Sherry - Spanish Sunshine in a Bottle! (part 3 Terms and Types)
Author: Michael Johnson
L A G A R
The lagar, in which the grapes are trodden and pressed, is a rectangular wooden trough, 12 feet square and about 2 feet deep, with a 6-foot iron screw in the centre; its floor rests upon four legs about 3 feet high: it has a lip, with a funnel attached to it, through which the sweet grape-juice flows straight into tubs and then into casks, where it ferments away from grape stalks and skins.
The lagar is half filled with 60 hampers of grapes, 1,500 lb. in all, which are evenly distributed and sprinkled with 3 to 4 lb. of yeso, or gypsum. Then the pisadores, or treaders, usually four together, enter the lagar, shod with shoes studded with projecting nails. They goose-step solemnly and rhythmically up and down the mass of grapes in the lagar, from midnight to dawn, and when they leave off, the trodden pulp is heaped round the iron screw and held together by an esparto grass broad tape. The lid of the press is then screwed down on this heap, bringing up to 9° per cent. of the total the grape-juice trodden and pressed out of the grapes. The remaining 20 per cent. extracted later by an hydraulic press is, however, of distinctly inferior quality and never mixed with the juice of the first flow.
A few hours after the grapes have been pressed, the casks are taken from the vineyards to the bodegas. There the sweet juice starts fermenting 'furiously', and it soon casts off a scum of 'undesirables' at the bung-hole of the cask in which it is lodged, in the dark and cool Bodegas. Presently the new wine settles down in peace to a slow, steady second fermentation during which the characteristics of its own idiosyncrasies are developed under the screen of thin flor, or yeast. Then it is that the experts taste every cask, containing no longer mosto but vino de anada, and they decide which criadera, or nursery, will be the right one for each wine to go to: that which possesses outstanding distinction is sent to the Palma criadera; that which has more muscle than breed goes to the Palo Cortado and the stoutest of all to the Rayas criaderas. After being racked off their lees and before being sent to their allotted criadera to age, the wines, which are by this time quite dry, ar!
e given a fair taste of brandy, about 4 gallons per butt, and this rules out all possibility of any further fermentation.
ANADAS AND SOLERAS
There was a time when at Jerez, wines from different vineyards and years were kept apart, unblended; they were called Anadas or Vintages. With age the Anadas wines acquired greater body, higher strength, and darker color, making it difficult to build up and keep up constant and ample supplies of Sherry wines of those types and styles for which the demand was greater. Hence the Solera system, introduced long ago and now universally adopted.
The Solera is the Spanish method of equalization and rejuvenation of Sherry wines by the gradual introduction of younger wines to older ones. Butts of Sherry, containing wine of one and the same sort, are stacked in tiers, the younger wine above and the older below. To make up his blends, the Sherry shipper draws as much as he wishes from the butts of the bottom tier; the quantity drawn is replaced by wine from the butts immediately above, these are replenished with wine from the next tier, and so on until the topmost tier, the butts of which are filled up with wine from the right Criaderas, where the young Palma, Palo Cortado, Rayas, and oilier wines are kept during the early years of their development.
FINOS, OLOROSOS, ETC
FINOS are Sherries from Palma Soleras: they are pale, and dry without any trace of bitterness; they possess greater grace than strength, and are best before or between meals.
Amontillados are Finos which have acquired with age a greater alcoholic strength, a deeper amber color and a distinctive Montilla-like character. Best served before or between meals.
Vinos de Pasto vary greatly, but as a rule they are less dry than Finos and lack the somewhat assertive flavor of Amontillados; they may be served as white table wines.
Olorosos, the wines of Palo Cortado Soleras, range from golden to brown in color, and from 18 to 20 per cent. in alcoholic strength, reaching 24 per cent. when very old. They have more body and power than Finos, but less 'breed', and are best with soup or dessert.
Amorosos and Brown Sherries are among the sweeter and darker Olorosos, and are served as dessert wines.
Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel wines are made from varieties of grapes exceedingly rich in grape-sugar; they are more liqueurs than wines.
Vinos de color are made from grape-juice boiled to a thick syrup diluted with ordinary 'must', which ferments with it. Vinos de color are used to color and sweeten the darker and sweeter Sherries.
MANZANILLA, MONTILLA, PAJARETE
Manzanilla is the chief and most typical wine made from the grapes of the Sanlucar vineyards; it possesses a distinctive character unlike that of other Sherries. It is pale in color, dry with a slightly bitter 'finish ', 15.5 per cent. only in alcoholic strength, when young, but it does gather higher strength with years. It is best served cold before or during meals.
Montilla is an unfortified wine which may reach 16 per cent. of alcohol when completely fermented. It is made from the grapes of La Sierra de Montilla and Los Moriles vineyards, in the Province of Cordoba; it possesses great distinction and an attractive flavor of its own. It should be served cold before or between meals.
Pajarete, or Paxarete, from the Pajarete vinyards between Villamartin and Prado del Rey, is a sweet wine that was popular in England in Victorian days. It is shipped now to the U.S.A where it is known as Blending Sherry and used by Whisky Blenders.
The abortive miniature glasses in which Sherry is served in most hotels and restaurants are a disgrace and an insult. Sherry lovers must refuse them and demand wine-glasses for all Sherry wines, preferably narrower at the top so as to concentrate the bouquet of the wine.
This article is the last in the short series from www.thewinelover.org about Sherry. Please join us for more articles and ebooks about different wine topics.
About the author
Michael Johnson loves a glass of wine. He also likes to write, so a website about wine seemed to make sense. Visit www.thewinelover.org for a free wine eBook, more articles, information about wine and a new forum.
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