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Making Triple Cream Sherry

Submitted: Caid Brewers Guild Interkingdom Brewing Contest, GWW XIX (10/8/16)
By: Timotheus Zacharia von Schloss Zwilling

(This doucmentation received 15 point out of 15)


Ingredients

    Muscatel grape juice
    Mission grape juice
    Water - distilled
    Malic acid
    Cote des Blancs yeast
    Tartaric acid
    Tornado sugar and corn syrup
    Cardinal Mendoza Brandy


Log Notes

Sherry #1 (2013)

June 20, 2013

I used a mix of 85% Mission grape juice and 15% Muscatel grape juice (both from the 2013 harvest), for a total of about 2 1/2 gallons of juice.

I tasted the mix and then added 1/2 teaspoon of malic acid, and 1/4 gallon of distilled water.

My hydrometer reading was 1103 giving me a 13.7 % potential. I decided that this was good for the first try.

I put 4 ounces aside to add in later to keep it from being too dry.

I added Cote des Blancs yeast and let it start working.

July & August 2013

I let it ferment for close to 5 weeks before it stopped. The hydrometer reading was 1023 giving me an alcohol level of about 11%.

I let it rest for 1 week and, since it was fairly clear, I racked it.

I then put it in the sun for exactly 3 minutes. The sun adds a little chemical change that helps broaden the flavor profile - too much time in the sun, will sour the drink.

I let it rest inside for a week, and then opened it up to the air for 22 hours. Air causes oxidation, giving it a darker color and causing a slight burnt and raison flavors.

At this time I added the 4 ounces of juice that I’d held back and resealed the carboy.

June 19, 2014

I let it age in the carboy until June 19, then I bottled 5 bottles. I let it bottle age until October for a total of 1 year and 3 months of aging.

The rest of the Sherry was left in the carboy for future blending with the next two batches.

The completed Sherry was a little watery. It had the correct flavor, but was very mild with no depth. This told me that I was on the right track.

Sherry #2 (2014)

June 19, 2014

I made this the same way as the first Sherry but with some variations based on my findings from the results of the first batch.

I used a mix of 80% Mission grape juice and 20% Muscatel grape juice (both from the 2014 harvest), for a total of about 2 1/2 gallons.

I tasted the mix and then added 3/8 teaspoon malic acid, 1/8 teaspoon of tartaric acid, and 1/8 gallon of distilled water.

My hydrometer reading was 1120 giving me a 16.6% potential. I decided that this was good for the second batch. I put aside 6 ounces for later.

I added Cote des Blancs yeast and let it start working.

August 2014

I let it ferment for 7 weeks before it stopped. The hydrometer reading was 1025 giving me an alcohol level of about 13.5%.

I let it rest for 3 week and, since it was fairly clear, I racked it. I then put it in the sun for exactly 3 minutes. Let it rest inside for a week, and then opened it up to the air for 36 hours.

At this time I add the 6 ounces of juice that I’d held back and resealed the carboy.

June 15, 2015

I let it age in the carboy until June 15, then bottled 5 bottles. I let it bottle age until October for a total of 1 year and 3 months of aging.

The rest of the batch was added to the carboy with the first batch to let them blend.

This batch had less watery aspect, more flavor, and some depth. This was closer to what I was looking for!

Sherry #3 (2015)

June 15, 2015

I made this the same way as the first Sherry but with some variations based on my findings from the results of the second batch.

I used a mix of 80% Mission grape juice and 20% Muscatel grape juice (both from the 2015 harvest), for a total of about 2 1/2 gallons.

I tasted the mix and then added 3/8 teaspoon malic acid, 1/8 teaspoon of tartaric acid, and no water. To give me greater potential alcohol I added 2 pounds of corn syrup, and 1/4 pound of tornado sugar.

My hydrometer reading was 1145 giving me a 19.8% potential. I decided that this was good for the Third batch.

I put 8 ounces aside to add in later to keep it from being too dry.

I added Cote des Blancs yeast and let it start working.

August & September, 2015

I let it ferment for 8 weeks before it stopped. The hydrometer reading was 1037 giving me an alcohol level of about 15%.

I let it rest for 4 week and, then since it was fairly clear, I racked it. I then put it in the sun for exactly 3 minutes. I let it rest inside for a week, and then opened it up to the air for 48 hours.

At this time I added the 8 ounces of juice that I’d held back and resealed the carboy.

June 24, 2016

Let it age in the carboy until June 24, then bottled 5 bottles. I let it bottle age until October for a total of 1 year and 3 months of aging.

The rest of the batch was added to the carboy with the first two batches to let them all blend.

This batch had a really nice taste with at least 2 levels of flavor and no watery aspect. This is even closer to what I’m looking for.

Triple Cream Sherry (2016)

Blending of the old with the new: 3 years of Sherry blended together and fortified with brandy.

Finding the Right Brandy

Since the beginning of this project I had been researching several different ways to go with the Brandy. As the time came to actually pick one, I had narrowed it down to the American E & J or the Spanish Cardinal Mendoza Brandies.

I decided on the Spanish Brandy because:

  • It was Spanish, as is Sherry
  • It was made in the same Solera method that I’d used for my Sherry
  • Its flavor had an overtone of raisins which would fit in well with the taste of my Sherries

I was happy with my choice on opening the Brandy; the nose was very reminiscent of the Sherry.

August 27, 2016

I added the Brandy.

I found 4-6 different formulas for determining the best percentages when adding two drinks of different alcohol levels together for a smooth result. I tried all of them to see what they suggested for my blend, the results differed by about 5%, so I split the difference in half and went with that.

