You may have noticed that our new (and delicious) Sherry Cask Gin is aged in a solera system of both Spanish Sherry casks (see the image to the left) and Australian Apera barrels. And that make have got you thinking, erm, what the hell is Apera?
It’s a good question, and one worth knowing the answer to, because Apera is awesome.
As of the end of 2010, the fortified wine produced in Australia and historically called ‘Sherry’ underwent a name change to become 'Apera'.
So now, similar to other agreements signed between Australia and the European Commission (like for Champagne and Burgundy), 'Sherry' can only be used by producers within the traditional region's boundaries. So Sherry, along with other terms like Fino, Oloroso and Amontillado, disappeared from Australian labels.
Today, the term Sherry is reserved for the fortified wine made from white grapes grown near the town of Jerez, in Andalusia, Spain. The area is known as the ‘Sherry triangle’, and the name Sherry is actually an anglicisation of Xeres/Jerez (the region has officially been named D.O Jerez-Xeres-Sherry).
Our solera system of ex-Sherry is a combination of true Sherry barrels from Jerez and old (20-40 year old) Australian Apera casks (back from the days when Apera was still called Sherry).
So what exactly is Apera, the artist formerly known as ‘Sherry’?
The name is a play on aperitif, as this fortified wine is the perfect pre-dinner tipple. And this style of fortified (whether called Apera or Sherry) is increasing being mixed in delicious cocktails by the world’s best bartenders.
As with many Australian expressions of European wine varietals, Apera takes the basic wine-making techniques used in Sherry and makes it our own. Australia produces some excellent ‘Sherry-style’ wines thanks to decades of experience in a handful of wineries in Victoria and South Australia.
For a long period in the middle of last century, ‘Sherry’ and other fortifieds such as ‘Port’ (also on the ‘no-go’ names list) were far more popular with Australian punters than table wines like ‘Burgundy’.
Whatever you call it, you should drink more of it!
The fortified aperitif wine traditionally called Sherry is produced in a variety of styles made primarily from the Palomino grape. After fermentation is complete, the Sherry is fortified with brandy. Wines from different years are aged and blended using a solera system before bottling, so that bottles of sherry will not usually carry a specific vintage year and can contain a small proportion of very old wine.
The dry, light versions develop a layer of the yeast-like ‘flor’ in barrel that helps protect the wine from excessive oxidation and gives them their distinctive nutty character. In Spain these are called Fino or Manzanilla, with Amontillado being slightly oxidised.
There are also aged versions like Oloroso or Palo Cortado from the ‘Sherry triangle’ where no flor develops, so they oxidise as they age giving them a darker colour and more substantial body. Jerez Dulce (Sweet Sherries) are made either by fermenting dried Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel grapes, which produces an intensely sweet dark brown or black wine, or by blending sweeter wines or grape must with a drier variety.