Õåðåñ, Jerez, Xérès, Sherry wine

Sherry wine types

Brandy de Jerez

Olga Nikandrova and Denis Shumakov.

Brandy de Jerez (Sherry Brandy) is a strong alcoholic drink (36°—45°) produced by means of ageing grape distillate in barrels in the Ageing and Maturing Zone of the Jerez Region (Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María, Sanlúcar de Barrameda). Brandy de Jerez is a product with protected designation of origin. All issues connected with its production and marketing are regulated by the respective regulatory council — Consejo Regulador del Brandy de Jerez.

Museum Distillation Apparatus
Bodegas González Byass — Tio Pepe

Brandy de Jerez has a number of characteristic features: strict association with the territory and raw material, clearly defined ageing system, specified characteristics of distillates and alcohol composition which they determine. But the main and most interesting peculiarity of Brandy de Jerez is the fact that it is aged in barrels seasoned with different sherries. Original variety of sherries determines the variety of sherry brandies. Brandy de Jerez which was aged in barrels previously used for Fino or Manazanilla is light and elegant. Brandy de Jerez aged in barrels from Pedro Ximénez will is so bright, rich and textured that purely physiological difficulties may arise during its consumption (delicious, but one simply can’t drink much of it).

Mostly distilled wine of Airen grape variety is used for sherry brandy production. This wine is made in La Mancha Region of Spain. Very rarely distilled wine of the Jerez Region is used for this — in this case it is wine of Palomino grape or (negligibly rare) Pedro Ximénez grapes.

Two methods of distillation are involved. Simpler distillate is made in continuous distillation columns. It is strong (70°—94,8°), cheap, dull and is called simply “distillate” (Destilado).

Museum Distillation Apparatus
Bodegas Terry

Distillate of higher quality are obtained in the alambiqué type distillation apparatus. They bear the beautiful name of Alquitara and use holm oak for heating. Due to relatively high alcoholic strength of the wine intended for distillation (9°—13°) one distilling cycle is enough to obtain distillate product suitable for ageing. The product turns out not too strong (up to 70°), very fragrant, and is called Holandas.

Brandy de Jerez is classified in terms of the length of ageing and content of volatile substances, and these two factors have equal value — it’s impossible to upgrade the drink only by lengthening its ageing. Since the content of volatile substances depend on the quality of distillate, the classification in fact directly regulates alcoholic composition of the drink. There are three types of sherry brandy.

1. Brandy de Jerez Solera is to be aged in barrels for minimum six months (in fact — about a year), the content of volatile substances should exceed 2 grams per liter, it is very often composed of equal parts of Holandas and simple distillate.

Brandy de Jerez of different age
Bodegas González Byass — Tio Pepe

2. Brandy de Jerez Solera Reserva must be aged in barrels for more than a year (about two years on average), the content of volatile substances should exceed 2,5 grams per liter, usually it is composed of three quarters of Holandas and a quarter of simple distillate.

3. Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva is to be aged in barrels for more than three years (about eight years on average), the content of volatile substances should be no less than 3 grams per liter, and it is made of Holandas only.

As a rule, Brandy de Jerez is aged using the Criaderas and Solera system. As is the case with oxidative ageing of sherries, dynamic ageing accelerates brandy’s maturation, ensures uniform blending of old and new alcohol and allows to constantly bottle the drink of steady quality. Static ageing of sherry brandy is also possible, but it is rarely used. Brandy is aged in American or French (much more rare) oak barrels of 500-600 (mostly) up to 1000 (rarely) liters, where prior to that sherry was kept for at least three years.

During ageing, as it always happens, Brandy de Jerez looses alcohol degrees. So with lengthy ageing brandy’s alcoholic strength may naturally fall down to the standard 36°—45°. In other cases to obtain marketable alcoholic strength the drink is diluted with distilled. Sometimes sherry brandy may be sweetened with Pedro Ximénez, other additives (orange, caramel) may also be used, however nothing is added into the best drinks.

Single barrel sherry brandy
Fernando de Castilla Artesanos

Most often, sherry brandy is aged in Oloroso seasoned barrels — they allow to get a smooth and well-balanced drink. However there is pretty much of sherry brandy matured in barrels seasoned in other sherry types. Some producers even make assorted lines of brandies of the same grade but matured in barrels seasoned in different types of sherry — a comparative tasting of such drinks may be a real pleasure.

Brandy de Jerez can be enjoyed in any distillate type of glasses

In Russia Brandy de Jerez is underestimated in its quality and overestimated in the price. This lethal combination of inadequate evaluations resulted in the fact that only the simplest and cheapest variants of sherry brandy with solely alcohol functionality are more or less visible in our market. Sherry brandy as a product with rich and diverse characteristics of taste and aroma is practically unknown in Russia. In 2006 or somewhen close to it, the Spaniards attempted to specially promote sherry brandy in the Russian market, but without notable success — so Brandy de Jerez is still a surprise drink for most hard liquor connoisseurs in our country.

Brandies reviewed on the website (in Russian only):
Brandy Solera Gran Reserva Señor Lustau
Fernando de Castilla Brandy Artesanal Amontillado
Ùèò è Ìå÷ Îòå÷åñòâà Êîëëåêöèîííûé
Hidalgo 200
Fernando de Castilla Brandy Artesanal Oloroso
Fernando de Castilla Brandy Artesanal Oloroso Viejo
Fernando de Castilla Artesanos Blend
Lepanto PX
Gran Garvey Solera Reserva
Conde de Osborne Solera Grand Reserva
Alma de Magno Solera Gran Reserva
Magno Solera Reserva
Pedro Domecq Fundador Exclusivo
Cardenal Mendoza Clásico
Dios Baco Solera Gran Reserva

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