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Cream Sherry

Cream Sherry is a luscious, sweet style of Sherry that has captured the palates of dessert wine lovers around the world. It hails from the Sherry Triangle in the Andalusia region of southwestern Spain, an area famed for its fortified wine production. This particular type of Sherry is a blend traditionally made from Oloroso, which is naturally dry and nutty, sweetened with the addition of Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel wines, which bring a syrupy richness to the blend.

History

The history of Sherry is a long and storied one, dating back to at least the times of the Phoenicians around 1100 BC. However, Cream Sherry, as we know it, is a relatively modern creation. It was developed in the 19th century, primarily for the British market, where sweeter wines were in demand. The term "cream" was purportedly coined by the Sherry house Harvey's in 1882 when they blended their Bristol Milk Sherry to a richer consistency and dubbed the result "Harvey's Bristol Cream," a brand still popular today.

Production and Terroir

The making of Cream Sherry is grounded in the solera system, a complex, traditional process of fractional blending that ensures consistency and continuity of style over time. The Solera system works through a series of casks, with the youngest wines in the top tier and the oldest in the bottom. Over time, wine is drawn from the oldest casks for bottling, and those casks are then replenished with younger wine from the tier above. This method allows for a continuous blend of vintages, with some soleras dating back over a century.

Cream Sherry is fortified with grape spirit, which raises the alcohol content to between 15.5% and 22%. The higher alcohol level stops fermentation early, retaining the natural grape sugars that give Cream Sherry its sweet profile. The fortification also acts as a preservative, allowing Cream Sherry to last longer than most table wines, both in the bottle and after opening.

The terroir of the Sherry Triangle, which is marked by the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María, is characterised by a unique white, albariza soil. This soil type is excellent at retaining moisture, a crucial trait in the hot and dry climate of southern Spain. The prevailing winds from the Atlantic also play a role, cooling the vineyards and bringing moisture to the vines.

Tasting Profile

Cream Sherry exhibits a range of flavours and aromas, with common notes including caramel, dried fruits, nuts, and spices. The base Oloroso brings characteristics like walnut, coffee, and dark chocolate, while the sweetening wines add layers of figs, raisins, and molasses. The texture is velvety and smooth, with a balanced acidity that prevents it from being cloyingly sweet.

Food Pairings

The richness of Cream Sherry makes it a versatile companion to food. It is traditionally served as a dessert wine but can also be enjoyed with a cheese course or as an aperitif. It pairs exceptionally well with blue cheese, chocolate desserts, and nuts, but it can also complement savoury dishes like rich pâtés or spiced meat dishes.

Serving and Storing

Cream Sherry should be served slightly chilled, at around 55-60°F (13-16°C). Once opened, it can remain fresh for several weeks if stored properly in a cool, dark place with a wine stopper to seal the bottle. The longevity of Cream Sherry once opened is due to its fortification, which makes it more resistant to oxidation than many other wines.

Cultural Significance

In Spain, Sherry wines are often consumed in social settings, particularly in the traditional tapas bars of Andalusia. Cream Sherry, however, has found its niche largely outside of Spain, with significant popularity in international markets. Its sweet profile and rich texture have made it a festive favourite, often associated with the holiday season.

The Modern Cream Sherry

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in all styles of Sherry, driven by a greater consumer interest in artisanal and authentic beverages. Cream Sherry, too, has benefited from this renaissance. Contemporary producers are putting their spin on the classic, seeking to appeal to a new generation of drinkers with bottles that emphasise the quality and complexity of the wine.

Some producers are creating "En Rama" versions of Cream Sherry, a style that is bottled with minimal filtration to preserve the full body and richness of the wine. There are also boutique Sherry houses that focus on small-batch production, offering Cream Sherries with unique profiles that challenge the traditional notions of the style.

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