I cannot express enough how much I enjoy the Pillars of Jerez videos from González Byass! I am very fortunate to have co-host Christopher Canale-Parola living in my city of Portland, Oregon. We continue our chat around the third and fourth pillars; biological and oxidative aging.
Seana – Some say the salinity in Manzanilla and Fino comes from the sea air. Others say it’s the soil, having been under water so many years ago. Is it one or both, or just BS?
Christopher – No, I don’t think it’s BS at all, and very important in fact. You’ve got to remember that when you have a biologically aged sherry, you have this big surface area that’s covered with this living yeast. That yeast is constantly in contact with the oxygen in the air around it, and it will have an impact.
C – The sherry region isn’t the only one that uses flor yeast, but it is one of very few, and it’s the only one that does it exactly in that way. So, for example in Jura in France, there are white wines that are aged under a layer of yeast. So, here and there in the wine world, it does exist, but it’s very difficult to reproduce.
People have taken yeasts to Australia; they’ve taken it to the States, and to South Africa. People have tried to age beer under it in Belgium, but it’s very difficult because you’ve taken a native yeast out of its home environment. It just doesn’t do its thing.
S– So most sherry styles outside of the region are going to be an oxidative style?
C – Predominantly yes, which I think is perhaps the traditional mass-marketed cooking sherry. Everyday I’m still teaching people that sherry isn’t just a cooking wine. That, I think will be mostly oxidized wine that people are reproducing.
S – Putting aside that sherry is protected in the first place, I can’t imagine replicating the process elsewhere.
C – I am aware of a couple of more serious operations that have really tried to make a sherry style wine. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason why you can’t make wines in a similar style that are really good elsewhere, or there’s no reason why you don’t try. It’s just difficult to do.
It’s like the Champagne community perhaps saying you can’t make sparkling wines outside of Champagne. Of course you can, right? With Champagne, it gives us a good feeling and people love drinking it, yet most people have no idea how it’s made. To most people, a sparkling wine from Prosecco is more or less the same as Champagne, except that one’s just more expensive and they should like it more. But ask them about it, and they probably won’t know.
At the moment the sherry world would say you can’t make sherry outside the sherry world. You can’t call it that, and it probably won’t be as good. But that’s no reason why somebody doesn’t give it a go, you know? The wine world is in constant motion. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was something that became more of a thing going forward.
We are incredibly privileged where we are in terms of climate and soil. You just can’t ever think anything will come close in terms of quality. If we could ever get there with sherry, where we don’t have to explain the solera system, fortification, biological aging, oxidative aging, and have them dig it and want it – give it a little sex appeal, you know – that would be wonderful!