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Sack is an antiquated wine term referring to white fortified wine imported from mainland Spainmarker or the Canary Islandsmarker. There were sack of different origins such as:

The term Sherris sack later gave way to Sherry as the English term for fortified wine from Jerez. Since Sherry is practically the only of these wines still widely exported and consumed, "sack" (by itself, without qualifier) is commonly but not quite correctly quoted as an old synonym for Sherry.

Most sack was probably sweet, and matured in wooden barrels for a limited time. In modern terms, typical sack may have resembled cheaper versions of medium Oloroso Sherry.

Today, sack is sometimes seen included in the name of some sherries, perhaps most commonly on dry sherries as "dry sack".

Origin of the term

It is believed that the origin of the term sack is from the Spanish word sacar, meaning "to draw out", which led to sacas being used to mean exports of wine, which in term gave the English word sack. Another theory is that the term derived from the Japanese drink sake, being introduced by Spanish and Portuguese traders. The word sack does not appear in any document before 1530.

Historical background

The Duke of Medina Sidonia abolished taxes on export of wine from Sanlúcar de Barramedamarker in 1491, allowing both Spanish and foreign ships. English merchants were given preferential treatment in 1517, and distinction was upheld between second-rate wines, so-called "Bastards", and first-rate wines which were known "Rumneys" and "Sacks". This period in time coincides with the planting of vines in the Canaries, after the Spanish all but exterminated the indigenous Guanches in the 1490s. Málaga, formerly in the Kingdom of Granadamarker, also took to using the name sack for its wines, which were previously sold as “Garnacha”.

Literary references

William Shakespeare's character Sir John Falstaff, introduced in 1597, was a big fan of sack, and sometimes refers specifically to Sherris sack.

Robert Herrick wrote two comic poems in praise of sack, "His Farewell to Sack" and "The Welcome to Sack."


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