Pardon the interruption but the spirits blog is being temporarily infiltrated by - gasp - lightly fortified wine! In all seriousness, I would like to take a moment to thank both David Driscoll and and David Othenin-Girard for allowing me to use this forum to talk a little bit about one of my passions: sherry. I can only aspire to reach close to the level of both of my colleague's fine prose and as for pictures, well let's just say that Driscoll has a fancier camera and better photographic eye than I do! At any rate, I hope that you enjoy these sherry posts, and as both a colleague, fellow blogger and reader of this site, I appreciate all the effort that goes into continuing to create new content, as well as the invitation to contribute to the site. In the parlance of our goofy beer commercial, bromance picture and faux reality TV comedy filled times, "I love you guys, man!"
We're going to start off with some definitions useful for understanding sherry. There are many more terms to learn, but I hope to tackle at least a few of them in greater detail during the course of several more posts. I will also profile some of the bodegas whose sherries we stock. If you're more of a pictures type of person, then scroll down to get to some very cool, artfully drawn symbols which were used in a sherry seminar I participated in several months ago.
Capataz - the cellar manager, and most importantly the person who determines a base wine's initial categorization (fino or oloroso)
Crianza biológica - ageing under flor as is practiced for fino and for amontillado
Crianza oxidativa - oxidative ageing as is practiced for amontillado, oloroso, palo cortado and pedro ximenez
Criadera - The "escalas" or stages of a solera system. 1era, 2nda, 3era, etc. The more the number goes up, the further away you are from the actual solera level, or the source of the finished sherry.
Sobretabla - a young, recently fortified wine which is ready to enter into a solera system
Solera - 1.) the system in which a sherry is made; 2.) the entire group of criaderas that produces a particular wine, usually given a name that appears on what is commercially bottled (e.g. Valdespino Fino Inocente); 3.) the last barrel(s) of a group of criaderas, which will be bottled and released to market
Almacenista - Someone who makes sherry, stores/ages it, and sells it on to sherry shippers (whose name is the one that appears on the bottle). Lustau has trademarked the term "almacenista."
Rocio - Transferring of wine to refresh a criadera or the solera itself
Palo cortado - classically defined as a potential fino whose flor dies off prematurely, enabling it to possibly be categorized as "palo cortado" after some oxidative ageing. Many different definitions exist for this style; the explanation you receive really depends upon whom you ask.
Amoroso, generoso, abocado, pata de gallina - all terms referring to a lightly sweetened (through the addition of PX) sherry. Pata de gallina is the least sweet of these (Lustau's Almacenista Pata de Gallina is a good example).
Here are some artfully drawn symbols observed several months ago during a sherry seminar. Check them out and feel free to comment with any questions about these.
- Joe Manekin