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Port & Sherry
Port & Sherry
Noun: a strong, sweet wine made in Portugal
Port is most commonly enjoyed as a dessert wine because it is rich & sweet. There are several styles of Port, including red, white, rosé & an aged style called Tawny Port. The grapes used to produce Port are grown in the upper Douro Valley in northeastern Portugal, one of the world’s most beautiful wine regions. It was the first wine region to be demarcated & regulated by law in 1756, making Port the oldest controlled denomination of origin. The upper Douro Valley lies about 100 kilometres inland from the coast & is protected from the influence of the Atlantic winds by a range of mountains called the Marão. Consequently, it is cold in winter & scorching & dry in Summer. Because the region is mountainous, most vineyards are planted on terraces, many supported by ancient dry stone walls. As elsewhere in Portugal, a vineyard estate is known as a ‘Quinta’.
Noun: a type of strong wine from southern Spain that is a pale yellow or brown colour, sometimes drunk before a meal
To be official Sherry, it must be made in the southern regions of Spain, although some sherry-type wines are made in other locations. This is a wine with a long history & a legacy that includes being fortified to withstand voyages at sea. As the soil in the sherry region is chalk/limestone based, this provides the perfect conditions for growing the Palomino grape, Pedro Ximénez & Moscatel, the three grapes used for making sherry wine. The thing which makes Sherry so unique is the ageing barrel called a Solera. These are not like normal barrels that are filled & emptied after a certain number of years. Instead, a Solera is filled & left to age. As the barrels age, the oldest ones are partially drained & bottled, with new wine being added to the aged wine & left again to age further. This method is repeated until the barrels are retired. Since the Solera barrels are constantly in use, the wine that comes from them is well-aged & full of complex flavours & aromas. While Sherry wine is ageing, a layer of yeast called Flor forms on the top & prevents oxidization. This adds a unique tanginess to the wine & keeps out some of the earthier flavours of contact with oxygen during ageing. Sherry is fortified with a spirit; usually, a neutral Brandy or something similar, to give it a higher alcohol content & more intense flavours.