Oh Sherry, baby

Far too many people don't like Sherry or even don't know about it. This is shocking to me as it is easily one of the most complex region of wines in the world with one of the most meticulous winemaking practices to still be in live practice. Even just an 'everyday' Sherry will take at least 4 years from vineyard to bottle! Now let's just break this down for a second to give you an idea on how long that really is.

Case Example: A winery in, let's say, Marlborough will produce two wines; a Pinot Noir and a 'Reserve' Pinot Noir. Note the term 'Reserve' (this is not a legal winemaking term and is something that marketing folk will use enabling the winery to charge more, as well as having no direct correlation to quality level).

The first Pinot Noir will be harvested in March-April to be bottled and started to be drunk by about October (just in time for summer drinking). This is a VERY quick turn around; literally from the fermenting tank straight in to bottle. I would guess that these wines would hit the shelf earlier if they had sold the previous vintage's stock sooner. Straight away we see that the first Pinot Noir is grown, made, bottled and ready to drink well within a year!

The next Pinot Noir, however, is a reserve so won't be bottled for a little bit longer. Most 'Reserve' wines will spend between two or three years on them before hitting the shelves. This means that a 2016 bottle you can expect to be seeing the shelves in 2018 or 2019. Think about it this way, though: picked in April 2016 and then placed in oak for ageing in about September. From here it will spend roughly 12-18 months in oak at which point it will be ready to filtered and bottled. This means that somewhere between Sept 2017 and April 2018 it will be bottled, most likely hitting the shelves in July 2018-early 2019. Let us assume that it spends 24 months (two whole years in the 'Reserve' process) so it doesn't hit the shelves until mid 2019 - almost exactly 3 years post harvest in 2016. 

You can now see that the general Pinot Noir and a Reserve Pinot Noir will both be hitting the shelves and started to be drunk a full year before a Sherry sees a bottle!

It should shock you even further when I tell you that the top end Sherry wines will spend up to 40++ years crafted into sheer elegance. The beauty of the Solera system (learn more about the Sherry making process here!) is that even a wine that has been sitting in oak for over 10/20/30/40 years still has an element of freshness to it. 

I simply implore you to drink yourself happy whilst exploring the fantastical realm of Sherry. They start off Dry with bright Fino and Amontillado Sherries, then move to slightly sweeter delights with Medium-/Cream Sherries, then finally moving to the sweet heavenly delights made from Pedro Ximenez (PX) or Moscatel (Muscat) grapes. A fine Sherry is so incredibly complex and is a style of wine that you NEED to try before you die. My liver can't handle all of the world's Sherry output - so help me out if nothing else!

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