International Sherry Week runs from November 6 to 12. Times Drinks Editor James Viner picks six fortified favourites…
International Sherry Week marks a major milestone this year. It’s the largest celebration of the unique fortified, low-altitude, low-latitude wines from the region around the city of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalucía, southwest Spain, that started in 2014. Over the past ten years, the celebration has grown into a major global event. If you’re looking to take part in the tenth edition of International Sherry Week (November 6 to 12), here are six of the best sherries to buy.
Mainly a non-vintage product, sherry is famous for its maturation system whereby wines of different average ages are fractionally blended and aged in a complex arrangement of old barrels (wine is moved between them over time to achieve a blend of younger and older wines), thereby maintaining a coherent sherry style. The high-yielding, neutral white grape variety (most of sherry’s flavours come through the maturation process) Palomino Fino is easily the most important of the three major authorised grape varieties of Jerez DOP, accounting for over 95 per cent of the total vineyard area, which is under a third of what it was at the end of the 1970s.
Say ‘Salud!’ to this year’s sherry fiesta with these benchmark bottles, which punch well above their price point and go so well with food. Bear (loosely) in mind the adage, which goes, ‘If it swims – Fino. If it flies – Amontillado. If it runs – Oloroso.’
1) The Best Palo Cortado Dry Sherry NV (£7.25, Morrisons, 19%, 37.5cl)
Bargain alert for this keenly priced, amber-hued Palo Cortado, a rare style of sherry with the aromatic profile of an Amontillado but the body, concentration and richness of an Oloroso, the fullest-body style of sherry. Delectable wine with complex notes of toffee, wood spice, almonds, roasted coffee beans and a little treacle. The finish goes on and on. Try it with Jamón Ibérico, croquetas, grilled octopus, tuna tartare, mature cheeses and roast chicken. Classy stuff. And amazingly long-lasting on the palate. Handy half-bottle, too.
2) Bodegas Hidalgo, La Gitana Manzanilla NV (£8.99 mix 6, Majestic, 15%, 50cl)
The definitive brand of bone dry, pale, delicate Fino-style sherry aged in the seaside town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where the cooler, more humid maritime conditions promote a thicker, more even layer of flor, the protective veil of yeast that forms on the surface of the wine and differentiates ‘biologically’ aged Fino from the other ‘oloroso’ sherries, aged without the protection of flor (which reduces levels of acetic acid, protects the wine from oxidation, and releases acetaldehyde). Incredibly crisp, salty, tangy, appetising and gently almondy. Bring on tortillitas de camarones, pasta vongole, sushi, sashimi, pukka Spanish tinned fish and smoked meats. Keep it in the fridge and consume an open bottle within a week. Serve well-chilled.
3) Marks & Spencer, Lustau Pedro Ximénez (PX) NV (£9, M&S, 17%, 37.5cl)
Made by sherry stars Lustau, this self-indulgent, very deep brown, lusciously sweet PX sherry is Christmas pudding in a glass. Think dried fruit, coffee, liquorice, figs, raisins, molasses and prunes. Pairs brilliantly with vanilla ice cream (pour some over the top), dark chocolate, blue cheese, sticky toffee pudding and pecan pie. Holds forever once opened and resealed. Serve cool(ish) — between 10-12ºC.
4) Bodegas Sánchez Romate Fino Perdido NV (£9.25, The Wine Society, 15%, 75cl)
Crazy, totally spectacular price for a six-year-old (unfiltered) screw-capped dry sherry. This tiptop mature bottle is exclusive to The Wine Society and a little darker and richer than the standard pale lemon Fino. Broad, bready and fairly powerful with a lovely orange peel note, it’s a treat with salmon yakitori, patatas bravas, Manchego, Jamón Ibérico, nuts and shellfish. Bargain bonanza in a big bottle.
5) Waitrose No. 1 Emilio Lustau Dry Oloroso Sherry (£13.49, Waitrose, 20%, 75cl)
Stunning price for a robust, enormously appetising, oxidatively aged (i.e., without the protection of the film-forming yeast flor) full-bodied sherry, in a 75cl bottle. Just the ticket served very lightly chilled with charcuterie, roasted almonds, game, roast beef and hearty stews. Wonderful, benchmark stuff (again from consistently brilliant Lustau), all tertiary notes of toffee, leather, dried figs, roasted chestnuts and walnuts! Enjoy within three months after opening.
6) Bodegas Hidalgo-La Gitana NV Amontillado Seco Napoleón (£15.95, The Whisky Exchange, 17.5%, 50cl)
The quality of wine here is exemplary. Amber in hue, mellow, nutty, umami-rich and dry with at least twelve years of average age, this formerly biologically aged/Fino sherry, which became an Amontillado when it was re-fortified to kill the flor – and subsequently exposed to oxygen – is perfect with salted almonds, cheese, wild game pâtés, oily fish, meaty curries (hello tandoori chicken) and jamón. This is a gorgeous sherry from the get-go that’s sure to please lovers of non-fruity vino: expect hazelnuts, cloves, sea salt and a gentle yeasty character. An open bottle will last at least two weeks (store all opened sherries upright in the fridge). Serve, as with Palo Cortado and Amontillado, around 12-14°C. Salud!
November’s Supermarket Star Buy
M&S Collection Chablis 2021, France (£15, Marks & Spencer, 12.5%)
My kind of tense, limpid Chablis made by the astounding La Chablisienne co-op, whose flinty, lemony core leads onto a mineral-edged, food-friendly finish. A winner with seasonal native raw oysters, freshly baked gougères, sushi and eggs Benedict.
· More information at: sherry.wine/sherryweek on specially designed routes – or ‘Sherry Rutas’ – that take in sherry/tapas bars & wine merchants across the capital
· Follow #SherryWeek & James on Instagram @QuixoticWines