Sherry Regulations Are Undergoing Some Major Changes

Sherry may no longer have to be a fortified wine, according to a new report.

Jerez, the region in Spain where sherry is produced, is considered the country's first "legally constituted" Denomination of Origin (D.O.), recognized by the Spanish Wine Law in 1933. And in the wine world, long-lasting legacies typically come with long-held rules governing production. But that doesn't mean change doesn't happen: This year alone, we've seen tweaks in famed regions like Bordeaux and Champagne. And now, the Jerez-Xérès-Sherry D.O. is reportedly slated to make some of the biggest changes to their regulations in 50 years.

According to The Drinks Business, César Saldaña — president of Jerez's regulatory council — is planning "a big step and a first step" that, among other modifications, will significantly expand the D.O.'s production capability, allowing the use of six more varieties of grapes and widening the map to include more vineyard land.

Sherry being poured into a flute glass
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But one of the biggest changes could come to one of Sherry's most famous traits: fortification. Depending on the classification, Sherry currently must be fortified with a spirit to raise the ABV to at least 15 or 17 percent. But The Drinks Business reports that this rule may be tossed out, so long as winemakers reach these ABVs through natural fermentation. Since winemakers in Spain already use this technique but simply don't label their wines as Sherry, changing this rule alone could significantly expand the number of wines that could use the D.O.'s label.

Along those lines, other label designations will reportedly no longer be as restrictive either. The distinction of "Viñedos de Jerez Superior" — which is currently limited to only wines produced in Jerez, El Puerto, Sanlúcar, and Trebujena — will apparently soon be open to winemakers in any part of the D.O. that meet the technical standards.

The D.O. is also reportedly adding a new category, Fino Viejo, for wines that have been aged at least seven years, while Manzanilla Pasada wines will require the same amount of aging.

"The aim behind the modifications is to differentiate between the qualities of these exciting wines and bring us closer to the world of wine," Saldaña was quoted as saying. "If Sherry has generated more interest in the last ten years, it is because the category has gained in sophistication thanks to pagos, en rama and so on…. It's allowed us to get closer to consumers who are seeking a value-added product. These elements need to be integrated into the D.O. regulations to allow us to enforce [Sherry's] diversification."

And Saldaña told The Drinks Business it might not stop there, adding, "A few things are pending including the possibility of opening the D.O. to non-aged wines." Needless to say, this isn't your grandma's Sherry. But for most people who ever drank their grandma's Sherry, they probably welcome these changes with open arms.

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