Gastronomy - A History of Sherry

Sherry and seafood, a magical combination © Michelle Chaplow
Sherry, seafood and sunshine, a magical combination © Michelle Chaplow

History of Sherry

Jerez lies some nine miles inland from the sea between Cadiz and Sevilla and is the principal of three sherry towns. The others are on the coast are San Lucar de Barrameda at the mouth of the ríver Guadalquivir, and Puerto de Santa Maria. Between them they produce virtually all the genuine sherry that is shipped to the rest of the world.

There is not much difference between the wines of Jerez and Puerto de Santa Maria, except that the latter are noted for their fino and amontillado types of sherry. Sanlucar, however, produces quite different wines: all the manzanilla is made there, wíth its distinctive fresh flavour that cannot be reproduced anywhere else.

Despite such a short distance between them the wine produced will be affected by any slight change in the atmosphere or climate.

History records the earliest fermented fruit as date wine, but mead probably came first, then beer. Grape wine was prepared as early as the prehistoríc Djemdet-Nast period in Mesopotamia and was brought to Egypt before 3000 BC. The Greeks however practised viticulture as an art.

Some say that the Phoenicians introduced the vine to Spain, but it is more probable that Greek settlers brought it with them around 6th or 5th century BC. It is pure speculation, but the name Jerez may also be Greek in origin: they could have imported wines from the Persian city of "Shiraz", so why not name their new town after that city.

When the Romans captured Spain, they found many vineyards and viticulture advanced rapidly. Then the Vandals invaded (calling the south Vandalusia) and in turn the Visigoths. It heralded a time of perpetual war until the Moors swept over the peninsular for some 7 centurias, only to be usurped finally by the Christians. During Moorish domination, Jerez expanded in size and wealth. They called it "Seris", whích was later corrupted to "jerez" by the Spanish and to "sherry" by the Englísh.

By the 16th century, the sherry trade with England had become well establíshed, but it actually originated earlier during Moorish domination (despite the irony that wine was prohibited to the muslims.)

In recent times, new technology has jolted the traditions and whole atmosphere of the sherry towns.  All the major sherry labels of the world are present in some form in Jerez.  Sherry today is both traditional and fashionable. Sherry, seafood and sunshine, a magical combination.

Sherry -  read more about Sherry.

Some say that the Phoenicians introduced the vine to Spain
Some say that the Phoenicians introduced the vine to Spain