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The Beverage Alcohol Report
Vol 2.75 – July/August 2005, Liana Bennett

Olé to Sherry—Spain’s Drink
In celebration of the Fiesta of San Fermin or better known as The Running of the Bulls, which takes place annually from July 6th to July 6th to July 14th, let’s fill our glasses and toast with Spain’s national drink.  Sherry is a fortified wine made in the Jerez region in Spain.  The wine is made from the grape varieties Palomino, Pedro Ximénez and Muscat with grape brandy added.  After the wine is made and fortified with the brandy, it is aged in 550-liter used-oak casks.  There the wine goes through the Solera ageing process (see below).  Fino style sherries grow a layer of yeast called a flor on top of the wine.  The type of flor that develops determines the sweetness and exact style of fino sherry produced.  Olorosso sherries are fortified to such a strong alcohol content that the flor cannot grow. 

Sherries are not ageing wines.  Once bottled and sold, sherries are at their peak within a year.  After a bottle is opened, it only holds its quality for about 6 weeks.  However, if you are like me and enjoy sherry, that shouldn’t be a problem. Store an opened bottled in the fridge to keep it from going bad too quickly. 

The best use for sherry is to serve it as an aperitif with appetizers, particularly tapas (Spanish appetizers).  However, don’t discount it with soups, white meats, blue cheeses or desserts like pecan pie.  

Solera System
The Solera System contains rows of barrels stacked in a pyramid fashion that hold the sherry for ageing and creates a system for blending.  The new wine is put into the top barrels.  Every six months, or other timed cycle, wine is moved from top barrels to the next level down. Only half of the very bottom barrels are bottled and sold. This means that every bottle has potentially the same quantities of young and old wine. Solera system wines have no vintage date, as they are true blends.

Types of Sherries
Sherries fall into two main categories: Fino and Oloroso. 

Fino  -  Fino sherries develop a flor on top.  They are vinified dry, are pale golden in color and have overtones of almonds in the taste.  These should be served well chilled and drunk within one year of bottling and soon after opening. 
Amontillado  - These wines are old Fino sherries.  They are amber in color with a hazelnut flavor.  Amontillados come in either dry or slightly sweet and are light and smooth on the palate.  They should be served cool, not chilled.  Dry Sack in an Amontillado sherry.

Oloroso - Oloroso sherries are stronger in alcohol than finos and do not develop the flor.  They are deep orange- red, mahogany hue as during fermentation the barrels are exposed to air that oxides the wine.  Nuts and grapes dominate the bouquet of an oloroso.  Most Olorosos are sweetened before bottling with Pedro Ximénez, or are used as the base wine in the even sweeter Cream sherries. These wines compliment desserts, nuts or fresh fruit and should be served at room temperature or on ice.
Cream - A sweet, mahogany-colored wine, made from Oloroso. It has an intense aroma, velvety palate, full body and full of sweetness. Think Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

Grilled Shrimp Recipe
2 lbs. jumbo shrimps
1 large clove garlic, crushed
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
Mix oil, garlic, salt and lemon juice in a bowl. Add in shrimp and marinade about 2 hrs in fridge. Thread onto skewers and grill. While grilling, baste with butter mixture for more flavor if desired or use as dipping sauce.
Butter mixture - 1/2 cup melted butter, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 crushed clove of garlic and salt

Land of Plenty
The Wappo Indians should have named the region, “Little Place, Great Wine” instead of “Land of Plenty” or Napa. Neither its size, about 1/8 of the size of Bordeaux, nor its production, a little over four percent of California’s total wines, has stopped Napa Valley from growing into one of the most talked about and high class wine regions of the world.

Napa Valley’s climate is suited for grapes. The maritime weather gives cool nights and warm days, which are combined with fertile soils to create prime conditions for grape growing. Added to that years of inventors and wine industry leaders and you have one incredible wine region. Napa is full of microclimates that help to produce specific varieties with distinct style and character.
The showcase red wines are made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah. Gamay and Pinot Noir are also produced. The whites that dominate the market from Napa Valley include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. A fair amount of Sparkling
wine is also made in the area.

Napa Valley is itself an appellation and within the area exists 14 subappellations, including: Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley District,

Diamond Mountain District, Howell Mountain, Los Carneros,

Mt. Veeder, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Spring Mountain District, Stags Leap District, Yountville, Wild Horse Valley and Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. The Calistoga appellation is still pending approval.

The first established commercial winery opened in 1861 by Charles Krug (sparkling wine fame) and by 1889 there were more than 140 wineries, including Beringer and Ingelnook. It didn’t take long before phylloxera took hold and literally ate up the vineyards. After replanting, Prohibition hit in 1920. After 1933, Napa Valley took hold and began to collectively grow grapes and make wine sharing best practices among vintners.

Today there is over 260 wineries in the region. Napa is home to names like Beaulieu Vineyard, Caymus Vineyards, Frog’s Leap Winery, Grgich Hills Cellar and Robert Mondavi Winery.

For more information about Napa Valley visit

Summertime Drinks
Nothing says summer like premium malt beverages (PMB).  These are great alternatives to those who don’t like beer but want something refreshing to drink by the BBQ.  PMBs use malt as their base and are brewed like beer.  They have natural and artificial flavorings added to give the desired taste.  Although some have spirit-company names, they are made by a brewery. For these products to be sold under the beer-regulations, the US Government does not allow spirits to be added to PMBs.  However, other countries, like Canada, can add in a little kick.

Smirnoff Ice - No vodka but still refreshing and very citrusy.

Bacardi Silver Low Carb Black Cherry  - This is the lowest carb product out there.  Great taste of cherries and hints of vanilla.
Bacardi Silver makes Citrus, Raspberry, Lemon and Orange versions (but only BC is Low Carb).

Tequiza- A mixture of lager beer and blue agave nectar.  Hmmm - beer and tequila!  Yummy with lime!

Zima - The original PMB.  Not the greatest product, tastes a little soapy to me.

Doc’s Hard Lemonade - Good lemonade flavors. 

Tear of Christ
Like many other things in life, there are wines whose names are connected with a legend.  Since drinking wine is such an experience anyway, those with a story behind it become much more intriguing and often times, better tasting.  One such wine is the Italian, Lachryma Christi or Tear of Christ.  This wine is made by several producers in the Campania region of Italy, which is also the home of Mount Vesuvius.  Lachryma Christi wines are made into white, red and rose styles, but I recommend sticking with the red.

The red style is made from Piedirosso (red feet).  The wine is made into a deep ruby hue with cherries and blackberries.  It is soft and round like a Burgundy red.  The whites are made from Coda di Volpe.  These develop into straw yellow, dry and citrusy.  Both have a tinge of flint and mineral reminiscent of the ashed soil they are grown in.

There are several tales told about the origins of Lachryma Christi.  A simple story is that when Jesus ascended into heaven, He looked down and saw the Bay of Naples and wept with joy.  Other tales tell of Lucifer falling from Heaven and crashing into earth or catching a piece of land.  Either way, he created the Bay of Naples.  When Jesus saw what had happened, He cried and His tears formed the first vines, which grew to plentiful vineyards.

The Beverage Alcohol Report (The BAR) is published on a monthly basis compliments of Liana Bennett.  It main purpose is to further the knowledge, appreciation and general enjoyment of all alcoholic beverages.  Your comments, questions and tasting stories can be sent to [email protected] .  Please feel free to share this e-newsletter with your friends or forward their email address to Liana to be added to the list. Thank you and of course, I hope you have enjoyed The BAR and have learned something new! 


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