A blog and review on all things Sherry. It is about tasting, enjoyment and learning more about the World’s Finest Wine. "Sherry is a thoroughbred" as Javier Hidalgo rightly puts it. Included are the amazing local Brandies and the remarkably good table wines also produced in the province of Cádiz.
Since time immemorial
wine has been praised for its nutritive and restorative qualities, and was much used in the days
before proper medicines were available. Sherry was regarded as among the most
therapeutic, and featured as “Vinum Xericum” in more than one national pharmacopeia
. As the great French microbiologist Louis Pasteur said “Wine is the healthiest
and most hygienic of drinks.” Naturally this was promotional gold to the Sherry
producers and many set about making it healthier still, with the advice and approval
If it's good enough for the Pope...
One of the oldest remedies was quinine, an
extract from the bark of the Cinchona tree, native to Peru and Bolivia and
brought to Europe by the Jesuits. Despite its very bitter taste, it has
fever-reducing and painkilling properties, stimulates the appetite and is
effective against malaria. Mixed with wine, especially sweet wine, it is much
easier to take. (Tonic water is another way). “Vino Quinado” must contain a
maximum of 300 parts per million of quinine.
Most Sherry producers made Quina and whole
bodegas were filled with the wine, which generally consisted simply of PX
blended with quinine, but sometimes there were other ingredients such as iron,
gentian, honey, cacao, fruit, even iodine, and the more they contained the more
illnesses they could claim to cure. Many brands carried on their labels testimonials
of their efficacy signed by doctors or pharmacists of the day and indeed were
sold in pharmacies. The placebo effect was unknown in those days.
Real curative power (foto:gentedejerez)
Typical descriptions were: Jerez Especial para
Enfermos, Jerez Reconstituyente, Aperitivo Reconstituyente, Tónico Reconstituyente,
Vino Longevital, Salvavidas or Gran Vino Milagroso, all attesting to their curative powers, and a great many had Christian
iconography on the labels, particularly of saints who had performed miracles.
Some feature nurses, strong people (eg Hercules, Titan) or pictures of the King
and Queen who were seen as between earthly and divine.
King Alfonso XIII (foto:jerezsiempre)
During the heyday of Quina from the second half
of the XIX century to the mid-1970s, it was consumed by people of all ages,
though children were restricted to a spoonful, but nowadays the typical
consumer is a person of a certain age, and it is often the only alcohol
available in care homes. Production is a fraction of what it was once, mainly
due to the vast improvement in medicines but partly due to changing fashions.
The Consejo Regulador no longer takes an interest, with quality control now
covered by the Ley Española de la Viña y el Vino.