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Posted: Tuesday, 21 December 2021 10:38


Vinexpo India 2021: Sherry – A Road Less Travelled

Dec 21: During the recently concluded wine and spirits show Vinexpo India, organized on 9-11 December, 2021, a set of 14 Masterclasses was organised by the Conference Chairman Subhash Arora. Well attended till the very end, the Masterclass on Sherries as reported by our guest writer, Kunal Kaul CSW, a Delhi-based Sherry Certified educator, was an excellent overview of the road less travelled and was a Grand Finale to the excellent masterclasses

Anyone who has ever been to Spain is familiar with the clout of Sherry, but rare is the soul who can do justice to describing its magic. Recently I had the privilege of presenting a Masterclass at The Vinexpo India Delhi, where I tried to reveal the many moods of this Fortified Wine.

Sherry is a Fortified Wine (addition of distilled spirit to raise the alcohol level, usually to increase the shelf life) The entire tale starts in the "Sherry Triangle'' - namely the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María.

Influence of ‘Terroir’

One of the most southerly wine regions in Europe, the temperature here can often climb up to 40⁰ C. The Vines enjoy roughly 300 days of sunshine with the year's entire rain coming in a very short duration in the winter.

Another distinctive feature of this magnificent land are the soils that the vines thrive in. Albariza, Latin for white, is chalky limestone soil that has the quality to absorb copious amounts of water when it rains in the short season here. Throughout the rest of the months, its rugged exterior develops a kind of crust in the summer heat preventing the evaporation of water.
Talk about the tremendous self-preservation techniques of Mother Nature!

Also Read : VINOBLE: Confusing and Complex World of Sherry

The Genesis

Sherry is identified with the 3 grapes - Palomino, Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel, the former for dry styles and the other two for sweeter styles.

Vino Generosos - Dry (Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso and Palo Cortados)
Vino Generosos de Licor - Blends (Pale, Medium and Cream)
Vino Dulces Naturales - Sweet (PX, Moscatel)

Vino Generosos - Dry Sherries start their journey with Palomino in the vineyard. The first pressing (Primera Yema) produces the best grape juice while the last pressing goes into being distillation for the region's brandy.

The finest and most delicate batch of grape juice would be fortified to about 15% for Biological Ageing, which transpires under the veil of yeast known here as ‘flor’, a layer of indigenous yeast cells that forms on top of each barrel, that grows naturally in the microclimate of this region - protecting the wine from contact with oxygen.

The less elegant batch will be fortified to 17% -18% where flor will not develop and will undergo Oxidative Ageing.

These wines then enter a Solera System, an array of barrels arranged on top of each other - newest on top and the oldest at the bottom. Each layer is called a Criadera. Each year, a proportion of wine from the bottom most Criaderas is extracted and bottled (Saca), and the same amount of new wine is added to the Solera (Rocio), providing it with fresh nutrients in a rolling process of ageing and blending. Some Soleras go back to the late 1800s and are still operational!
Biological Ageing produces Fino and Manzanilla and Oxidative Ageing produces Oloroso.

Sometimes, post the Biological Ageing, the wines can start ageing Oxidatively after the flor consumes all the nutrients in the wine. This can occur either naturally or as a deliberately induced attempt by the winemaker. Amontillados and Palo Cortados are made this way.

Also Read : Vinoble 2010: Vibrant Noble Wine Show

Finos and Manzanillas develop pale to straw yellow colour. Dry with aromas of almonds, dough, chamomile and a slight salinity.

Olorosos being aged oxidatively take up darker amber colour. Olorosos are nutty, with notes of burnt caramel, bruised apple and leather. These are wines with complexity and a long finish.

Vino Dulces Naturales - Naturally Sweet - Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel. The grapes are left out in the blazing summer sun for several days until the grapes lose moisture and sugar levels concentrate (Asoleo)

Fermentation is stopped by addition of alcohol and these wines are aged Oxidatively.
Some of these beverages can be black and sticky sweet, reaching residual sugar levels of 450 grams/litre!  

Vino Generosos de Licor – Blends – These are defined as blends of Dry Sherries and Naturally Sweet Sherries or sometimes with concentrated must – giving us Pale Cream, Medium and Cream Sherry

Food & Wine Pairing

There is a reason why Sherry is termed as the most versatile food-pairing wine. The Finos and Manzanillas pair exquisitely with seafood, nuts, sushi & sashimi.

Oloroso loves red meat and game. Amontillados and Palo Cortados are worthy companions to cheese and walnuts.

Cream sherries are the partners in crime with foie gras, pates and fruit-based desserts.
PX and Moscatel, with chocolate-based dessert, bitter foods and blue cheese.

Just pick a favourite from each category, and you’ll never need to agonize over the wine list every time you’re having friends over for dinner!

In many ways, the Masterclass at Vinexpo India was a much needed and in some ways anticipated session for the discerning Delhi audience.

Also Read : Feature : The Sherry Revival

Vinexpo India will soon come to Mumbai on 10-12 May 2022 and one hopes to do another session with hopefully a diverse array of Sherry wines to taste, though we had managed to serve wine for company during the Masterclass which was attended by a full-house.

Can't wait to see the bright future of this exquisite beverage craft in the days to come!

Kunal Kaul CSW
Founder - Grape Xpectations

Educator, Wine & Spirit Educational Trust (WSET), UK
Certified Specialist of Wine (Society of Wine Educators)
Certified Sake Sommelier and Sake Educator (Sake Sommelier Association)
Certified Sherry Educator (Consejo Regulador De Jerez, Spain)




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