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Sherry – Spanish Sunshine in a Bottle! (part 2 – Vineyards, Grapes & Vintage)


There is in the soil of the 15,000 acres of vineyards of the Jerez country, lime, clay and sand, but in widely varying proportions, mixed quite differently, and ‘peppered’ in an erratic manner with small quantities of various minerals, the importance of which, as regards the quality of the grapes and of the wine made from them, is considerable.

The best Sherries all come from vineyards rich in lime: they are called Albarizas, from albo, white, their soil being chalk white. They are the vineyards upon which the ancient fame of Sherry was built and still stands. Carrascal, Macharnudo, Balbaina and Anina, within a few miles to the north-west and west of Jerez, are the largest and among the best of the Albariza vineyard districts; they are divided among a large number of owners. Nearly two-thirds of all the Sherry-producing vineyards are Albarizas.

The vineyards known as Barros (some 21 per cent. of total), are mostly to the south-east of Jerez; their soil contains a higher proportion of clay: it is richer and darker. Others, called Arenas (17 per cent.), are scattered here and there in what might be called sand pockets; they produce more ‘grapes to the acre, but grapes fit only for making the lighter types of Sherry.


Of the limited number of white grape varieties that flourish in the lime, clay and sandy soils of Jerez vineyards, one is outstanding, the white Palomino, also known as Listan amongst other names. It is grown in all Albariza vineyards, as well as in some others, and it bears large bunches of medium-sized, very sweet, golden grapes.

The Canocazo or Mollar blanco is also a very sweet grape that is cultivated in Albariza vineyards, but it is too shy a bearer to be well loved. The Pedro Ximenez, the sweetest grape of all, is grown to a limited extent only, and in the folds of some Albariza vineyards which hold a small more moisture.
Albillo grapes are mostly grown in Barros vineyards, whilst the Perruno, Mantuos, Beba and the larger type of white Moscatel (gordo) are varieties cultivated chiefly in Arenas vineyards: they yield a greater abundance of grapes, quite sweet to the taste because of their lack of acidity, but most of them are really not so rich in grape-sugar. Thus, whilst the alcoholic strength of a wine made from some of these grapes averages 11 per cent., that which is made from Palomino grapes reaches 12.5 to 14 per cent., and from Pedro Ximenez grapes 15 per cent. of alcohol.


September is the Vintage month when Palomino, Pedro Ximenez and all the finer species of grapes are ripe and must be gathered, whilst coarser grapes are usually picked in October. The pickers do not cut off all bunches indiscriminately, but the fully ripe ones only, going up and down the same rows of vines several times; there is small or no rest for the vintage workers between sunrise and sunset, but there is no sign of any feverish rush among them, nor of un-Spanish haste.

The freshly picked grapes are conveyed in baskets or hampers to large holders set on the back of a patient mule, and when these holders are full, the grapes are delivered to the nearest farm, where they arrive fresh and dusty: the contents of each holder is then spread upon round esparto grass rush mats, and they are left there for twenty-four hours in the open before being brought to the lagar within, and pressed. The Pedro Ximenez grapes, for making sweet wine, are left under the scorching September sun for a fortnight; they are covered at night with esparto grass matting to avoid any condensation of the morning dew upon them.

To get the complete free Ebook about Sherry, go to www.thewinelover.org

Andrew Johnson likes a glass of wine. He also likes to write, so a website about wine seemed to make sense. Visit thewinelover.org thewinelover.org for a thewinelover.org” target= “_blank free wine eBook, more articles, information about wine and a new forum.

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