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Along with classic sherries the Jerez Region producers make a good quantity of wines outside the framework specified by the Regulatory Council which are notably different from the market mainstream. As a matter of fact, the appearance of such products is an integral part of the work of a normal winery. Because winemakers need to experiment, collect rare and successful releases, make jubilee or personalized sherries, and so on and so forth. Sometimes such “nonstandard” wines are not intended to be put on the market originally, but then suddenly (or “suddenly”) appear there. Sometimes special are purposely created as a rarity and a collectable piece. In short, one way or another, sherry specialties become limited but available and thus require at least some systematization.
Especially because the most prominent and perhaps the most prestigious part of sherry specialties is certifies by the Regulatory Council. This part is constitute by old sherries. So, let us start with them.
V.O.S. è V.O.R.S. Sherries
In 2000 the Regulatory Council created a special category of sherries certified by their age. It includes two subcategories: V.O.R.S. è V.O.S.
V.O.R.S. — Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum (“wine marked as the best and rare”) or Very Old Rare Sherry — are sherries with average age of more than thirty years. V.O.S. — Vinum Optimum Signatum (“wine marked as the best”) or Very Old Sherry — are sherries with average age of more than twenty years. As of May 2013 all sherries having certifications VORS and VOS were older than the certification system itself.
It is impossible to tell the exact age of a sherry aged according to the dynamic scheme, therefore the Regulatory Council determines the average age of a batch of wine planned to be bottled. When a bodega has applied for the certification of its wine (indicating the type of wine it plans to bottle, as well as its volume), an inspector from the Regulatory Council takes some samples of the sherry and the whole batch is sealed up until the samples are inspected.
The wine is studied simultaneously by independent tasters and in the laboratory. The tasters assess organoleptic characteristics of the wine and the laboratory — its age. If the sherry is found worthy of the certification, its volume allowed for bottling limited by quota according to the standard rules for sherry. As for V.O.S. sherry, a bodega must have 20 times as much of it in stock as is planned for bottling. For V.O.R.S. — 30 times more. Each new batch of sherry applying for V.O.R.S. or V.O.S. is certified separately.
V.O.R.S. and V.O.S. certificates can be given only to the following sherry types: Amontillado, Oloroso (sweet or dry), Palo Cortado, and Pedro Ximénez. Since Amontillado, Oloroso, and Palo Cortado become oversaturated with age, a small volume (not affecting the character of the wine) of Pedro Ximénez may be added to them to soften the taste.
Sherries with Age Indication
For those sherries whose average age is less than 20 years but is still superior to the minimal ageing period required by the Regulatory Council, there are two more “age” categories of Vinos de Jerez con Indication de Edad (“sherries with age indication”) — 12 and 15 years. The procedure for obtaining these certificates differs from the V.O.R.S. and V.O.S. certification by the fact that after the sample have been inspected they are stored by the Regulating Council as a reference, then the whole solera receives the right to indicate the age and every new batch of the drink is simply compared with this reference samples. And, naturally, the bodega must have accordingly 12 and 15 times more of the certified sherry in store than it is going to bottle. The right to indicate the age may receive only Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, and Padro Ximenez as well as in case of V.O.S. and V.O.R.S. sherries.
Biologically aged sherries can also be old. When flor expires in them due to its age and the lack of nutrients, it saturates the wine with different nice components especially intensively, and such sherry is bottled and sold. Such Fino, for example, used to be called Fino Amontillado, and such Manzanilla is still called Manzanilla Pasada. As a rule, they are a bit darker than original sherries, and they have a deeper and better-developed taste.
Vintage sherries can be produced only by way of static ageing, in the Añada system — which, naturally, limits the number of sherry types suitable for this. Vintage sherries are almost exclusively Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso. Mostly they have the word Añada on their labels and a vintage year.
