AskDefine | Define sherry

Dictionary Definition

sherry n : dry to sweet amber wine from the Jerez region of southern Spain or similar wines produced elsewhere; usually drunk as an aperitif

User Contributed Dictionary

see Sherry




sherry (uncountable and countable; plural sherries)
  1. A fortified wine produced in Jerez de la Frontera in Spain, or a similar wine produced elsewhere.
  2. A variety of sherry.
  3. A glass of sherry.
    Would you like a sherry?


fortified wine
  • Croatian: šeri
  • French: xérès, jerez
  • Italian: sherry
  • Spanish: jerez
variety of sherry
  • Croatian: šeri
  • French: xérès, jerez
  • Italian: sherry
  • Spanish: jerez
glass of sherry
  • French: xérès, verre de xérès, verre de jerez
  • Italian: bicchiere di sherry
  • Spanish: vaso de jerez

See also



sherry (plural: sherry)
  1. (singular) sherry
  2. (plural) sherries

Extensive Definition

Sherry is a fortified wine, made in and around the town of Jerez, Spain. Hence in Spanish it is called "Vino de Jerez;" in fact, the word "sherry" is an Anglicized version of "Jerez." According to Spanish law, Sherry must come from the small triangular area of the province of Cádiz between Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. In earlier times Sherry was known as sack (a rendering of the Spanish saca, meaning a removal from the solera), or more fully as Sherris sack.
Sherry differs from other wines because of how it is treated after fermentation. After fermentation is complete, it is fortified with brandy. Because the fortification takes place after fermentation, all natural sherries are dry; any sweetness is applied later. In contrast, port wine is fortified halfway through fermentation, stopping fermentation so not all the sugars are allowed to turn into alcohol and so leaving a sweet wine.


Jerez has been a center of viniculture since wine-making was introduced to Spain by the Phoenicians in 1100 BC. The practice was carried on by the Romans when they took control of Iberia around 200 BC. The Moors conquered the region in 711 AD and introduced distillation, which led to the development of brandy and fortified wine.
During the Moorish period the town was called Sherish (a transliteration of the Arabic شريش), from which both Sherry and Jerez are derived. According to some people, however, the city of Shiraz in midsouthern Iran was the birthplace of "sherry" style wine.
Though the drinking of alcohol is prohibited in the Qur'an, wine production continued through five centuries of Islamic rule. In 966 the Caliph of Cordoba Al-Hakam II ordered the destruction of the vineyards, but the inhabitants of Jerez appealed on the grounds that the vineyards also produced raisins to feed the empire's soldiers, and the Caliph spared two-thirds of the vineyards.
In 1264 Alfonso X of Castile took the city and it was renamed Xeres (over time the spelling was adjusted to Xerez, and finally Jerez). From this point on, the production of Sherry and its export throughout Europe increased significantly. By the end of the 16th century, Sherry had a reputation in Europe as the world's finest wine.
As a fortified wine, Sherry is better equipped than most table wines to survive sea transport. Christopher Columbus brought Sherry on his voyage to the New World and as Ferdinand Magellan prepared to sail around the world in 1519, he spent more on Sherry than on weapons.
Sherry wine became very popular in Great Britain, especially after Francis Drake sacked Cadiz in 1587. At that time Cadiz was one of the most important Spanish sea ports, and Spain was preparing an armada there to invade England. Among the spoils Drake brought back after destroying the fleet were 2,900 barrels of Sherry that had been on shore waiting to be loaded aboard Spanish ships.
Because Sherry was a major wine export to the United Kingdom, many English companies and styles developed. Many of the Jerez cellars were founded by British families.
In 1894, the vineyards in the Jerez region were destroyed by phylloxera. Many vineyards replanted with resistant vines, but many smaller vineyards did not survive this infestation.
As regards availability, once you are further than 20 miles from the Jerez region, it is very difficult to get anything other than the most ordinary main-brand types of sherry.


  • Fino ('fine' in Spanish) is the driest and palest of the traditional varieties of Sherry.
  • Manzanilla is a variety of fino Sherry made around the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
  • Amontillado is a variety of Sherry that has been aged first under a cap of flor yeast, and then is exposed to oxygen, which produces a result darker than fino but lighter than oloroso.
  • Oloroso ('scented' in Spanish) is a variety of Sherry aged oxidatively for a longer time than a fino or amontillado, producing a darker and richer wine.
  • Palo Cortado is a rare variety of Sherry that is initially aged under flor like an amontillado, but develops a character similar to oloroso, with some of the richness of oloroso and some of the crispness of amontillado.
  • Sweet Sherry (Jerez Dulce in Spanish) is created when one of the preceding varieties of dry Sherry is sweetened with Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel wine. Cream sherry is a common variety of sweet sherry made from oloroso, with other varieties including pale cream sherry (made from fino) and medium sherry (made from amontillado).

The "Sherry" brand

Spanish producers have registered the names Jerez / Xérès / Sherry and will prosecute producers of similar fortified wines from other places using the same name. In 1933, Article 34 of the Spanish Estatuto del Vino (Wine Law) established the boundaries of Sherry production as the first Spanish wine denominación. Today, Sherry's legal status is further recognized by wider EU legislation. Sherry must come from the triangular area of the province of Cádiz between Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. However the name 'Sherry' is used as a semi-generic in the United States where it must be labeled with a region of origin such as American Sherry or California Sherry.



The Jerez district has a predictable climate, with approximately 70 days of rainfall and almost 300 days of sun per year. The rain mostly falls between the months of October and May, averaging 600 l/m². The summer is dry and hot, with temperatures as high as 40°C (104°F), but winds from the ocean bring moisture to the vineyards in the early morning and the clays in the soil retain water below the surface. The average temperature across the year is approximately 18°C (64°F).


There are three types of soil in the Jerez district for growing the grapes for sherry:
  • Albariza: the lightest soil, almost white, and best for growing Palomino grapes. It is approximately 40-50% chalk, the rest being a blend of limestone, clay and sand. Albariza preserves moisture well during the hot summer months.
  • Barros: a dark brown soil, 10% chalk with a high clay content.
  • Arenas: a yellowish soil, also 10% chalk but with a high sand content.
The albariza soil is the best for growing the Palomino grape, and by law 40% of the grapes making up a sherry must come from albariza soil. The barros and arenas soil are mostly used for Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grapes.
The benefits of the albariza soil is that it can reflect sunlight back up to the vine, aiding it in photosynthesis. The nature of the soil is very absorbent and compact so that it can retain and maximize the use of the little rainfall that the Jerez region receives.
Sherry is traditionally drunk from a copita, a special sherry glass that is tulip shaped. Once opened, sherry will begin to lose its flavor and should be kept corked and refrigerated. Depending on the type, it may last from one week up to a few months after opening.


External links

sherry in Danish: Sherry
sherry in German: Sherry
sherry in Spanish: Jerez
sherry in Esperanto: Ŝereo
sherry in French: Xérès (vin)
sherry in Indonesian: Sherry
sherry in Italian: Sherry
sherry in Hebrew: שרי (יין מחוזק)
sherry in Luxembourgish: Sherry
sherry in Lithuanian: Cheresas
sherry in Dutch: Sherry
sherry in Japanese: シェリー (ワイン)
sherry in Norwegian: Sherry
sherry in Polish: Sherry
sherry in Portuguese: Xerez
sherry in Russian: Херес
sherry in Finnish: Sherry
sherry in Swedish: Sherry
sherry in Ukrainian: Херес (вино)
sherry in Chinese: 雪利酒
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