Making "Sherry" 

Once you have acquired the basic winemaking skills, you may wish to try something more sophisticated. The ideal place to start is with a home-made "sherry". Of course it is not possible to build at home the complicated solera system of casks which is responsible for the consistently high quality of commercial sherries, but a reasonable imitation can be produced if some care is exercised. The flavor characteristic of pale dry (fino and amontillado) sherries is derived from the oxidation of the wine, in conjunction with the growth of a certain special type of yeast called a flor on the surface of the wine after normal fermentation is complete. Obtaining this growth can be tricky for the home winemaker. The balance of the original must needs to be correct, which is one reason why gypsum is added (the other being that it helps to develop the flavor). However, if the flor does not grow, the wine can be sweetened and served as a sweet or "cream" sherry, in which flor never develops, but which is still exposed to the air to produce the oxidation.


The recipes show the quantities of ingredients in three systems of measurement: British (or Imperial), Metric and American. 

The conversion from British to Metric is fairly exact; where there is a discrepancy, it is insignificant and will not affect the results. By contrast, the quantities of ingredients specified in the American measurements are often smaller than the British or Metric ones. This is because the American gallon and pint are smaller than the British gallon and pint. (The unit of weight, the pound, is the same in both cases.)

It follows that you should use one set of units - either British or Metric or American - throughout. Should you need to convert from one system to another, the following information may be helpful: 

20 fluid ounces (fl oz) = 1 pint  
8 pints = 1 gallon    
16 ounces (oz) = 1 pound

1000 millilitres (ml) = 1 litre
1000 gram (g)  =  1 kilo (kg)

20 US fl oz = 1 US pint
8 US pints  = 1 US gallon
16 oz = 1 lb 


British to Metric:
1 pint = 568 mI
1 gallon = 4.5 litres
1 oz =  28 g
1 lb = 454g 

Metric to British:
1 litre = 1.75 pints
100 mI = 3.5 fl oz
1 kg = 2 1b 3 oz
100 g = 3.5 oz 

British to American:
1 UK pint = 1.25 US pints
1 UK gallon = 10 US pints
(The pound is the same in both cases.)


British  Metric USA
Pure apple juice  1.75 pints    1 litre 1.75 pints
Sherry type grape concentrate 1 pint 550 mI 1 pint
Sugar 1.5 lb  680 g 1.25 pounds
Gypsum (Calcium sulphate) 1 ounce 30 g 1 ounce
Tartaric acid Half a teaspoon Half a teaspoon Half a teaspoon
Grape tannin Half a teaspoon Half a teaspoon Half a teaspoon
Sherry flor yeast and nutrient
Water to  1 gallon 4.5 litres 1 gallon

Mix the fruit juice and concentrate with half the sugar and enough water to produce a total volume of 6.5 pints (3.7 litres). Add the gypsum, acid, tannin and a vigorous sherry flor yeast Gypsum (calcium sulphate) starter of not more than 0.75 pint (425 ml) volume. Transfer to a demijohn and fit an air-lock. Ferment for three weeks or until the S.G. reaches 1.003, then dissolve extra sugar in the wine in 4 oz lots until a dry wine of high alcoholic strength is achieved. Note: To ensure that the sherry will be dry, do not allow the S.G. to exceed 1.003 at any time during the addition of sugar. 

When the fermentation has finished, rack the wine carefully into a second demijohn. This should be only seven-eighths full. Do not add any Campden tablets! Replace the bung and air-lock with a sterile cotton-wool plug. Set the wine aside in a cool (15 - 17 degrees C / 59 - 62 degrees F), dry place and leave totally undisturbed. The formation of a flor may take weeks or months; it appears as a thin, grayish film on the surface of the wine. Leave the wine undisturbed until the flor has completely disintegrated and formed a sediment on the bottom. The sherry may then be bottled. If no flor has formed after six months, stabilize the wine, add sugar to taste and bottle. It will still have a sherry-like flavor. The wine is best stored for about nine months before use and will certainly improve with keeping. 


Suitable ingredients include yellow plums, peaches, rosehips, sultanas and so on. Red fruits are not suitable. The must is prepared in the normal way and pulp fermented. For example: 


British  Metric USA
Fresh apricots    3 lb  1.35 kg 2.5 pounds
or Dried apricots  1 pint 550 mI 1 pint
Sultanas 1.5 lb  680 g 1.25 pounds
or Concentrated white grape 1 ounce 30 g 1 ounce
Sugar 2.75 lb 1.25 kg 2.25 pounds
Tartaric acid 2 teaspoon 2 teaspoon 2 teaspoon
Gypsum (calcium sulfate) 1 ounce 30 g 1 ounce
Grape tannin Half a teaspoon Half a teaspoon Half a teaspoon
Pectic enzyme
Sherry flor yeast and nutrient
Water to  1 gallon 4.5 litres 1 gallon

Chop and boil any dried fruit before use. Then mix the fruit and liquid with any fresh fruit and the concentrate in a fermentation bin. Add half the sugar as syrup and all the other ingredients before making up to a total volume of about 7 pints (4 litres). Ensure the temperature is not above 25 degrees C (75 F) and introduce the yeast starter. Stir well and ferment on pulp for 5 days, keeping well covered and stirring twice daily. Then strain into a demijohn, topping up slightly if necessary. Fit an air-lock and proceed as for Apple Sherry (above).


As explained above, the flavor of sweet sherry originates from the oxidation in the later stages of storage under a porous cotton-wool plug. A sherry flor cannot form, so there is no point using a flor yeast; a normal sherry or port yeast will be satisfactory. The recipe below is for Cream Sherry and was devised by the late Mr Charles Hewett. It is reproduced by courtesy of Mrs Grace Parsons.

British  Metric USA
Sugar 3.5 lb 1.6 kg 3 pounds
Crystal malt 1 lb 450 g 1 pound
Chopped raisins 1 lb 450 g 1 pound
Citric acid Half teaspoon Half teaspoon Half teaspoon
Grape tannin Half teaspoon Half teaspoon Half teaspoon
Water to  1 gallon 4.5 litres 1 gallon
Port or Sherry yeast and nutrient

Coarsely chop the raisins. Using a bucket with a lid mix the crystal malt, 2 lb (900 g) of sugar and raisins. Pour on 2.5 pints (1.5 litres) of boiling water to dissolve the sugar and leave for half an hour. Then add 5 pints (2.8 litres) of cold water, add the other ingredients and leave for 24 hours, keeping well covered. Prepare the yeast according to instructions on the packet and add to the must. When the fermentation has begun keep in a warm place at a temperature of between 20  - 25 C (68  - 78 F) and stir daily. On the seventh day dissolve the remaining sugar in 1 pint (600 ml) of boiling water, when cool add to the must and leave for 2 days. Strain through a nylon sieve into a glass fermentation jar. Fill the jar to the bottom of the neck with cold water and continue fermentation under an air-lock for about 4 weeks. Rack off into a clean jar, replace the air-lock with a bung of cotton wool and leave until clear. Rack off and bottle. Notes

  • Specific gravity should be 1020 or lower.
  • Sweeten with sugar syrup 1020-1035.
  • Fortify each bottle with a sherry glass of cheap brandy.
  • To make a medium-sweet sherry use 4 ounces less sugar at second stage and take down to 1005-1010 S.G.

Next: making sparkling wine at home


Original posting date
01 January 2018