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What types of beverages are there?
In order to have a better understanding of what Brandy de Jerez is, we shall begin by differentiating between the different types of beverages most popularly consumed today
Non-alcoholic beverages: Water, milk, fruit juice, tea, soft drinks
Wine: table wine (white, red, rosé…), sparkling wine (Cava, Champaign), fortified wine (Sherry, Port….)
Spirituous beverages: Brandy (36º – grape, wine), whisky (40º – barley, other cereals) gin (38º – beet) rum (38º – sugar cane), vodka (40º – potatoes, cereals), liqueurs (30º – beet, fruit, etc..)
|NAME||DESTILLED FROM:||AGEING ||ALCOHOLIC CONTENT |
|BRANDY||Grape/wine||Aged in oak||36 to 41º max|
|WHISKY||Cereals||Aged in oak||40º |
|RUN||Sugar Cane||With/without ageing ||40º max|
|GIN ||Beet molasses||No ageing||40º|
|VODKA|| Potato||No ageing||40º max|
|ANISETTE|| Beet molasses|| No ageing ||35º |
|LIQUEURES|| Beet molasses|| No ageing ||12 to 15º |
What are spirituous drinks?
In the colloquial sense of the word they are those drinks obtained from the distillation of raw material of a specific agricultural origin (grapes/wine, barley, beet molasses, etc...) and in certain cases aged for a period of time in wooden casks.
What is Brandy?
Brandy is a category of spirituous drink which, unlike the rest (such as whisky, rum, gin, vodka, tequila, etc...), is the only one produced from grapes, from distilled wine and aged in oak-wood casks. Hence its noble character.
What is Brandy de Jerez?
Brandy de Jerez is a brandy produced exclusively in the Jerez Region in Spain (in the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Sta. María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda).
When was Brandy first produced?
The distillation techniques used to produce alcohol from wine are a legacy passed down to us from the Moors, who settled in Jerez and the surrounding area some 711 years before the town was later re-conquered by King Alfonso X “The Wise” in 1264. In the Corporation Records of the time references are made to the “Spirit Tax” as far back as 1580.
Spirits obtained from aged wine are known to have been consumed by wine producers both in and around the Jerez Region as long ago as the sixteenth century.
It began to be traded in large quantities in the mid 19th Century
What are the main characteristics of Brandy de Jerez?
The singular characteristics of Brandy de Jerez are the fruits of a production and ageing processes which bestow certain characteristics upon it which make it unique and different from other brandies. The main ones are:
• A healthy grape which produces clean, fruity white wine ideal for distillation purposes
• Careful distillation to produce low strength wine spirit of very particular characteristics
• Aged in oak casks with a capacity of at least 1,000 litres and which have previously been used to age Sherry Wines
• Aged according to the traditional system of “Criaderas and Solera”
• Aged exclusively within the municipal boundaries of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Sta. María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
What is the economic importance of Brandy de Jerez?
The annual turnover of Brandy de Jerez amounts to over four hundred million euros, paying over 150 million euros into the Inland Revenue in tax each year
Brandy de Jerez, apart from thousands of direct jobs in wineries, distilleries, etc… generates important economic activity for the glass, paper, cardboard and printing industries as well as for transport companies and advertising agencies, etc… Not forgetting that sixty per cent of sales are made through bar and restaurant outlets.
With regard to distribution, it is worth mentioning that here in Spain Brandy de Jerez is to be found not only in the most luxurious of hotels, restaurants and bars but also in the most humble tavern in the remotest of country villages.
What is the annual production of Brandy de Jerez?
Current total production is around eighty million bottles per year, of which more than twenty million are exported. This represents over ninety per cent of the total quantity of brandy consumed in Spain.
What is its share of the spirituous beverage market in Spain?
It is eighteen per cent. That is to say, and in order to illustrate this more clearly, of every five spirituous drinks, both national and imported, consumed in Spain (brandy, whisky, gin, rum) one is Brandy de Jerez
Which are the main countries to which it is exported?
The major and most stable markets are the Philippines, Germany and Mexico, with important and increasing sales figures in the United States, Italy, Great Britain, South America and the Caribbean.
Over seventy countries throughout the five continents import Brandy de Jerez with Europe, America and Asia annually consuming practically equal quantities.
What grapes are used to produce Brandy de Jerez?
