By Harold McGee
Sherry is a fortified, oxidized white wine that was developed in the Spanish port city Jerez de la Frontera, whose name was Anglicized to “sherry” around 1600. True sherry gets its distinctive flavor from the solera system of maturing wine, which was developed early in the 19th century. The solera is a series of casks, each initially containing the fortified new wine of a particular year, but not completely filled, so a significant area of wine surface is in direct contact with the air. The wine therefore develops a characteristic intense, oxidized flavor. As the cask contents evaporate and become more concentrated, each is replenished with wine from the next younger cask. The final wine is bottled from the casks containing the oldest wines, and thus is a blend of wines from many different vintages and degrees of development.