Brandy ageing: which varieties of Sherry wines are necessary?

February, 2021
Sherry wines are one of the most appreciated and recognised wines in Spain due to their uniqueness and special dynamic ageing process in Criaderas and Solera.   Discover in this article the different types of Sherry wines that exist, its characteristics and their role in the Brandy de Jerez production process.

What is Sherry wine?

  Sherry wine is a type of fortified wine with a high alcohol content, around 15% to 20%. They are also characterised by a special production processes, in which extra alcohol is added to achieve a unique result.   Moreover, these wines are different from others because of their place production, the Marco de Jerez, a unique location between the municipalities of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, which, due to the weather and soil, results in unique products. Read the article and learn more about the Marco de Jerez and what makes it so special. 
We can categorise Sherry wine into three groups:   Dry Sherry wines 
  • Manzanilla
  • Fino
  • Amontillado
  • Palo Cortado
  • Oloroso
Sweet Sherry wines
  • Moscatel
  • Pedro Ximénez
Liquor Sherry wines 
  • Medium
  • Cream

Sherry wines ageing process

  Sherry wine ageing is a fundamental part of the process.    In the Marco de Jerez area, we can differenciate two different ageing processes:  
  • Oxidative ageing: It is called oxidative due to  thepermanent contact of the sherry wine with oxygen, giving it complexity, structure and particular aromas. He quitado eso porque me da miedo que parezca estatico, mucho tiempo en 1 bota. 
  • Biological ageing: under the "velo de flor" the wine evolves thanks to the biological veil, full of yeasts, formed on its surface. The “velo de flor” protects the wine from environmental oxidation and promotes significant changes, offering pleasant aromas characteristic of Sherry wines.
Regardless of the type of ageing used, the Sherry wine production process could not be understood without the traditional dynamic system of Criaderas and Solera, typical of the Marco de Jerez that is still used today. This consists on the establishment of several scales of casks (Criaderas) through which the liquid passes until it reaches the lowest part (Solera), from where the final liquid is extracted.  Sherry Casks are one of the cornerstones for the quality and ageing of brandy de Jerez.  As we have mentioned, the casks have contained the best sherry wines, acquiring their best nuances thanks to their porosity, and transmitting them to the brandy during its ageing. The result will be a liquid with unique organoleptic characteristics.
According to the Consejo Regulador of the Denomination of Origin Jerez, ageing period for Sherry wines should be at least two years, although this is usually longer so that each type of wine acquires the appropriate characteristics.  

Types of sherry wines used for Brandy ageing

  Sherry wines are highly appreciated all over the world for the distillates' ageing, since, as we have explained in another article about brandy ageing in Sherry Casks, each type of wine gives different organoleptic characteristics to the liquid contained in the cask.   Sherry wines used for Sherry Casks seasoning are:  
  • Fino: made from Palomino grapes and aged through biological crianza. Their aroma has a very characteristic almond hint, result of the yeasts generated in the "velo de flor". Characterised by a very dry, low-acid taste, their alcohol content is usually around 15% ABV. 
  • Amontillado: it is also produced with Palomino grapes, but its ageing has two stages, a biological and a oxidative one, which develops its organoleptic characteristics. This wine has a golden to mahogany colour, with hazelnut notes on the nose and a structured and alcoholic taste, with spicy notes of wood. Its alcohol content is usually between 17% and 20% ABV. 
  • Oloroso: made from Palomino grapes, its oxidative ageing results in an intense amber wine, which will gradually darken. On the nose, predominate aromas of dried fruits, spices and leather, whilst on the palate, it is powerful and textured, with a high alcohol content (between 18 and 20% ABV).
  • Pedro Ximénez: obtained from Pedro Ximénez sun-dried grapes, a process that concentrates the fruit sugars in the juice. They are very sweet wines, with a dark colour and a dense texture that grips the glass. It has mellow aromas of raisined fruit.
As you can see, there is a wide variety of Sherry wines, bringing different nuances to the brandies because of their unique characteristics. Find out in this article how Sherry wines can affect brandy ageing.     Visit our website to learn more about brandy.
Sources used and linked to in this article   Sherry Wines. Sherry Wines. Available at: Access on 25 January of 2022.    Sherry Wines. Ageing. Available at: Access on 25 January of 2022.    Sherry Wines. Types of Sherry wines. Available at: Access on 25 January of 2022.