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Real sherry: There's nothing fake about it

I fell in love last week.

I fell in love with a romantic notion that somewhere in Europe, there is a place where the food, the wine, the people, and the very essence of the land is beautiful and pleasant. Such a place does exist, and is found in Andalusia, in southwestern Spain.

The so-called "Sherry Triangle" of Jerez, Puerto and Sanlucar represents the only geographical location in the world where "real" sherry can legally be produced. It is also a place of exceptional beauty, genuine hospitality and traditions that date back centuries.

Here in the U.S., so little of sherry is understood. Many myths and stereotypes exist.

Myth: Sherry is a liqueur or a spirit.

Fact: Sherry is a fortified wine.

Myth: Sherry is a sweet, after-dinner drink.

Fact: Most sherries are dry and meant to accompany food. There are certain styles which are made to be sweet, but they are not the most common.

Myth: Sherry is popular with elderly ladies, but has no following in today's generation.

Fact: Sherry is served as a typical wine with meals all around Jerez and is growing in popularity with America's younger crowd as tapas bars are becoming a strong trend in this country.

In visiting some of the bodegas on my recent trip, over and over the subject of "fake" sherries in the U.S., Australia and elsewhere came up as a problem and a sore spot. In case you're not aware, let me be the first to inform you that neither Paul Masson or the Christian Brothers make sherry.

Yes, I know you've seen bottles in the cheap section at your wine retailer that say sherry on the label, but believe me, they are not.

They are no more sherry than Andre is champagne.

Loopholes and slack U.S. wine labeling laws allow these insults to continue. As I reported last week, in regards to the Napa case, these loopholes are slowly closing.

Just as the Napa Valley Vintners needed years of litigation to gain the exclusive right to use the word Napa on their wines, the cellar masters of Jerez know what it is to fight for their identity as well. It was during a lengthy court battle that they were able to establish, through an ancient map, that the name Jerez was once pronounced Sherish, and thus the name of the wine and the name of the place are one and the same.

Bordeaux and Burgundy are places, as are Champagne and Porto. Sherry (Jerez) is no less a place, and their tradition and the quality of their wines can not be discounted.

If you are not familiar with real sherry, the many styles and Spanish labels can be a bit difficult to understand. Over the next few weeks, I will be breaking down what the styles are, how to identify them and how they should be served.

It is my hope that you will give them a try. While they may not immediately transport you to a place of tranquil beauty and gastronomic pleasure, they can certainly add to the pleasure of any table, and with the variety of offerings available, there is definitely something for everyone.

Write me with your thoughts or questions, at brian.goodell@morris.com. Until next time, happy pours.