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We speak of wine being of a place – a sense of terroir. And while a vintner can certainly inoculate grape must with whatever isolated yeast strain he fancies, perhaps nothing can inform terroir as much as yeasts. The grapes are the same, all Palomino. The process is the same. The difference must be place and its other inhabitants. But just what is this flor – a very particular yeast that only lives in specific wine regions which are often defined by these very particular microscopic citizens. Renée’s Kissing Frogs introduces the difference in the two flor of two Southern Spanish towns, namely Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda.


All flor are of the genus Saccharomyces (meaning sugar yeast) and notably there are three species S. bayanus, S. capensis, and S. fermentati. In sherry these yeast turn approximately 99% of the grape sugars into alcohol in just under three days. The winemaker at this point determines from no more than aroma, mind you, which of these wines may become a fino and which are destined for blending due to their sub-par ability to give birth to a flor. After that, when your normal, everyday, run-of the mill, S. cerevisiae would curl up and die, flor go one step further and produce a skim on top of the host wine which protects the wine from oxidation – imagine plastic wrap floating on top of the wine. This is the beginning of sherry production, and there are distinct steps from this point.

At the first classification those wines which will not sustain a flor are quickly fortified to 18% alcohol by volume (ABV) to ensure that the wine does not undergo an acetobacter (vinegar) fermentation. The wines that are expected to produce a flor are fortified to 15.3% ABV at which point the flor will form. At this point, sherry are either potentially Fino or not Fino.

The second classification is determined by the presence of the expected flor. Those wines that have a flor are determined still potentially to be Fino. Those without a bloom at this point are simply graded on quality. Further classifications determine the style.

* Fino – flor, bottled with little to no aging

* Palo Cortado – sort of a Fino-Oloroso hybrid, flor dies early and begins aging oxidatively

* Amontillado –selected to be a Fino until flor dies off, then fortified to slow oxidation, and aged for color

Should the word Manzanilla be used, the wine is from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, this is a protected Denomición de Origen meaning nothing more and certainly nothing less.

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