El Maestro Sierra PX review in a nutshell
A brilliant and highly-drinkable example of the sweetest, most intense style of sherry.
Pedro Ximinez, or PX as it’s commonly known, is a type of grape which accumulates sugar to an unusual degree. After picking, the grapes are then left out in the sun to partially dry, which concentrates the sugar. The result is such a high sugar content that the wine struggles to ferment. When the yeasts have given up, alcohol is added up to about 15% ABV, and you are left with a wine containing up to about 400g of sugar per litre. Mostly PX wines are used to sweeten olorosos to make cream sherries, once the most popular style in Britain.
Now, perhaps because they aren’t needed for blending so much, PXs are increasingly bottled on their own. Interestingly, very little PX is grown in the sherry region itself. Most comes from the neighbouring area of Montilla, which is famous for its intensely sweet wines, which are allowed to be called sherry if matured in Jerez.
This is where this sherry comes from. It is bottled by a small family business called El Maestro Sierra. This began life in the 19th century as an almacenista, a merchant who would hold stocks of maturing sherry to sell on to other companies for their blends. It began bottling under its own label in 1992. The company doesn’t own any vineyards, or indeed make any wines, instead it buys exceptional wines from other producers and ages and blends them to its own specifications. It’s still in family hands and now run by Pilar Plá Pechovierto.
I have to say, I’m not normally a fan of PX on its own. It’s so sweet and raisin-y that I find it a bit one-dimensional. This bottle, however, is a different animal. It has an average age of about five years, so not particularly old, but it’s already very complex. Along with the dried fruit, there’s orange blossom, North African spices and other floral notes. Despite its massive sweetness, it’s not unbalanced. If you get a taste for it, the company produces some long-aged versions which, though expensive, are worth trying.
This tastes amazing trickled on ice cream or as a sweetening agent in drinks like an old fashioned. Or, sipped very slowly as a pudding in its own right.
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