'Sherry' is an English corruption of 'Jerez', a wine produced in a triangular area of the province of Cádiz between Jerez, El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain. Sherry is made from Palomino, Pedro Ximenez, and Muscat grapes, now usually supplied fortified with 'destillado' alcohol, and traces its origins back to the 13th Century. It is a development of the wine formerly known as 'sack', from the Spanish saca, meaning 'taken out'.
The wine travels well and it became popular in England. So popular that Henry I arranged to barter English wool for Sherry, Elizabeth I recommended it and James I, it seems, drank little else. As 'Sack' Shakespeare mentions it in 'Richard III', 'Henry VI', 'A Midsummer's Night Dream', 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' and 'Henry IV'.
From the 17th Century onwards English merchants such as John Croft from York, Thomas Osborne from Exeter, Sandeman's and Harvey's of Bristol began to dominate the trade, eventually acquiring their own bodegas and vineyards, and, in 1825, used their British citizenship to negotiate a dramatic reduction in excise duty on Sherry. Always popular, sales of Sherry soared to make it an essential part of English life, a significant ingredient in English cooking and to spawn a series of British imitations.
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