Ultimate Guide to the Sherry Wine Region

Sherry maturing in the Andalucia region of Spain. See more wine pictures.
Andy Sotiriou/Photodisc/­Getty Images

­Is there a wine you love so much that it could lead you to your death? In the Edgar Allan Poe story "The Cask of Amontillado," that's precisely what happens to Fortunato, a self-proclaimed sommelier whose enemy lures him into a trap with the promise of a fabled wine. The wine in question is Amontillado -- a rich, complicated Sherry.

Today, no matter how much you like Amontillado, you'd be a fool to fall for the same ruse. Spain produces more than 90 million liters of Sherry each year [source: Good Cooking]. True, some of the rarer reserve Sherries are exquisitely aged -- as appropriate as a fine tawny port for the end of a good meal -- but don't follow a deceptive friend into his dungeon-like wine cellar just yet. You have other options you should understand first.

By law, any wine called Sherry may only come from the Jerez region of Spain [source: Shea]. Anything else must be called a "sherry-style" wine. Jerez, in the Cádiz­ province of Andalucia, has been producing wine for millennia -- since the time of the Phoenicians [source: Good Cooking]. Gradually, it's evolved from a straightforward red to a regional specialty, a fortified wine (one to which additional alcohol, usually brandy, has been added) with a unique fermentation process [source: Shea]. As the wine has changed, so has its name. Over the years, on the lips of Moorish invaders and then English speakers, "Jerez" (pronounced "heh-REHS" or "heh-RETH") transformed into "Sherry" [sources: Shea, Cellar Tours].

This article tours the storied region of Andalucia -- its bloody battles and its sizzling temperatures -- and the Sherries it produces. Head over to the next page so we can start at the beginning, this history of the Sherry region.