Basically grapes of the AIREN variety and also small quantities of PALOMINO grape (used to produce Sherry Wines)
AIREN are low yield grapes which produce fresh, fruit white wines, low in acid and high degree (12-131), perfect for distillation and for direct consumption
What quantity of grape is used?
In order to obtain one litre of brandy it is necessary to distil four litres of wine. In order to obtain Brandy de Jerez it is necessary to distil each year 250 million litres of wine, that is to say, around 300 million kilos of grapes, which is the equivalent of 100,000 hectares of vineyard.
What type of wine should be used?
These must be wines apt for human consumption. In the case of Brandy de Jerez the wine used comes mostly from grapes of the Airen variety which produce a clean must, which after fermentation produces wines which are perfect for consumption (and distillation) with an alcoholic strength of between 10.5º and 13º.
How much wine is needed in order to obtain a litre of Brandy?
The approximate proportion is of three litres of wine (four kilos of grapes) for one litre of Brandy. That is to say, the best is extracted from the wine and two litres are discarded.
At what moment is the wine distilled?
Brandy de Jerez distils clean wines, that is to say, once the leas (bits of skin, pips, etc...) have been decanted. This is why those wines used to produce Brandy de Jerez have sufficient force for their characteristics to be transmitted to the wine spirit. Most other brandies distil wine along with the leas, in the French style, as the characteristics of their wines, of limited ageing , need to be thus strengthened.
What does distillation consist of?
It is really quite a simple process which essentially consists of heating the substance to be distilled (in this case wine) in a suitable recipient, then condensing the subsequent evaporation by cooling it down. The device used for this operation is called a still.
Distillation is a completely natural process which requires technique and good practice in order to achieve the evaporation of certain selected components of the raw material concerned but not others considered likely to have an undesirable effect upon bouquet or taste.
Which parts of the distillation are used to produce good wine spirit?
Apart from ethanol (alcohol) which lends body and force to the wine spirit, we are interested in the volatile substances (esters, aldehydes, acids…) which are responsible for aroma and bouquet, both in wine and wine spirit. During distillation the lightest (heads) and heaviest (tails) are discarded, using only the central part of the distillation process known as the heart.
What types of stills are used?
Brandy de Jerez uses two different types of distillation equipment, both made of copper:
- the traditional pot still which in Jerez is called an alquitara – introduced by the Moors -, made of copper and heated directly by a holm-oak wood fire using a discontinuous process (loading and unloading). These are used to obtain spirits of low alcoholic content, between 40º and 70º, known as “holandas”, and the distillation columns which are more modern and efficient into which the wine is introduced continuously. These columns are used in order to obtain strengths of between 70º and 94.8º.
The human factor has an important role to play in achieving a good distillation. The “nose”, control of the timing of distillation and the necessary experience all combine to make it a true art form.
What is the difference between double and simple distillation?
The real difference lies in the wines to be distilled. Double distillation is used in France, for example, as the wines used there have a much lower alcoholic content (7-8% by volume) given their short ageing process. The first distillation produces a liquid of 35% by volume, which is then distilled once again in order to obtain wine spirits of 85% by volume.
In the case of Brandy de Jerez double distillation is not required. From a simple distillation wine spirits of 65% by volume are obtained (known as holandas). The more a wine is distilled, the more of its characteristics and aromatic substances are lost.
What are Holandas?
Holanda is the term used in Jerez to refer to wine spirits low in alcoholic content (around 65% by volume) which are of greater quality as they require the distillation of the best of wines and better evoke the raw material from which they are produced – wine.
In Jerez it is also possible to use wine spirits of a higher degree of alcoholic content, but never (by decree of the Consejo Regulador) more than 50% of the total. The holandas must always represent 50% minimum of the final brandy
What does the ageing system contribute?
Brandy de Jerez, as all brandies, must always be aged in oak-wood casks, previously steeped in Sherry Wines. Ageing allows the natural development of a series of reactions which new contribute organoleptic properties regarding colour, bouquet and taste which the wine spirits alone do not possess. Prolonged ageing, moreover, also smoothes wine spirit in the mouth.
What types of cask are used?
Brandy de Jerez uses 500 litre oak-wood casks (known in the Jerez Region as “butts”).
The casks or butts must have always been previously steeped in sherry wines. That is to say: the butts must have previously been used for at least three years to age one of the different types of sherry wine. This fact makes Brandy de Jerez different from other Spanish brandies or those from other countries where new casks are used.
