map of sherry triangle

Happy International Sherry Week! This week is the tenth celebration and you can find events near you by checking out the website

As with many of the wine regions in Spain, winemaking dates back to the Phoenicians in 1100 BC. Initially settling in the city of Gadir, now known as Cádiz and migrating inland to Xera which is now known as Jerez. When the Romans conquered the area, they called the city Ceret which morphed into Xeres as the Moors took control. Finally, the English changed the name to Sherry. 


When Christopher Columbus set sail in the ocean blue in 1492, the Age of Exploration began. Many voyages began the ports of Cádiz and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. These ships were stocked with many supplies including wine and it is believed the Columbus carried Sherry with him on his voyage to the New World. 

During the war with France, England was cut off from accessing Bordeaux wines. Additionally, because of the rise of the Ottoman Empire, sweet wines from other countries were also limited. This allowed Sherry to be introduced to the English and it was love at first sip. 

Located in Andalucía, Spain the Sherry Triangle is climatically influenced by the Guadalquivir River, the Cádiz Sierra mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.  The region experiences a Mediterannean climate. The Albariz (sand) and Barros (clay) soils make the region unique. In order for a wine to be labeled as Sherry, it must be produced in the Zona de Produccion, which incorporates 9 towns. Better known as the Sherry Triangle, the region encompasses Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria.

map of sherry triangle
courtesy of

It is a misconception that Sherry must be a sweet wine. There is a variety of sherry styles.  Under the Vinos Generosos (dry) category, Sherry production falls under one of three categories. Biological (Fino and Manzanilla), Biological and Oxidative (Amontillado and Palo Cortado) and Oxidative (Oloroso.) There are also naturally sweet (Vinos Dulces Naturales) sherries. These wines include the Moscatel de Alejandria which has the requirement of a minimum of 85% overripe and/or sundried grapes and Pedro Ximenex (PX) which also has the same minimum requirement but then must be vinified in Montilla-Moriles.  

Blended Sherries (Vinos Generosos de Licor) are sherries that come from the combination of an originally dry wine and a naturally sweet wine or rectified concentrated must. The wines are classified according to their sugar content and the grape variety.

sherry infographic
courtesy of Better Tasting Wine

What makes sherries special is the use of a solera system. This is a complex aging system is made up of a number of casks used to create a fractional blending system.  Barrels within the system are arranged in tiers called criaderas. Each tier contains barrels filled with wine of the same age. When the winery is ready to bottle, a portion of wine is extracted from the first tier or criadera and is replaced with the same amount from the tier above, which is a younger wine. This process, called saca, continues replacing the wine in each lower tier with an equal amount from the tier above. This process allows the wine being bottled to be relatively the same every time. This method allows the wineries to age the wine for an exceptionally long time. It is not unusual for wines to be aged for more than 30 years. 

sherry production
courtesy Wine Scholar Guild

Within the solera system is what determines if a sherry is biological or oxidatively aged.  The barrels are filled approximately 85%. This allows air to enter the system and a layer of yeast to grow. This layer, known as flor, protects the wine from the oxygen by forming a protective layer on the surface of liquid. If the wine remains under the protection of the flor, it is a biological wine, if the flor dies off, the wine is then exposed to oxygen and becomes an oxidative sherry. 

I’m not going to lie. Sherry is a confusing category for me. One that I want to continue to explore. There are so many classifications and styles, that I get a bit lost. If you are interested in learning more about sherry, I recommend following Ruben over at Sherry Notes. He is a sherry stud! In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy some sherry in celebration of Sherry Week. I would love to hear what you are sipping on! 


I invite you to follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook  and Youtube for all things wine. I’ll never tell you what to drink, but I’ll always share what’s in my glass.

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