En Rama Sherries
En Rama (“raw”) is a biologically aged dry sherry which does not fully undergo the traditional filtering and clarification procedures done after the wine is taken from the solera and before bottling. Such sherry is a natural part of the processing chain — but it is rarely turned into the marketable product. Fino and Manzanilla En Rama have wonderful taste and magic texture, they come out racier, but they may “live” shorter time, only several months. Or rather, their lifespan depend completely on the filtration degree. Almost all En Rama sherries present in the market are filtered not much coarser than ordinary ones and can be stored alright for some time.
Despite the fact that some wineries bottle their non-filtered sherries for quite a time (Bodegas Barbadillo, for example, has been releasing their Manzanilla en Rama once a season for more than ten years), only recently it has become possible to speak about the formation of a more or less developed market of non-filtered sherries.
These sherries remain a domestic product for quick consumption — their episodic appearances outside the Jerez Region can be neglected. But for a travelling sherry hunter unfiltered sherries are the most enjoyable trophy.
Almacenista are small wine enterprises engaged in sherry ageing, but not putting it on the market. Almacenistas age sherry and then sell it by barrels to other wineries, which can use it as they will: continue its ageing, use it in their blended sherries production, or simply bottle and sell it a specialty drink. Such specialties are released in limited number of bottles (e.g. a couple of thousands) and taking into account their double selection, sherries come out very interesting.
Strictly speaking, most sherries entering the market in such a complicated way, differ from traditional Fino, Oloroso and other sherries only in smaller releases, higher quality, apparent handiwork features and high collectible value.
Besides the abovementioned sherries the Jerez Region produces also other specialties whose idea is clear.
Single Vineyard sherries are made exclusively from grapes collected on one single pago (vineyard).
Single Cask sherries are bottled from a barrel withdrawn from a solera — mostly due to its exclusive quality. A standard release of such sherries — 600 bottles.
Various kinds of commemorative sherries are often aged in barrels which are of the same age as their bodega or may have witnessed some important events.
In short, sherry makers have a lot of ways and reasons to produce sherry specialties. And this is wonderful.
Specialties reviewed on the website (in Russian only):
— Lustau Añada 1997 Rich Oloroso
— Lustau V.O.R.S. Palo Cortado
— Lustau Amontillado Bodega Vieja
— Lustau East India Solera
— Barbadillo Manzanilla en Rama Saco de Verano 2010
— Barbadillo Manzanilla Solear en Rama Saca de Verano 2011
— Barbadillo Palo Cortado V.O.R.S.
— González Byass Matusalem
— González Byass Noé
— González Byass Del Duque
— González Byass Apóstoles
— Williams & Humbert Jalifa Amontillado 30 Años
— Manzanilla Pasada Pastrana
— Amontillado Viejo Pastrana
— Taberna la Manzanilla Amontillado Viejo
— Harveys Gran Solera
— Lustau Single Cask Pilar Aranda Dry Oloroso
— Lustau Single Cask Amontillado El Carro
— Barbadillo Manzanilla Solear en Rama Saca de Verano 2013
— González Byass Palo Cortado Añada 1982
— Equipo Navazos La Bota de Amontillado «Bota NO» (nº 31)
— Amontillado Tradición V.O.R.S.
— Pino Viejo Manzanilla En Rama
— Alexander Jules Fino 22/85
— Alexander Jules Manzanilla 17/71
— Fino Tradición Mayo 2013
— Fortnum & Mason Cream Sherry VOS
— Palo Cortado Tradición V.O.R.S.
— González Byass Una Palma 2014
— González Byass Dos Palmas 2014
— Amontillado Viejísimo Tradición
— Equipo Navazos “I Think” Manzanilla En Rama Saca de Abril de 2016
Read next — Brandy de Jerez.
This site can contain information about drinks excessive consumption of which may cause harm to health and is unadvisable for people who didn’t come of age.
- Sherry.wine, FEDEJEREZ
- Copa Jerez, Sherry Week
- Sherry Notes, Jerez de Cine
- Los Generosos, Criadera
- Los Vinos de Jerez
- There are more articles in Russian than in English in this website. Sorry :(
- To our great regret, we didn’t have time to translate tasting and traveling notes into English. But, if you want, you can see them in Russian.