Many people ask me when they arrive in Jerez about the vineyards, and it depends on the route you take to the city whether you will see the vineyards or not.
These vineyards are located in the area known as the “Marco” or “Sherry triangle.” This triangle is formed by the three main cities where this designation of origin is produced: Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. Some additional vineyards or towns near these three main municipalities are also included.
Before I continue, I must mention the Regulatory Council, as Jerez wine is protected by a designation of origin known as “Jerez-Xérès-Sherry and Manzanilla.” Therefore, the Regulatory Council is the institution that was formed to protect the wines of this region, oversee their production, and promote them.
If we take a look back in time, due to its constant comings and goings, “sherry” began to be sold as such in different places.
This is impossible for many reasons, including those that arise in the area due to its geographical location…
The Jerez region enjoys an average temperature of 18 degrees Celsius throughout the year, with hot and dry summers and mild and humid winters. Rainfall is typically concentrated between the months of September and March.
This region, located near the Bay of Cádiz and the mouth of the Guadalquivir River, is affected by two prevailing winds: the hot and intense “levante” winds and the cooler “poniente” winds.
The soil in the triangle varies between “albariza,” clay, and sand, with the latter being more abundant near the coast. Albariza soil is crucial for Jerez production—a white, chalky soil rich in silica. Albariza has the essential characteristic of retaining rainwater and dew, which is vital in this drought-prone region. Its white surface aids in grape ripening by reflecting the sun’s rays.
The grape varieties allowed by the Regulatory Council are all white: Palomino fino, Pedro Ximénez, and Moscatel.
The Palomino fino variety is grown in albariza soil, while the others are cultivated closer to the coast, in clay and sand.
For Jerez, the Palomino fino variety is used as the base grape, and the Pedro Ximénez variety is used for “fortification” to obtain sweeter types. 100% Pedro Ximénez wine is made exclusively from this grape.
The Moscatel grape is used in many wineries in the region to make wine from this variety. The wine cellars that produce Moscatel wine in towns like Chipiona are very famous, where you can taste different varieties.
The grapevines in the vineyards have this V-shaped form. Currently, the plants are grafted with American rootstocks, which are vital to prevent phylloxera, a disease that devastated most European vineyards in the mid-19th century, causing complete ruin for many companies in the industry.
The pruning system is also unique, called “Vara y Pulgar” (Cane and Spur). It involves alternating the growth of the cane and spur (each end or arm of the vine) each year to control vine growth and direct energy towards the stronger and healthier shoots.
If you’re enjoying this, please comment, share, and stay tuned for the next post where I will begin discussing the production of Sherry.