Sherry Wine News

The Sherry Bodega – a Wine Ageing Machine

For centuries a bodega was a building used to store wine until it could be sold. It needed to be out of the sun and cool but little more as it was wine of a vintage year and soon sold. Over time bodegas evolved from the warehouses of the Cargadores de índias, merchants who kept their stores for shipment to the Americas on the ground floor while living above, through converted religious buildings, to the huge edifices we see today.

Most wine regions have traditionally aged wine in cellars, but that is not practical here for many reasons, the principal ones being that the highest of the Sherry towns is Jerez at just 53m above sea level, and that Sherry needs more air than cellars can provide. In the past bodegas were close to the quaysides of Cádiz, Sanlúcar and El Puerto de Santa María mainly for ease of shipping.

By about the end of the XVIII and beginning of the XIX centuries exports were rising dramatically and two events would transform bodega design: the adoption of the solera system and the acceptance of Fino as a serious wine. The first half of the XIX century saw the construction of many of the great “cathedral” style bodegas we see today, and they were built very scientifically: there is much more to them than simply size, if that wasn’t impressive enough.

Vinos de Jerez Sherry Wines Bodegas
The first half of the XIX century saw the construction of many of the great “cathedral” style bodegas. 1 of 3
Vinos Jerez Sherry Wines Bodegas
The floor is made from “albero” a rough sandy clay soil . 2 of 3
Vinos Jerez Sherry Wines Bodegas
The roof of the Bodega is very high providing airspace and also keeping warmer air above the butts. 3 of 3

It was realised that Fino’s aerobic flor yeast needed huge amounts of air - about 18 cubic metres per butt, a stable temperature - ideally about 18ᴼ and a relative humidity of over 70%. The site, altitude and orientation are therefore very carefully chosen so that the cooler moist west wind can pass through, pushing out warm air. A north-east to south-west axis is best for minimum exposure to the sun and maximum exposure to the winds. The floor is made from “albero” a rough sandy clay soil (also used in bullrings) to absorb humidity, and which is kept moist by spraying with water. This helps the flor and reduces transpiration losses.

The windows are shaped and positioned to keep out the sun and have esparto curtains which when moistened, cool the air as it enters. The roof is very high providing airspace and also keeping warmer air above the butts. It has a double slope and is covered with curved Arab tiles over brick for insulation and maximum deflection of the sun. Thick walls support the roof and provide insulation, and are painted white to reflect the heat.

Butts are positioned carefully, if possible away from doorways, but always with biological wines in the cooler bottom rows and oxitative wines above. Nothing has been left to chance: a complete eco-system has been developed which is different in every bodega and in all three Sherry towns, each with their distinct microclimates.

Here’s to the wine ageing machines - with no mechanism – which help make Sherry the wonderful drink it is.

Share this Article
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of El Consejo Regulador.
Paula Maclean
Three generations of family connections in Cadiz gave me a healthy love of the important thing in life: Sherry.After 40 years in the wine trade, ten of them in Spain, I am beginning to understand its history, culture, variety, quality, value and versatility. So I am doing all I can to introduce others to its unequalled delights.
Visit website
Paula Maclean @soleravieja
08 September 2015
Share this Article
Stay up to date on the lastest news from the Sherry region and events taking place near you.
Follow us

Meet the maker

Victoria Frutos Climent
Bodegas Real Tesoro &...
José María Quirós Sacaluga
Bodegas Tradición ,...
Reyes Gómez Rubio
Sánchez Romate ,...
Juan Manuel Hidalgo
Emilio Hidalgo ,...
Ignacio Lozano
Osborne , Enólogo
Jan Pettersen
Fernando de Castilla...
Manuel José Valcarcel Muñoz
Bodegas Fundador SLU...
Rocío Ruiz
Bodegas Urium ,...
Salvador Espinosa Rodríguez
Bodegas y Viñedos Díez-Mérito...
José Carlos Garrido Saborido
Bodegas Argüeso ,...


Classic, Passionate & Uniquely Spanish

Receive the latest news from Sherry Wines.

Subscribe now!


Thank you for joining our sherrylover community. We respect your privacy and promise to only send you news and events related to the D.O. Jerez and Manzanilla and their wineries.

In compliance with the current regulations on the Protection of Personal Data, we inform you that any personal data that you have provided to us, will be treated as long as you do not communicate otherwise, by REGULATING COUNCIL OF THE DENOMINATIONS OF ORIGIN "JEREZ-XÉRÈS -SHERRY "," MANZANILLA-SANLÚCAR DE BARRAMEDA ", and" VINAGRE DE JEREZ "in order to provide the requested services, answer your questions and send you information that may be of your interest. The recipient may exercise their rights of access, rectification, deletion, opposition, limitation of processing, data portability and not be the subject of automated individualized decisions (including the preparation of profiles), sending signed request by postal mail with subject "Data Protection ", To the address: Avda. Alcalde Álvaro Domecq, 2. 11.402, Jerez de la Frontera. Cádiz, clearly indicating the contact information and sending a copy of your identity document. You can also exercise the right to file a claim with the Spanish Agency for Data Protection (