Say ‘s­’ to #SherryWeek

Say 's­' to #SherryWeek

Running until November 14 the global event, which is now in its eighth year, is the world’s largest celebration of sherry. Here’s our pick of the bunch…

SHERRY is a fortified wine made at both low latitude (36°) and low altitude (0–90 metres above sea level) in an area called the ‘Marco de Jerez,’ a triangle formed by the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María, and Sanlúcar de Barrameda between the cities of Cádiz and Seville in Andalusía, southwestern Spain. This area has a hot Mediterranean climate and a long tradition of growing grapes and producing wines that likely dates back to the Phoenicians, who founded Cádiz around 1100 BC.

There are several different styles with the common denominator being the addition of grape spirit to the base wine to increase alcohol content. Although some sherries are dark in appearance, they are all made from white grapes. Made from the Palomino Fino grape and great with food, all four of my selections are dry. So what to eat? In general terms heed the following Andalusian adage: if it swims pair with Fino or Manzanilla; if it flies pair with Amontillado or Palo Cortado and if it runs pair with Oloroso. There are always exceptions though! But you can certainly enjoy sherry with those fiddly foods that defeat most still wines – anchovies, artichokes and olives, to name just three.

Be sure to explore #sherryweek and visit for more information on online and offline events, plus great cocktail recipes, tips on food pairing and more. The event overlaps with Copa Jerez – the food and wine pairing competition – which takes place on 9-10 November. Salud to sherry, seemingly constantly keeping its low profile!

1) MUST-TRY CLASSICALLY BREADY AND YEASTY – own-label supermarket Fino sherry, matured slightly inland, in the cellars of Jerez de la Frontera

Tesco Finest González Byass Fino Sherry

Tesco, £6, 37.5cl, Alc 15%

Bar some styles of Manzanilla, Finos are the palest and freshest styles of dry sherry made from low acid Palomino Fino grapes in the region’s famous, deep, whitewashed lime-rich albariza soils. They are fortified with neutral grape spirit to 15–15.5% abv, then aged ‘biologically’ under a bread-like film of humidity- and moderate-heat loving ‘flor’ yeast which protects the wine from oxidation, while reducing levels of glycerol (and therefore body), lending acetaldehyde-derived aromas of apple skin, bread dough, hay and nuts.

Own-label supermarket sherries are still some of the best-value wines. Produced by the august family business González Byass, whose sherry production, which includes Tío Pepe, is overseen by debonair cellarmaster Antonio Flores, this is an almondy, yeasty, fresh bread dough-scented release of a six-year-old fino with remarkable depth and flavour. Drink chilled with young Manchego, shellfish, Iberico ham, baked fish, salted almonds, anchovies and many fish and seafood dishes. Of course, it’s also a stellar wine to drink with tapas – hello patatas bravas and pan con tomate with jamón. Makes a super ‘She & T’ (about 50:50 sherry and tonic water, topped up with some ice and a slice of lemon) too. Superb value.

2) BONE-DRY, PALE, LIGHT-BODIED SHERRY – from coastal Sanlúcar de Barrameda where the ‘flor,’ or carpet of yeast, grows more thickly than in Jerez with cooling, humid breezes.

Bodegas Valdespino, Manzanilla ‘Deliciosa’ Pago de Miraflores

Lea & Sandeman/Whisky Exchange £13.50- £14.45/£6.95, 75cl & 37.5cl bottles (discount case price), Alc 15%

Fino sherries produced in the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda on the Guadalquivir River are called Manzanilla, the lightest, palest and driest kind of sherry (the alcoholic strength is 15-17% with a sugar content below 5 g/l). In Spain, over half the sherry drunk is Manzanilla; in the UK, where sweeter styles are preferred, it’s only around 2%. The maritime climate of Sanlúcar – whose bars are fuelled by Manzanilla – creates conditions that can support thicker layers of flor around the year than those in inland Jerez. Like Fino, but more delicate, this is the kind of sherry that makes a tangy, lissom aperitif that can happily be swapped for white wine at mealtimes.

Grupo Estévez-owned Valdespino is one of Jerez’s oldest bodegas (wineries). This vivid, single-vineyard, benchmark wine was aged biologically under the flor – averaging around five years of age when bottled – and is lighter and fresher than the above Fino. Think sea spray, Mediterranean herbs, chamomile, almonds, hay, salty sea breezes and blue skies. A great aperitif, especially alongside olives, this is one to memorably sip with salads, raw oysters, fried fish, cured meats, salt cod croquetas, smoked salmon, pasta vongole, sushi, sashimi and fish and chips. Such refinement.

