The name Manzanilla is inseparably linked to that of Sanlucar de Barrameda, the coastal town sitting at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River which forms one of the vertexes of the Sherry triangle. It is only possible to age this unique wine in bodegas situated in this beautiful town, which is why Manzanilla has the privilege of being a Denomination of Origin in its own right.
The D.O. "Manzanilla - Sanlúcar de Barrameda" is geographically located within the D.O. "Jerez-Xérès-Sherry" and shares with it both the Production Zone and the protection of the same Consejo Regulador. Both the grapes and production techniques employed are the same as those used for Sherry.
There is, however, an aspect which confers an exclusive identity upon these wines: they are aged under a layer of living yeast known in Spanish as "flor" in the special microclimate of Sanlúcar. Three main features make the climate in Sanlúcar so special, in addition to the fact that the town itself is built on two terraces at different levels: one at sea level (the Barrio Bajo or low quarter) and the other a few metres higher (the Barrio Alto or high quarter). These three features are: the River Guadalquivir which marks a natural boundary to the north of Sanlúcar; the Atlantic Ocean into which the river flows and which borders the town to the west; and the Marisma, the extensive stretch of wetland on the former river delta which is completely flat. These three features generate milder temperatures and higher levels of relative humidity than those prevailing in the rest of the Jerez Region: a humidity which is carried in on the sea-breeze, a westerly wind that is detained when it strikes the natural barrier formed by the Barrio Alto, depositing its moist air upon the urban centre of the town.
The combination of all these circumstances fosters the growth of the flor, the characteristic film of yeast that is peculiar to Sanlúcar and endows those wines biologically aged in its bodegas with special organoleptic characteristics.
According to the length of the ageing period, manazinallas which were originally "fina" may show slight signs of oxidation as the film of yeast, after long years of ageing, begins to lose strength in the oldest criaderas (or "classes" as they are known in the vernacular of Sanlúcar): a circumstance which gives rise to a very special wine which shares characteristics of both a fino manzanilla and an amontilado, known as "manzanilla pasada".