape, but the mountains carry other possibilities. With abrupt shifts in elevation, fascinating dessert wines have been produced within areas in Montilla-Moriles and Málaga.
And Andalucía’s most famous wine area, Jerez (Sherry), receives more rainfall than most other parts of southern Spain. That rain is captured by the special limestone–rich soils of the area; they’re called albariza soils, and they bake in the summer sun into a hard crust, trapping cool moisture for the vines’ needs.

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Condado de Huelva

Another area looking for a spot of sun in the shade of Jerez, the DO offers dry white wines, fortified wines, and aged, rancio–styled wines from a variety of white grapes, though the vast majority of the plantings are of the Zalema grape. There are more than 4,000  hectares of grapes, so while the shipping of wines from Condado to Jerez is less frequent than in years past, all that wine is going somewhere.

For further information, visit DO Condado de Huelva. (Only available in Spanish)

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Jerez-Manzanilla

Jerez-Xérès-Sherry and Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda, both situated in the province of Cadiz, are separate DOs that share the same vineyards and Regulatory Council (Consejo Regulador), established in 1933. They also share similar traditional methods of winemaking based on the Solera and Criaderas system, a method of aging form dynamic blending of different vintages from old to new which allows young wines to take on the characteristics of older ones.

Xérès has exported wines since at least Roman times, and today its wines account for the greatest volume of any Spanish DO exports. They are sold in more than fifty countries. The enormous international commercial success of these wines is, to a large degree, due to the long export tradition of great wineries, the broad consumer range and the wine’s exceptional quality, which has its source in the unique winemaking and ageing processes.

Xérès DO, established in 1933, was one of the first DOs in Spain. The past few years have witnessed a widening range of wines available on the market and, thanks to the meticulous work of the winemakers and the initiatives undertaken by the Regulatory Council, a small amount of DO wines which are subjected to a prolonged ageing process and sold with the certification of Vino de Xérès Con Vejez Calificada (Rare Old Sherries) on the back label. This certification from the Regulatory Council is granted to Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado and Pedro Ximenez wines aged more than twenty and thirty years.

Sherry’s multiplicity is a bewildering obstacle for too many people. It’s actually simple: Sherry is fortified wine. It’s fortified after the fermentation so, unlike Port, all Sherry begins its life as a dry wine. Sherry is initially classified as one of two wines: fino or olosoro. A fino is intended to be a light, crisp, delicate wine; surprisingly, it’s also a wine that carries an alcohol content of more than 15%. Yet the great finos are indeed delicate. They are aged in barrel underneath a yeast film called a flor (or “flower,” though it looks more like pond scum), and the flor protects the wine from oxygen, adding flavors and aromas as well.

The other great category of Sherry is Oloroso. These are usually made sweet, although a handful of them are left dry. The term oloroso can be loosely translated into something aromatic (the term olor means smell in English ) and the long barrel aging required for great Oloroso certainly gives it aromas, which can smell of toffee, walnuts, prunes, cherries, orange rind, spices, chocolate… Olorosos might appear as Cream Sherry, Pale Cream Sherry, or under a host of proprietary, sweet-sounding names. As noted above, all Sherries begin life as a dry wine; most Olorosos are sweet. They are sweetened by the addition of grape must, grape paste, cooked grape paste—all sorts of products made from the vineyards, the winery…

The Palomino grapes can be used for these purposes, but the grapes Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel traditionally have been grown for the purpose of providing sweetening materials, whether in their natural state or as sun–dried raisins.

For further information, visit DO Jerez-Manzanilla.

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Málaga

This is another region of fortified wines, reflecting both the British affection and busy commerce for these wines (they called it simply “Mountain Wine”) and the production process that allows wines in a hot climate to retain some of their fruit character, at least in a pre-refrigeration era. Málaga’s 1,200 hectares of vines hide in the mountains and plateaux along the coast and high above it (sometimes higher than 900 meters), on limestone soils with slate protrusions.

The Phoencians started it all around 1100 BC. What they planted is a mystery, but Moscatel de Alejandría has been here for as long as anyone knows. Pedro Ximénez showed up perhaps four centuries ago, and sun–drying grapes became the norm at some point as well. Like Jerez, this region is too humid for ideal sun–drying, so just like Jerez, Málaga is allowed to buy dried grapes from the far less humid DO of Montilla Moriles.

For further information, visit DO Málaga Website. (Only available in Spanish)

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Montilla-Moriles

Although long eclipsed by its rival, Sherry, Montilla-Moriles still produces fortified wines, however, it has learned to focus upon other styles: light, dry, or solera wines. The region’s wines, as in Málaga, may predate Sherry, as does their fame.

Though the area enjoys some of Jerez’s albariza soils, Palomino isn’t grown here; it’s Pedro Ximénez (PX) and a few others that show up in guises from dry to sweet, sun–dried and sweet, and extravagantly aged.

For further information, visit DO Montilla-Moriles Website. (Only available in Spanish)

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Sierras de Málaga

A new DO of around 500 hectares that legislates for a fresher, more modern style of Málaga. Instead of Málaga’s required minimum of 15% alcohol (and a lofty maximum of 22%) , Sierras de Málaga white wines only need a minimum of 10% alcohol (and no more than 15%); the roses have a minimum of 11% and the reds a minimum of 12% and a maximum of 15%.

For further information, visit DO Sierras de Málaga Website. (Only available in Spanish)

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