Steve tasting Sherry at Lustau
Steve visited the winery Lustau in Jerez de la Frontera while he was in Spain in September. There are so many fantastic Sherries, the breadth and style is huge.
Steve found it interesting to see the sherry making process, as it was happening. Plus being at the location, in the wonderful old building where you can see the piles of sherry barrels everywhere was amazing. After the tasting at the winery in the town, Steve headed in search of food. Among the beautiful old buildings and a lovely village square,with the 35 degree day, Steve managed to find a cool spot for lunch. He had some tasty some squid and a handsome amber fluid!
Sherry is a fortified wine that ranges in different levels of styles and sweetness. There are three main areas of sherry production; Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa Maria.
The main soil in Jerez is called Albariza which is lime rich soil able to retain moisture. This is very important to keep the vines hydrated over the hot summer months. The soil is a white colour and therefore reflects the sun onto the lower part of the vine. Other soil structures are made up of sand and clay as well as a schisto-calcareous clay.
Here the weather is August is very hot, up to 40 but with cooling breezes from the Atlantic Ocean. The vines are able to survive such hot conditions as in March which is the wettest month of the year. During this wet season, the vineyards are ploughed in such a way that it stops the water rolling down the slopes and instead the water slowly is absorbed into the soil.
Most of the grapes used in making sherry are Palomino Fino but other varieties are used including Palomino, Palomino de Jerez, Pedro Ximénez and for the sweet wine; Moscatel.
How is sherry made? The grapes are picked in September and there follows fermentation in stainless steel vats. Instead of aging in barrels (as with other wines), the wine is added to what is called a solera system where there is a blend of different harvests in the barrels. As the solera system is a form of fractional blending, the final product has a mix of the different aged wines. To make sherry fortified, a spirit is added to increase the alcohol level. During fermentation process, flor develops (usually when the alcohol reaches 15.3%) in the space between the wine and the top of the cask, which not only acts as a cover and protects the wine being exposed to the air but this yeast consumes the sugar in the wine. Characteristics of flor are bread dough/sour cream which you will be able to pick up in the resulting wine; a Fino.
What styles of sherry are there? There are five; Finos, Amontillados, Olorosos, Manzanillas and Palo Cortados.
Fino: This is the driest of all sherries, it is bone dry. Fino is made in towns called El Puerto de Santa Maria and Jerez de la Frontera. It is fortified to 15%. As with the Amontillados, it is important to keep it at 15% to ensure the flor is kept alive and protects the wine from oxidation.
Amontillado: To make an Amontillados, more alcohol is added to the wine after it has been in barrel a few years. As a result, the flor is killed off and as it is no longer acting as a barrier to the oxygen, the wine starts to oxidate and become a darker colour. This is a Fino that has matured and oxidized, the result being richer, rounder and nuttier than a Fino. It is also a more amber colour than the clear/apple colour of a Fino. It is fortified to 17%.
Oloroso: Olorosos in contrast have more spirit added at the start of the winemaking process, making it up to 17% abv. Therefore the flor cannot grown and from the beginning is in contact with the air which then develops the wine further and it has a very dark colour and a richer thickness. It is fortified to 18%.
Manzanilla: This is produced in a different town; Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Here there is more humidity and the result is a thicker flor. We’ve found it actually tastes salty. A sherry can only be called a Manzanilla if it has been matured in Sanlúcar. Steve definitely tasted a saltiness and a lighter structure to the Manzanilla at Lustau.
Palo Cortado: This is a style with some characteristics of an Amontillado and an Oloroso. It is a Fino sherry where the flor is not developing well and so they add spirit to it to increase the alcohol to 2% to the wine, within that year.