The famous Sherry wines are produced in the legendary town of Jerez de la Frontera, in the province of Cádiz, Spain. Sherry is imprint left by many cultures on the land of Andalusia. Different civilizations have added their contribution to a product that boasts a very long history. Read more here about wines and gastronomy.
Arab rule started in 711 in Spain, and it lasted more than five centuries in Jerez. During that time, the city remained an important wine production center despite the Koranic laws that prohibited the consumption of alcoholic beverages. However, it is known that in times of religious tolerance wine was widely appreciated and consumed, especially among the elite social circles of the era.
The regional map created by the Arab cartographer Al Idris for King Roger II of Sicily dates from 1150, and it is preserved in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England. In it appears the original name given by the Arabs to the city of Jerez: Sherish.
This document was the key to resolving the first lawsuit from the people of Jerez—in 1967— against what was called British Sherry, a product manufactured in the UK that improperly used one of the names protected by the Denomination of Origin Jerez. The map proved that the word sherry— applied in the English-speaking world to these amber color wines— is a derivation of the old Arabic name for the city of Jerez.
Many historical figures have celebrated the virtues of sherry, from William Shakespeare to Pablo Neruda, Alexander Fleming, Gregorio Marañón, Lord Byron, Washington Irving and Alexander Dumas among others. In the first decades of the 20th century, with the development of communications and transport, sherry continued to spread to international markets thanks to the British, the undisputed architects of the expansion of these singular wines, who exported their fondness for Sherry to the inhabitants of their colonies and the world in general.
In some cases, these changes were propelled by foreign merchants who had settled in the area, such as Juan Haurie Nebout, Juan Domecq and Patricio Murphy, but local families were also involved in the farming and marketing phases, like the Menchaca, Cabeza, Rivero and López Martínez.
There are several types of sherry: Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Medium, Cream, Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez. Distinctively sweet, the way to drink sherry depends on the time of day: before the midday meal, the ideal choices are Fino or Manzanilla, and in cold weather the best is a good Oloroso. The sweeter sherries—like Moscatel or Pedro Ximenez—are excellent to finish a meal or to accompany good blue cheese.
Its color richness, aromatic intensity, excellent taste and the enormous variety are ample reasons to always have sherry at your table. ■