Pedro Ximenez and Palomino Fino are the grape varieties which define the character of the regions of Cordoba and Andalusia in Spain, respectively, since in these hot and dry lands are produced the country's most recognized wines, sherry and Pedro Ximenez. In the sixteenth century, long before the world knew of Rioja and Ribera del Duero, two of the most famous appellations, these two drinks were already successful exports, being the UK their main destination.
In fact, it was the marriage of Catherine of Aragon, the eldest daughter of the Catholic Kings, with Prince Arthur of England which boosted the trade in these products outside the borders. To the extent that much later, in the nineteenth century, sherry accounted for 40% of wine imports in Great Britain.
For ignorance is common to confuse sherry with Pedro Ximénez, due to their identical color and provenance from very close areas. However, the differences between the two are not minor. The first is an aperitif dry wine, made from Palomino Fino grapes. In contrast, the second is a sweet wine produced with the variety Pedro Ximénez, ideal to accompany desserts. The union of these drinks is given by the soil, since its cultivation requires many hours of sun and little water. In addition, in both cases these products are fortified, i.e. wine alcohol is added after fermentation, and then the liquid is transferred to oak barrels for its aging in sills.
Once in the cellars, the barrels are arranged in a pyramidal shape, being always the oldest below and the newest on top, and for bottling the “venenciador” (cellar master) takes a portion of each container. Finally, the barrels are filled using younger wine. Thus, the sherry and Pedro Ximenez are always kept fresh. A Pedro Ximénez can get to rest for so long that there are still labels on the market from 1924, which are eagerly sought.
The sherry wines, elaborated always dry from the Palomino Fino grape variety, are named after the town of Jerez de la Frontera in southern Spain, in Andalusia. Typically the wineries, owned by large companies, produce the drink in this city or in two nearby villages, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa Maria.
Seeking to raise its image, in recent years the production of sherry was defined by a set of rules. Among other things, the amount of wine that each winery can sell each year was restricted, the sale of bulk wine was banned and was allowed the incorporation of the vintage on the label for premium wines.