Sherry can be a difficult wine for the uninitiated. We’re used to fruity wines like sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio, and sherry is not primarily about fruit. You have to alter you perceptions and accept that sherry does not taste like any other wine, and then you can start to enjoy it.
The crispest, freshest styles are fino and manzanilla sherries. Richer, darker sherries are amontillados, olorosos and palo cortados. These are all made from the Palomino grape and are normally totally dry. Then you have super-sweet sherry made from the Pedro Ximinez. Finally, there are sweetened wines which are blends of dry sherry with PX known variously as cream, amorosos or sweet olorosos. Sherry is fortified and the strength varies between 15% for fino up to about 20% for oloroso. Almost all are blends of vintages, aged in a solera.
Spirit (particular whisky) drinkers tend to be more open to sherry, partly because whisky is often aged in old sherry casks, so learning about whisky involves learning about sherry, but also because the two drinks share certain similarities. Darker sherries like amontillados and olorosos often have flavours of nuts, dried fruit, orange peel, brown sugar and toffee, just like a good whisky. The spirits comparison is useful for thinking about the time to drink sherry too. Yes, these are all great food wines, but many are also excellent aperitifs, after dinner sippers and indeed cocktail ingredients; I’d highly recommend a bamboo – fino mixed half and half with vermouth and served straight up like a martini.
Paradoxically, the easiest style for the uninitiated to enjoy are the incredibly unfashionable sweeter wines, whereas the trendy finos and manzanillas can be a harder sell because of that lack of overt fruitiness. But throw in some olives and a bit of cheese, and they start to make sense very quickly. Whatever the style, sherry is worth getting a taste for as it offers some of the best quality to price ratio in the wine world.
The best sherry 2020
Morrisons The Best Oloroso sherry
What a treat to find a supermarket own label of such quality. Made by Lustau, one of the great names of sherry, this award-winning sherry is fresh, tangy and outrageously nutty. There’s Brazil nuts, walnuts and almonds all wrapped in muscovado sugar, with a bone dry finish.
Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana manzanilla sherry
Made by the sea in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, manzanilla is the freshest, driest and most irresistible style of sherry, and this is the world’s bestselling example of the style. One sip and you’ll see why, it’s loaded up with fresh Cox’s apples and salted almonds.
Waitrose No.1 rich cream sherry
This shows why cream sherry (aka granny sherry) has proved so popular down the years in Britain. This is a blend of oloroso and PX sherry with sweet flavours of figs, oranges and dried fruits. Good for sipping with cake, it’s also very handy in kitchen for perking up sauces and gravies.
Gonzalez Byass Matusalem oloroso sherry
This 30 year old blend of 75% oloroso with 25% PX is a symphony in sherry. Stick your nose in and it smells like an old navy rum; take a sip and it explodes with raisins, molasses, salted caramel and a finish of walnuts that goes on for a good half an hour.
El Maestro Sierra PX sherry
Pedro Ximinez (PX) contains around 400g per litre of sugar and is usually used for blending. Some examples can be a bit much on their own but this one has a freshness that makes it extremely drinkable. Try poured on ice cream, as a sweetener in cocktails or on its own as a pudding in a glass.
Fino Perdido Sanchez Romate sherry
Here’s a fun one for sherry lovers: a fino, the lightest style, aged for a bit longer so that it takes on some of the characteristics of an amontillado. Expect cooked brown apples, marmite-like yeasty notes and salted almonds. This wine is a tapas maestro.
Bodegas Tradición fino sherry
Tradición is a relatively new name in sherry but the firm has illustrious antecedents. Aged for around 12 years, this is about as old as a fino can get. It’s massively rich with a texture of an old white burgundy or vintage champagne.
Tio Diego amontillado (Valdespino) sherry
A single vineyard amontillado from one of the most traditional producers in the region. This smells a little like a malt whisky or old cognac with a touch of smokiness; in the mouth it’s bone dry with salted almonds but with a refreshing lift to it.
B Rodríguez Goyesco amontillado sherry
A young amontillado, only aged for about eight years in total so it preserves plenty of its youthful fruit. There’s a fresh apple note here but joined by orange peel and hazelnut. It’s an extremely versatile food wine, taking in most cheeses and cold meats, but it’s also a great digestif.
Barbadillo palo cortado Obispo Gascon sherry
A palo cortado is a rare type of sherry that has the elegance of an amontillado with the body of an oloroso. Here you’ll find hazelnuts, butterscotch and citrus peel but with a woodiness and slightly earthy note on the finish. It’s superb with blue cheeses like Stilton.
This review was last updated in November 2020. If you have any questions or suggestions for future reviews, or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on alcohol guidelines, read our guide to drinking responsibly.