This Triple Cream Sherry is about 5% Brandy and 95% my blended Sherry. This brings the finished product to about 15%.

September 4, 2016

I bottled 12 bottles of the Triple Cream Sherry.

All in all, I was pleased with my first attempts at Sherry and at Triple Cream Sherry.


Lessons Learned – Modifications for Future Drinks

  • If I was to do this again I would blend 5 years of Sherries. This would give a longer broader flavor range.
  • I would use Sherry #3 as my base recipe, and modify from there as needed. That includes using no water and more sugar.
  • Instead of opening the carboy to the air and then aging the Sherry in a glass carboy, I would age it in a sherry cask filled 3/4 full of Sherry to give the oxidation a better flavor hold.


The Process and Historic Notes

“Like most Champagne and Scotch, Sherry is a blended product. Old barrels of wine in a Sherry bodega are refreshed with slightly younger wine each year, and then the oldest blended barrel is bottled. This is called the Solera system, and it creates a wine that is the product of as few as 3 or as many as 100 vintages, and is well worth the price. A Solera is, put simply, a group of barrels used to age a single wine; and the wine in these barrels will develop more complexity each year as fresh wine is added.” [1]

The Palomino grape is the primary grape used in Spain for the making of Sherry. “In December 2006 Spanish researchers, using DNA techniques, discovered that the Mission grape of California and Latin America is in fact the now rare Listán Prieto or Palomino Negro of Spain.”[2]

After fermentation is complete most Sherries are dry. Sweetness and Fortification is added later by adding a Brandy and a little of the Grape juice. This does not always happen as sometimes there is enough sugar to keep it sweet. Not all Sherries are fortified. If it is below 14% it probably has not been fortified but, since Sherry is known for its high alcohol in most cases it gets fortified.

A Brief History of Sherry

“Jerez has been a centre of viniculture since wine-making was introduced to Spain by the Phoenicians in 1100 BC. The practice was carried on by the Romans when they took control of Iberia around 200 BC. The Moors conquered the region in AD 711 and introduced distillation, which led to the development of brandy and fortified wine.

During the Moorish period, the town was called Sherish (a transliteration of the Arabic ...), from which both Sherry and Jerez are derived. Wines similar in style to Sherry have traditionally been made in the city of Shiraz in mid-southern Iran, but it is thought unlikely that the name derives from there.

Wine production continued through five centuries of Arab Empire's rule. In 966, Al-Hakam II, the second Caliph of Córdoba, ordered the destruction of the vineyards, but the inhabitants of Jerez appealed on the grounds that the vineyards also produced raisins to feed the empire's soldiers, and the Caliph spared two-thirds of the vineyards.

In 1264 Alfonso X of Castile took the city. From this point on, By the end of the 16th century, sherry had a reputation in Europe as the world's finest wine.

Christopher Columbus brought sherry on his voyage to the New World and when Ferdinand Magellan prepared to sail around the world in 1519, he spent more on sherry than on weapons.

Sherry became very popular in Great Britain, especially after Francis Drake sacked Cádiz in 1587. At that time Cádiz was one of the most important Spanish seaports, and Spain was preparing an armada there to invade England. Among the spoils Drake brought back after destroying the fleet were 2,900 barrels of sherry that had been waiting to be loaded aboard Spanish ships. This helped to popularize Sherry in the British Isles.” [3]

There is no record of whether this Sherry was fortified our not, but historical records state that the Sherry was between 15% and 20% alcohol content. Which would have been near impossible to achieve without fortification.

So in all, a very period fortified wine.

An Even Briefer History of Brandy

Brandy was made starting around AD 900 in the Jerez region by the Moors for use in medicine, perfumes, and cosmetics.

“When sailors roamed the oceans in the Golden Age of exploration, they always brought alcohol with them. Water was disease-ridden and unreliable, and wine or rum was added to water for its antiseptic properties. Since casks of wine would spoil after weeks in the hot tropical sun, merchants added brandy to their barrels to “fortify” the wine and protect it. British began to prefer their wine this way and their merchants set up shop in Jerez de la Frontera, where they began to fortify the local wines for shipping. It helped that Sir Francis Drake had raided the port of Cádiz near Jerez in 1587 and seized a few thousand barrels of Sherry. Upon his return to England, Drake’s stolen wine became all the rage and gave the wines of Jerez a devoted market.” [4]

By the 1500’s it was important enough that taxes were being paid by using the Brandy as a tax base. In many cases the brandies of this region use old Sherry casks which imparted a Sherry flavor to the Brandy.


Bibliography

Most of the information on these subjects comes from notes taken while touring the Rancho de Philo Winery and from a number of notes from various articles over the years. I don’t have references for those sources.

Below is the listing of websites that I have taken quotes from, the information they provided was similar to the info I had on file from those unnamed sources.

[1] Rohrbaugh, Jackson. “Sherry: The Dry Wine That Everyone Should Love.” Blog: Learn About Wine. Wine Folly, July 14, 2014. (Accessed 10/3/16) winefolly.com/review/dry-sherry-wine-guide

[2] “Palomino (grape)” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (Accessed 10/3/16) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palomino_(grape)

[3] “Sherry” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (Accessed 10/3/16) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherry (the underlines are mine)

[4] Opaz, Ryan. “Sherry 101 – Basics of this Noble Wine!” CataVino. September 10, 2005. (Accessed 10/3/16) catavino.net/sherry-101-basics-of-this-noble-wine

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