Gonzalez Byass Matusalem oloroso dulce muy viejo sherry in a nutshell
A treat for hedonists, this is sweet but perfectly balanced. It’s won more awards than you can shake a stick at.
When I worked in the wine trade, the results of the International Wine Trade would come in, and every year the sherry trophy went to Gonzalez Byass Matusalem. Eventually, one Christmas, we got to try some and then we understood. This is one of the world’s great sweet wines. It’s essentially a British-style sherry, a sweetened oloroso that’s made from the best ingredients, then aged for a very long time. The name is a giveaway – Matusalem or Methusalah, the old chap from the Bible. Its average age is 30 years, but it contains much older wines.
It’s made by one of the great names in sherry, Gonzalez Byass. As the name suggests, the firm was originally an Anglo-Spanish alliance, founded in 1835. The British market was so important, Mr Byass became a partner in 1855. It’s still owned by the Gonzalez family, though the Byass side sold up in the 1980s.
The firm is massive, with vineyards all over Spain. Its crown jewels are its range of very old sherries, which are aged in a special part of the bodega, like this Matusalem. It’s a blend of 75 per cent oloroso and 25 per cent Pedro Ximenez, all from the firm’s vineyards. Gonzalez Byass is one of the few firms that still grows PX in the Jerez region. The solera is topped up with Gonazalez Byass 1847 cream sherry (not a vintage, but the year the solera was started), so you can have a taste of what the young wine is like. But after around 30 years, it’s a completely different animal. It smells like an old navy rum, with a sharp acetic note. It’s massively sweet, but so well-balanced, you hardly notice the sugar and just enjoy the taste of dates, oranges, raisins, molasses and malt extract with a finish of walnuts and dark chocolate bitterness. Many wines are described as Christmas in a glass, but this actually is.
A great alternative to after-dinner cognac or port. It’s also good with blue cheese, dark chocolate, sticky toffee pudding and, of course, mince pies.
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