Why use casks which have previously held wine?
This is a key factor in the production of Brandy de Jerez. Butts which have previously been soaked in sherry wine give a particular personality which can be clearly appreciated in its organoleptic characteristics.
The characteristics of each Brandy de Jerez will vary according to the type of sherry which the oak-wood casks have previously contained. They may have contained Finos or Manzanillas (straw coloured and totally dry), Amontillados (dry but darker in colour), Dry or Sweet Olorosos (darker still in colour) or sweet wines such as Pedro Ximenez (very dark and sweet). In this way the brandy takes on characteristics of colour, bouquet and taste from the wines which the casks have previously held.
Why the obligation to use butts which have held Sherry Wine?
The influence of the American oak-wood, once impregnated with Sherry Wine, upon the production and ageing of Brandy de Jerez is determining, and one of the key factors specificity. In order to steep new butts and make them suitable for ageing Brandy de Jerez, they must have previously contained Sherry Wine (Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso, Pedro Ximénez, etc.) for at least three years. For similar reasons these sherry butts are also used to age the most select of whiskies in Scotland.
Being aged in these butts, Brandy de Jerez gradually acquires its character, tastes, flavours, bouquet, body, range of colours… in a word: its personality.
What type of oak is used?
According to tradition American oak from the Appalachian Mountains is generally used. It is less porous than other oak woods, but the type of cut permits a perfect cession of wood to the wine and later to the wine spirit.
Which is the Ageing process used?
The ageing system used in Jerez is the unique in the world and confers special characteristics to its brandies. It is a complex system known as “Criaderas and Solera”
What is the Criaderas and Solera system?
This is the system which has been used to produce wine in the Jerez region for centuries, and the one which local wine producers also use in order to age their brandy. It basically consists of rows of brandy casks grouped according to the age of the brandy contained in each cask. Those containing the oldest brandy form the “Solera”, followed in order of decreasing age by the different “Criaderas” (the first, second, third…). It is the brandy contained in the Solera casks which is removed when required for bottling, but only a small amount from each cask.
This operation is known as the “Saca”. The amount of brandy which is taken from the Solera casks is replaced with an equal quantity from the First Criadera, this in turn replaced with brandy from the Second Criadera and so on. This operation takes the name of “Rocio” and by using this procedure it is possible to maintain the characteristics (taste, bouquet and colour), identical quality and qualities of each brand.
What are the advantages of this system?
In the first place it produces a perfect homogenisation of the brandy throughout the production process and in the final product its
Secondly, the constant movement between the scales facilitates greater aeration and oxidation of the wine spirits and brandies which enhance the ageing process.elf.
Thirdly, it is important to stress that it is a that we are dealing with a continuous process throughout a period of time, one in which brandies of different ages are blended and where the small quantity of Solera which goes to bottling will contain proportions of very old brandies of up to sixty years old. In fact, many soleras exist which date back to the 19th Century.
Finally, organoleptic evolution within the system is enhanced and made more complex and interesting. The only disadvantage of this system is its complexity and elevated cost.
How are other brandies aged?
They are aged by what is known as the Static system. Wine spirit is placed inside a cask and left to repose for a certain period of time without being moved. Prior to bottling a “coupage” is made from the different casks, each containing brandies of different degrees of ageing.
What degree of alcoholic content is right for ageing?
It may be carried out at a level fit for consumption, either during the whole process of during the final stages, but it is generally aged at a greater degree, from 50 to 60% by volume which makes the ageing process, the extraction of characteristics from the wood, more intense.
In prolonged ageing the alcoholic strength decreases slightly mainly due to evaporation, which in Jerez is intense – 7% annually – given the local climate. This evaporation is known in the world of brandy as “the angels’ share”.
What are the different types or categories of Brandy de Jerez?
The Regulations of the Denomination establish three different types or categories of Brandy de Jerez:
- Solera Reserva.
- Solera Gran Reserva.
Each category defines the time of ageing and the content of volatile substances:
Brandy de Jerez Solera: Aged for more than six months (on average for one year) and containing volatile substances of at least 200gr/Hl of pure alcohol
Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva: Aged for more than three years (on average eight years of ageing) and containing volatile substances of at least 300gr/Hl of pure alcohol
There are many brandies which are aged for longer periods of time (currently marketed as Solera Gran Reserva) for which the Consejo Regulador is considering the possibility of establishing a superior category known as “Super Premium”.
