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I saw Dry Sack on a wine menu. What is that?

Although you may be wondering what a crass reference to the nether regions is doing wedged between port and cognac on your after-dinner wine menu, there's a very simple explanation. Get your heads out of the gutter, boys and girls, and pay attention.

Dry Sack is, quite simply, sherry. But sherry isn't even really "sherry." Let me explain: The region of Jerez in Spain has long been prized for the unique, eponymous libation they produce. British traders began importing it in the late 1800s, but the English tongue had a hard time saying the name "Jerez" (pronounced Hare-ETH by Spaniards). So they took to a long line of language bastardization, which eventually led to the word "sherry." Dry Sack falls into the same linguistic heist. The Brits marred the Spanish word for "dry" – "seco" – to "sack" and then "dry sack."

Sherry, although sometimes dark in appearance, is made only from white grapes. Palomino is the major one, generally not found outside of Jerez since the grapes are said to be bland. Sherry's rich flavor comes from the region's chalky soil and the mystical production methods that have developed over time. These wines get unsightly yeast infections that make them taste better. Interestingly, this blanket of yeast, called flor, is particularly adapted to the Jerez region, and when imported to other parts of the world, quickly changes or dies out.

Sherry is in a class of its own, with the flavor of salty ocean breezes blowing across even the sweetest cream varieties. There are seven styles of sherry, ranging from bone-dry fino to dark, nutty amontillado to lush, sweet creams – all produced by combining wines in series of aged oak barrels. This set-up is called a solera.

Dry Sack is a brand launched in 1906 out of Andalusia. It is a cross between amontillado, oloroso and Pedro Ximenez. Dry Sack has been aged with flor, then fortified and put into a cask to oxidize and take on a richer, darker appearance with a depth of creamy almond flavor.

Sherry, although poorly understood and undervalued, is no sissy. This drink has machismo; it's the daily drink of rugged southern Spanish men. But that, my friends, is not why it's called dry sack. What were you thinking?

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