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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I was under the impression that Sherry could only come from an area of Spain, just like Champagne can only come from France. Please enlighten me.

—Elio M., Canada

Dear Elio,

You’re correct that most of the world agrees that Sherry comes from Spain exclusively, just as Champagne should only refer to sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France. Sherry is made primarily from Palomino grapes from the Jerez region of Spain, as recognized by the European Union.

Until recently, the United States had never agreed to honor terms like Sherry and Champagne the way the E.U. had, allowing for producers to legally label them as such. That all changed in 2005 with a trade agreement that resulted in the U.S. no longer allowing new uses of terms that were considered “semi-generic” like Sherry, Champagne, Burgundy, Claret, Chablis, Chianti or Port.

Anyone who had already been labeling their wines with these semi-generic terms were grandfathered in and allowed to continue to use them. Labeling laws require that these terms must appear next to the actual appellation or place of origin, hopefully preventing possible Sherry lover confusion.

—Dr. Vinny

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