Posted by: puebloman | July 27, 2011

Understand Spanish Brandy

A brief history of Andalucian BRANDY DE JEREZ
The cultivation of grapes in Jerez goes back to at least Roman times but the Moors who followed and ruled most of Spain from 711 to 1492 were forbidden by their religion from drinking wine. However they clearly did drink, claiming as dispensation that the wine was “pudding”!

The cultivation of grapes continued in Jerez and the practice of distillation is known to have been introduced in the 10th Century mainly for the production of cosmetics, essences and antiseptics. The word ‘Al-Kohl’ is an Arabic term for the fine powder used in cosmetics which was a bi-product of the distillation process. In ancient Spanish the reflexive verb ‘alcoholarse’ did not mean to drink copiously, but to paint one’s eyes.

As the popularity of the wines of Jerez (‘Sherry’) increased, distilled spirit was added to fortify them for export and eventually the local wine producers must have realised what a wonderful evolution took place when these wine distillates were left to mature in the oak casks previously used for ageing Sherry.

In the 19th Century, an important export market with the Netherlands developed selling raw grape spirit (65% alcohol) matured in old Sherry casks that became known as ‘Holandas’. Once at its destination, this was either diluted and sold as ‘brandewijn’ meaning ‘burnt wine’ (brandy) or mixed to make different liqueurs.

In 1835 González Byass was founded and in 1844 the first alembics (pot stills) were installed. In 1845 in what was one of the earliest references to the sale of Jerez brandy, a shipment was sent by González Byass to Ireland. The following year, the Soberano name was selected due to the close friendship of the González family with the Spanish sovereign (‘Soberano’ in Spanish). By the turn of the century, the principal export market for Soberano was the British Isles partly due to the successful business relationship with the Byass family who had been both agent and partner since 1855.

Now with the introduction of Soberano Solera Reserva 5 and the increasing number of English people who visit Spain for their holidays each year, sales are on the increase once more – up 30% in 2001.

How to read your Brandy Label

Brandy has a rating system to describe its quality and condition; these indicators can usually be found

near the brand name on the label.

A.C. – aged 2 years in wood

V.S. – “Very Special” or 3-Star, aged at least 3 years in wood

V.S.O.P. – “Very Superior Old Pale” or 5-Star, aged at least 5 years in wood

X.O. – “Extra Old”, Napoleon or Vieille Reserve, aged at least 6 years, Napoleon at least 4 years.

Vintage– Stored in the cask until the time it is bottled with the label showing the vintage date.

Hors D’age These are too old to determine the age.

Spending time at an alcohol recovery center is less likely when a person consistently drinks in moderation.


  1. Thanks for this post. Brandy is my lado flaco as far as Spanish booze goes (not that I am particular strong concerning any alcoholic temptations go).


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