The casual sherry enthusiast will know that the key constituents of sherry are:
- the Palomino grape
- Andalusia's chalky-spongy Albariza soil, and
- flor, a local fungus which feeds on the base wine, drying it out and leaving a distinctive tang.
Add to this the solera method of blending wines both to refresh the flor and achieve consistency, plus the distinction between biological and oxidative aging and you have pretty much all the basics covered.
For more on this, read about The Great Sherry Tasting.
Tim Holt of Barbadillo covered all these topics whilst also giving a deeper dive into his company's terroir, production methods and what distinguishes them from other producers.
Barbadillo are a 7th-generation family company and the world’s leading Manzanilla producer with 500ha of vineyard in Jerez Superior, and 15 Bodegas across Sanlucar de Barrameda collectively containing 30,000 sherry butts.
The company is based around San Lucar, where the Guadalquivir river meets the Atlantic Ocean; its vineyards are located inland where the climate is drier and there are fewer vineyard pests, meaning higher quality fruit.
Another difference is the production method of the base wine: the grapes are pressed whole-bunch with stems included to allow free-run juice to be collected and to oxygenate the must. It is centrifuged for clarity prior to fermentation at a lower temperature with cultivated local yeasts and no added sulphur.
All of this results in a superior base wine with an alcohol level of between 11% and 13%; but this is only the start of the process of creating a Manzanilla.
As Tim explained, flor is very delicate and needs just the right conditions to thrive; specifically cool, damp, fresh air. The flor grows thickest in one particular bodega located at the bend of the Guadalquivir, where the river is narrowest and the breezes blow cool, damp air into windows cut into the side of the bodega facing the sea.
The company has 16 bodegas and each sherry butt is moved to a specific bodega at different points during its aging process.
The design of the bodega is equally important to the development of the flor with a high roof and the barrels stored only three-high as further up the air becomes too warm and dry (pro-tip: finos can be stacked up to five-high as they have less flor influence)