How Is Sherry Made?
The Sherry-making process is incredibly complex, but it all starts in the vineyard when the grapes are harvested and taken to the winery where they are crushed and pressed.
The first press, the most delicate and pure grape juice, is sent to make the most delicate Sherry styles, Fino and Manzanilla. The juice extracted from a second press, a more robust and astringent grape juice, is sent to make Oloroso. Then the grape juice is fermented to dryness.
Here’s a twist to the story. The fermented wine is fortified with a clear grape spirit. For Oloroso Sherry, the alcohol content is elevated to between 17 and 22% ABV. For Fino and Manzanilla Sherry, the strength is fortified to between 15-17% ABV because producers what to create the perfect conditions for the development of the veil or ‘flor.’
What is Flor? A type of yeast that grows on Fino and Manzanilla’s surface while they age in barrels. The yeast veil protects the wine from spoilage while allowing it to oxidize in a controlled way. That’s crazy, right?
Then comes the ageing process, and here’s where the famous solera system comes in. If making Sherry wasn’t complicated enough, producers will blend every year’s wine with the wine from previous vintages. They repeat this process, blending younger with older wines until they get a wine that can be a blend of vintages as old as 30 years!
In a nutshell, over-ripe grapes, fortification, oxidation, and solera blending give Sherry its personality. We could go deeper into the elaborate production method, and you totally should if you want to know more about the extraordinary, fortified wine.