Do volatile substances increase with age?
Very slightly. This is due to the reactions of sterification, or polymerization. This is the reason why it is not generally possible for a brandy of a determined category to be admitted to a superior category simply because it has been aged for longer. This is achieved by selecting and distilling the best wines for the superior categories and according to the proportion of different wine spirits which, generally speaking is the following:
BJ Solera: 50% Holandas, 50% Distillates.
BJ Solera Reserva: 75% Holandas, 25% Distillates.
BJ Solera Gran Reserva: 100% Holandas.
Does longer ageing mean better brandy?
Not necessarily. The important factor is the balance and harmony of all the components and the elegance of the final product. Each House produces its own brandies in search of a specific type. In order to do this they select the corresponding wines, the appropriate distillation, wine spirits, casks… and establish the system and frequency of sacas and rocios. Bottling is carried out once the optimal point of ageing has been reached according to the criteria of the master oenologist in each firm.
What organoleptic variations do we find in each different category?
This is, naturally, a question of personal appreciation. Each brand, in its own category, presents its own style and characteristics. At any rate, and as a guideline, we may appreciate the following elements in each category:
Solera: Lighter in colour, more yellowish, amber, with a bouquet in which certain traces of distillation pervade mixed with a slightly salty taste if aged in butts that have previously held fino, or with traces of vanilla and toasted caramel if aged in oloroso butts. Drier in the mouth, possibly noting the sharp taste of tannins from the wood and seeming less full-bodied than the older brandies. Given its youth it is both a simple and complex product.
Solera Reserva: Older than the previous brandy, this has darker tones which are not so bright as those of Solera. In the nose the first sensations of cetonic tones are perceived, fruit of greater ageing; sweeter tones reminiscent of roasted coffee. Meatier and sweeter on the palate, the perception of alcohol being less pronounced as all of its components are better integrated.
Solera Gran Reserva: Its mahogany, iodous, tones give an initial indication of greater age and also of a greater concentration of its components. The bouquet gives even greater indications of this concentration which will provide characteristics of enormous complexity. If the solera has previously held Pedro Ximénez, then the sensation of sweetness will be enhanced (reminiscent of carob seed, pastry ovens and chocolate). If the butts are old though still in good state there will be a slight sensation of old furniture, of ancient noble varnish. It is oily in the mouth, smooth with a bitterness of oak-wood tannins mixed with the sweetness of oxidative ageing, be it in fino or, more likely, oloroso butts, or even those which have aged Pedro Ximiénez.
Does Brandy de Jerez improve in the bottle like wine?
Not at all: it neither improves nor deteriorates until the bottle is opened. From that moment on, and if we keep the bottle half-full at a high temperature, part of the alcohol will be taken by the “angels•. For the same reason there is also a concentration of sugars in the brandy, after about seven or eight months, which may bring about a loss in intensity of taste.
Should a decanter be used?
There is no need from a qualitative point of view. It is simply a question of aesthetics derived from the colour produced by ageing. The iodous, amber, mahogany or golden tones are illuminated thanks to the reflections produced by the glass.
How to drink it.
Brandy is one of the greatest types of spirituous beverages in the world. The origins of its raw material – grape and wine – grant it an intrinsic nobility placing it way above all of its competitors.
Centuries of history have bestowed great prestige upon the drink. Its pleasant taste, long-lasting bouquets and great versatility for combinations all join to make it unique. It is worth mentioning here that within the category of brandies Brandy de Jerez, Cognac and Armagnac are the only ones which have recognised geographic denominations controlled by a Regulating Body.
To give a better idea of the importance of brandy, suffice it to say that in a large country like Germany brandy consumption is five times greater than that of whisky.
Brandy make be drunk neat, in a brandy snifter, mixed with ice and soft drinks, with coffee (carajillo) in cocktails, in shots, etc...
It is without doubt the most noble and flavoursome of drinks, and the one with the most personality.
Which glass should be used?
The most suitable is the type referred to as a “balloon”, or brandy snifter, of fine, clear glass with sufficient stem between balloon and base to introduce the fingers of the hand.