3) A COMPLEX, LONG-AGED FINO – (8 years on average), half biologically (under flor) & half oxidatively

Bodegas Lustau ‘Los Arcos’ Dry Amontillado  

Berry Bros & Rudd, WoodWinters & Whisky Exchange, £15.50-£18.25, 75cl, Alc 18.5%

With the passing years, the flor veil over Finos starts to fail and oxidative features will develop like Oloroso, the only dry, full-bodied wine produced completely by oxidative vinification. Levels of alcohol increase slightly with ageing as water is lost from the barrel at a speedier rate than ethanol. Amontillado is only partially aged under flor, then re-fortified to 17% abv to kill the yeast, creating a darker, richer, bolder dry sherry which then ages oxidatively. With age, alcohol levels of sherries deliberately exposed to oxygen (typically by not topping up barrels repeatedly) rise to 22% abv as the water content evaporates. Aged for around eight years on average, this is a marvellous hazelnut, dried apricot and sweet tobacco of a (dry) Amontillado, with some vestigial yeasty undertones. One for smoked fish, braised/grilled/roast pork, artichokes, Pecorino, Brie, goat’s cheese, asparagus, paté, game, chicken curry and mushroom dishes. Serve around 13–14ºC.


Bodegas Hidalgo-La Gitana, Palo Cortado Wellington ‘VOS’

The Whisky Exchange, Lea & Sandeman, Virgin Wines, Hedonism, Haynes Hanson & Clark, £26.95-£34.10, 50cl, Alc 17.5%

The Hidalgo family came from northern Spain to Sanlúcar at the end of the eighteenth century and purchased a tiny bodega in 1792. It’s one of the oldest sherry producers, renowned for their celebrated La Gitana Manzanilla sherries (they do a cracking Vermouth too). To qualify as an age-qualified wine, either VOS (Vinum Optimum Signatum/Very Old Sherry), which requires a minimum age of twenty years or VORS (Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum/Very Rare Old Sherry), at least thirty, wines must be put through a laboratory test and then presented to a tasting board. Whilst its aromas and finesse resemble an amontillado, rare Palo Cortado sherry typically spends much less time under flor, with resultingly more glycerol, body and richness being preserved, like an Oloroso. Serve a little warmer than an Amontillado at around 14°C and savour this spectacular and rare aged wine’s notes of butterscotch, cardamom, toasted pecans, blood orange, sandalwood and walnut. Only around 600 500ml bottles produced each year so get in quick!


ENJOY these 4 top Pedro Ximenez (PX) sherries with dark chocolate, blue cheese or just pour over ice cream!

All sherry begins dry. Naturally sweeter, oxidatively aged, sherries are made by adding sweeter wines based on overripe, dark, thin-skinned, sun-dried Pedro Ximénez (or light Moscatel) grapes. In the case of PX they produce an intensely sweet, dark, fortified elixir. Think roasted coffee, Christmas cake, raisins, figs, liquorice, molasses and muscovado. Most sherry producers ship PX wines from warmer Montilla-Morilles, just south of nearby Córdoba, and make and mature the wine in the ‘Sherry Triangle’ some 200km to the southwest.

Aside from Hungary’s Tokaji Essencia, these powerfully rich, deep and dark wines are by and large the world’s sweetest wines. A dessert in their own right and sheer decadence when sipping with vanilla/Stracciatella ice cream, dark chocolate and blue cheese (think Lanark Blue, Stilton and Roquefort).

Seek out the following three top PX wines:

  1. Co-op Irresistible Pedro Ximénez Sherry Co-op, £6,, Alc 17%
  2. Williams & Humbert, Don Zoilo 12-year-old Pedro Ximénez The Wine Society, £8.50, 37.5cl, Alc 18%
  3. Lustau Pedro Ximénez Murillo Waitrose, £16.99, 50 cl, Alc 17%
  4. GonzaÃŒÂlez Byass VORS NoeÌ 30-Year-Old Pedro Ximénez Sherry Majestic, £22.49 Mix Six, 37.5cl; South Down Cellars,£27.95, Alc 15.5%

Follow James on Twitter @QuixoticWine


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