Home' A Plus Magazine : March 2013 Contents 58 March 2013
Here’s to Jerez
Once limited to vicars and
the elderly, Sherry is trending
upwards, says Aloysius Tse
Sherry is a fortified wine of Spanish
origin that typically has a distinctive
nutty flavour. It takes its name from
Jerez de la Frontera, a town near Cádiz in the
Spanish region of Andalusia. Sherry is an
Anglicization of Jerez, as the wine is known
It is also produced in Portugal, Cyprus,
South Africa, Australia and the United States,
but Spanish producers have attempted to
pressure for the name sherry to be exclusively
used for the fortified wines of Spain. Since
2010, Australian producers of Sherry-style
wines have had to call their product “solera.”
Sherry ’s association with Hong Kong is
due to its long popularity in the United King-
dom, although it began to fall out of fashion in
the 1970s, perhaps because of its perception
as a favoured tipple of vicars, elderly women
The fact that Sherry has often been mar-
keted as a wine to be consumed at Christ-
mas does not help either. However, with
the increased marketing efforts of Sherry
producers, it has regained some of its for-
mer glory. Exports to China (including Hong
Kong) soared from 12,638 litres in 2009 to
59,004 litres last year, Inmaculado Menacho
of the Consejo Regulador de las Denomina-
ciones de Origen Jerez y Manzanilla Sanlúcar
de Barrameda, the Sherry producers’ indus-
try body in Jerez de la Frontera, tells A Plus.
Once found only in Hong Kong’s upmar-
ket hotels, several types of Sherry are now
usually stocked in reputable wine stores and
supermarkets such as Oliver’s. This revival is
also due to recognition that the wine offers
very good value for money as well as being
extremely food friendly. Recent marketing
efforts have turned Sherries into trendy bev-
erages for Hong Kong’s younger generation.
There are three white grape varieties
authorized for the production of Sherry: Palo-
mino, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel. Palomino
is by far the most dominant, accounting for 95
percent of plantings in Jerez. It grows well on
albariza, the calcium-heav y, clay soil around
Jerez, producing a wine low in acidity and
varietal aromas. This makes it ideal because
neutral wine can be easily enhanced by the
Sherry-making style. The other two grape
varieties are used to make sweet Sherries.
A layer of yeast on the top of the develop-
ing wine, known as flor, is essential to the pro-
duction of Sherry. Several different strains
of yeast make up f lor, which requires precise
levels of alcohol, temperature and humidity.
Flor cannot survive in a wine with an alcohol
level above 15.5 percent by volume, and it
thrives in cool to moderate temperatures and
high humidity. Because of the different levels
of temperature and humidity of each bodega,
or wine cellar, the style varies among individ-
ual producers. To keep the flor healthy, casks
are periodically topped up with fresh wine to
maintain the nutrients that the yeasts need to
sur v ive.
Sherry is aged with the solera process – a
type of fractional blending – for a minimum
of three years. Once bottled, Sherries are
stable and will not evolve any new aromas or
flavours. Broadly speaking, Sherry is divided
into the following styles:
• Fino: Crisp and dry; yeasty and tangy.
• Manzanilla: Similar to Fino; lighter and
often with a distinctive salty tang.
• Amontillado: A mber-coloured, nutty and
complex; alcohol at 17.5 percent by volume.
• Palo Cortado: Halfway between a Fino and
an Amontillado; nutty, fresh and complex.
• Oloroso: Brow n, rich and nutty; aromas of
sultanas and raisins.
• Pedro Ximénez: Viscous and sweet; tastes
like Christmas cake.
• Cream: Commercial blend based on Olo-
roso; sweetened by the addition of natu-
rally sweet Sherries.
Prior to the introduction of age indications,
it was very difficult to tell from the label the
age or pedigree of the wine. This problem is
now solved by the introduction of the follow-
ing four official age categories. Only Amontil-
lado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso and Pedro Ximé-
nez can qualify for age-indicated status:
• VORS: Very Old Rare Sherry. Average age
of the blend is at least 30 years.
• VOS: Very Old Sherry. Average age of at
least 20 years.
• 15 years old: Average age of at least 15 years.
• 12 years old: Average age of at least 12 years.
Because Sherries do not benefit from fur-
ther ageing, they may be consumed imme-
diately. Bottles should be stored upright to
minimize the wine’s exposed surface area to
keep out any undesirable oxidation. As with
other wines, Sherry should be stored in a
cool, dark place.
Aloysius Tse is chairman of Bacchus Fine
Wines Group and a pa st president of the Hong
Kong Institute of CPAs.
Grapes used for making into Sherry are harvested at a vineyard near Jerez de la Frontera
in Spain’s Andalusia region.
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