Another glass which may be used is the catavino tasting glass, in this case a “cata brandy”, as employed in the bodega. This glass, designed with the connoisseur in mind, should be filled to one third of the balloon’s capacity or less. Being smaller, it produces less agitation of its contents and thus a reduced level of evaporation and oxidation of the brandy which bathes the walls of the glass. In this way we perceive less alcohol in the nose and a greater complexity of volatile and odoriferous substances pertaining to the solera.
Should I artificially heat the glass once the Brandy has been served?
No. The fine glass snifter adapts to the curve of the hand and our natural body heat alone takes the Brandy to a perfect temperature of between 17º and 18ºC which enables us, when drunk in small sips, to taste and appreciate its full splendour.
Once the brandy has reached the ideal temperature for consumption, what should I do next?
The glass should be left for a while to rest upon the table, as it was served, for four or five minutes, smoothly swirling it to enjoy the colour and bouquets of the chosen brandy. With a neat brandy it is appropriate to apply the same rituals observed with old wines in order to allow it to previously breathe slowly and oxygenate.
How much should I serve?
As a maximum measure, served in a normal sized brandy snifter, a quantity of brandy which when the snifter is laid horizontally upon its side does not spill out. The ideal way, however, is to serve a small quantity and then to top up as many times as you wish, always in small measures.
When should it be drunk?
The classic moment to enjoy neat brandy, in its pure state, is after a meal (lunch or dinner). But the truth is, and this is what we recommend, drink it whenever you feel like it.
Can I combine Brandy de Jerez with other drinks?
Absolutely. Brandy de Jerez may be drunk neat, with ice, combined with soft drinks or in cocktails. In none of these cases does it lose its personality. It is a question of the taste and preferences of the consumer, to be enjoyed according to the place, moment or individual appetite.
Are there other ways to drink and serve it?
Naturally. The simplest way is to add one or two ice-cubes to the snifter, thus refreshing and lengthening the drink without it losing its most notable qualities.
This has been a great discovery for all of those who prefer their drinks “on the rocks”.
Another very popular and traditional drink here in Spain is the “carajillo”: Brandy de Jerez poured into hot coffee.
Brandy de Jerez has an important role to play, as it always has, in the colourful world of the cocktail, which is once again back in fashion in more sophisticated circles, providing as it does the perfect base for many delicious cocktails.
Brandy as a long drink
In the evenings and long Spanish nights all types of spirituous drinks are consumed (whisky, gin, rum, vodka...) as long drinks. In other countries brandy is the most common combination. In Spain brandy is just starting to be mixed with Coca Cola, Sprite, orange flavoured soft drinks and chocolate milkshakes, amongst other very pleasant mixes with soft drinks in general. Each has its own particular taste and attraction, and brandy confers its own personality to all of them. The versatility of brandy and of Brandy de Jerez in particular makes it especially suitable and recommendable to be consumed as a long drink. Ice is a basic feature of all such combinations.
In many parts of the world it is common practice to drink brandy with soda and ice.
What is the Consejo Regulador?
The Consejo Regulador is the Official Body whose main function is to guarantee the quality of those brandies protected by the Denomination Brandy de Jerez and watch over the correct compliance of the norms established in the Regulations of the Denomination.
What are its main functions?
The main functions of the Consejo Regulador are:
- Guarantee the genuine nature of the product to be consumed
- Watch over the correct compliance of the norms established in the Regulations of the Denomination.
- Defend the Denomination Brandy de Jerez on the home and international market
- Defend the general interests of Brandy de Jerez both on the home and international market
What is a Denomination?
A Denomination is awarded to those food products (food or drink) whose main characteristics are acquired due to production in a determined geographic area. In the case of Brandy de Jerez, its characteristics are acquired due to the fact that it is produced and aged in the area of Jerez de la Frontera in Spain.
How many brandies have a Consejo Regulador?
In Spain only one brandy has a Consejo Regulador to ensure its quality: Brandy de Jerez
In the rest of the world there are two others: Cognac and Armagnac in France.
Who may belong to the Consejo Regulador?
All those producers and brands which comply with the norms set out in the Regulations of the Denomination may belong to the Consejo Regulador and exhibit the Denomination.
Who approves the Regulations of the Denomination?
The Consejo Regulador itself makes a proposal which is set before, and must be approved by, the Autonomic Regional Authority (the Junta de Andalusia in the case of Brandy de Jerez) and ratified by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Central Government. The European Union must also ratify the Denomination.