Sherry is one of the most diverse varieties of wines and within this one category we find a large number of different styles of wine. First of all, Sherry is fortified wine which can be divided into dry wines (Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso and Palo cortado) and sweeter wines (Medium, Cream, Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez). In order to elaborate these wines, we can follow two different ageing systems; we can either age a wine biologically (to make a Fino or Manzanilla) or oxidatively (Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Medium, Cream and PX). Finally, we have the very unique wine called Amontillado which combines both of these ageing styles. The range of Sherries offer an impressive range of colours, aromas and flavours. Let’s dig deeper into the details behind these wines:
What does it mean that Sherries are “fortified”?
The fortification indicates that the base wine, after fermentation, has been added pure grape spirit to the wine in order to increase the level of alcohol. Historically speaking, this was done in order to stabilise the wine and prepare it for the long travels oversea. Fortification is also one of the main ways we can direct the base wine towards specific Sherry styles.
Is Sherry dry or sweet?
Sherry offers both some of the driest wines in the world as well as some of the sweetest – and in between these two, there is a world of nuances to discover.
Ageing of the wines in the cellars
Characteristic for Sherries is the long ageing in cellars, where the wine ages in American oak casks. The minimum ageing for Sherry is two years, however, most of the Sherries age for much longer. In González Byass, our youngest wine ages for at least 4 years.
Following this, we can describe each of the wines with specific definitions:
FINO: In our case Tío Pepe, a Sherry aged under the layer of yeast called Velo de Flor, aka. ‘flor’, which completely modifies the wine by providing it with an inimitably salinity, complex character and extremely dry expression. The creation of the ‘flor’ is achieved through careful fortification to 15.5% alcohol vol. and the specific microclimate in the cellars of the Jerez region.
MANZANILLA: Very similar to Fino, also ageing under Velo de Flor, but this wine has been ageing in the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
AMONTILLADO: The only Sherry that combines the biological and the oxidative ageing, beginning its life as a Fino or Manzanilla ageing under ‘flor’ and later continues its ageing oxidatively once the yeast has died off.
OLOROSO: A Sherry which only ages oxidatively. In our case, the winemaker avoids the creation of the ‘flor’ by fortifying the wine to 18% alcohol vol., which it too high of level for the yeast to survive.
PALO CORTADO: Probably the most complex wine, due to its wide definition. Said to be a wine that has a similar, elegant nose as an Amontillado but shows the power and persistence on the palate of an Oloroso. Many different interpretations of how this is produced, but it is typically made from the finest and most elegant must and has a long oxidative ageing.
MEDIUM: A group of wines which sugar content is from 5 grams per litre and up to 115 gr/l. In González Byass we create a Medium by blending 87% Palo Cortado and 13% PX in our 8-year-old Cristina and our 30-year-old Apóstoles. As you can imagine, there are many different styles of Medium as the sugar content varies significantly. This is the reason why two sub-groups exist, known as Medium Dry and Medium Sweet.
CREAM: Previously known as “Oloroso Dulce” (Sweet Oloroso), a blend of dry and sweet sherry with a sugar content higher than 115 grams per litre. In González Byass, Solera 1847 represents our young cream Sherry, a blend of 75% Oloroso and 25% Pedro Ximenez, 8 years of ageing, and Matusalem is our 30-year-old VORS Cream. Within the cream style you will also fine Pale Cream, a sweet but pale wine, where Fino is the base wine and then rectified concentrated must is used as sweetener instead of Pedro Ximenez. An example of this style is our Croft Original.
MOSCATEL: A very sweet Sherry made from the Moscatel grape. Has characteristically floral aromas and flavours. The grapes go through the sweet vinification process before ageing.
PEDRO XIMÉNEZ: The sweetest style of Sherry, made from Pedro Ximénez grapes that have gone through the sweet vinification process. Before pressing they are overmatured on the vine and later partially dried in the sun during 10-12 days where a significant amount of water evaporates and the sugar will concentrate.