From growing the vines to the fermentation, fortification and ageing processes, sherry’s production process is multi-faceted and complex. Immediately after the wine is finished, it must be properly stored. Look into the proper steps for storing and drinking sherry if you want to properly introduce yourself to this unique fortified wine.
An Overview of the Sherry Ageing Process
Once traditional sherry from the Jerez region of Spain has been properly created and gone through both the fermentation and fortification processes, the resulting product isn’t finished until it has been aged for a certain period of time.
In the case of traditional sherry, the aging process is different from that of other wines. Most wines are aged anaerobically, without the presence of oxygen in sealed vats. This doesn’t always occur with sherry, where aerobic (oxygen-involving) aging is often used.
All sherry wines aside from finos and manzanillas are aged in the presence of oxygen. These latter two types of sherry aren’t aged anaerobically, but instead avoid the intrusion of oxygen through a natural phenomenon. A thin layer of yeast forms over the liquid surface of finos and manzanillas, and absorbs some of the alcohol in addition to naturally sealing the wine and preventing oxidation.
How to Properly Store Sherry
For the aging process to lead to optimal results, all types of sherry must be properly stored in the right vessels. Finos and manzanillas are placed in American oak barrels that are filled almost to the top to allow the presence of air. The layer of yeasts, called “flor,” will prevent the negative consequences of oxidation, while the air allows the flor to remain intact. For other varieties of sherry, such as olorosos, the wine is fortified before it’s placed in the oak cask.
Barrels are stacked according to how long the wine will be aged. Wines stacked in the lower rows are called soleras, and are aged longer than wines in the top rows, referred to as criaderas. The minimum aging period is three years and one day, and high-end sherry may be aged for five to eight years.
Drinking Sherry the Traditional Way
The traditional sherry glass is called a copita, shaped in a narrow, “tulip-glass” style like those used for Belgian beer. If you are ever able to do so, you’ll want to consider drinking sherry fresh out of the barrel. According to the history of sherry, this is accomplished by use of a whalebone-stemmed silver cup called a venecia that can be inserted directly into the barrel, from which sherry flows first into the venecia and is then poured into a copita.