7 best sherries
This Spanish tipple is making a comeback, so here are the bottles we recommend you try
Once known for being the penchant of nanas everywhere, sherry is shaking off its old-fashioned image and emerging as, dare we say it, quite cool.
Yes, we agree that it’s a massive disservice to characterise a whole deeply historic and prestigious drinks category in this way. But until recently, the vast majority of drinkers and bars alike hadn’t really shown sherry much love. But that’s changing.
In the same way that ales went from the preserve of the grandad to the hipster, sherry is now finding itself a new appreciative audience. And that’s most visibly evident in the flurry of trendy sherry focused bars that have begun to emerge, from Pinxto de Bath in Bath to Flok in Manchester, which both opened earlier this year.
Affordable, nuanced, and excellent for pairing with food, it’s perhaps not too surprising the Spanish fortified wine has found itself in the spotlight. And as with wine there are many styles to choose from. So how do you choose a good one?
Jason McRitchie, manager of London’s new sherry focused bar Sack, says: “With the complexity of sherry, think about what you like with wine. Do you go for dry styles, or off dry styles? Then try matching that up with things like Fino, which has fresh, dry, slightly dirty flavours. If you like things a bit more flinty, go for your Manzanillas. And then you can start bringing a bit more of your residual sugars in, and start to look for a dark hue of sherry where you get a little bit extra of that warm, dark, oaky, nuttiness and caramel coming through. The darker the sherry, you can tell it’s going to be that little bit sweeter.”
What are we looking for? Firstly, we’ve deliberately covered a range of styles here from the super sweet to the bone dry. And we’ve also deliberately focused on non-vintage styles, meaning you’re much more likely to be able to get your hands on them. But with all, we’re looking for quality, how well the flavours are balanced, a beautiful mouthfeel, and that length of flavour.
What’s more, you really don’t have to spend a fortune to get something of quality. With some of the best producers signed up to make many of the supermarket’s own-brands for example, there’s plenty of affordable options.
Here’s our round-up of the best.
Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry, 15%: £8.00 for 500ml, Sainsbury’s
The Hidalgo family has been producing sherry since 1792 in the Spanish seaside town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. And all that lovely sea air seems to have made its way into their multi-award-winning wines. Produced using the same methods as Fino, Manzanilla’s are pale and light. But as one of the driest and most pungent of sherry styles, you can expect lots of salty characteristics. What’s lovely about this La Gitana is that its salty notes are supported by apple, a hint of pear, and some slight baked bread qualities, with a little kick of citrus to keep things fresh. Serve chilled, alongside some quality cheese, seafood, or anything salty in fact. The sharpness of this sherry will cut right through it.
Rich and complex, dark and nutty, Oloroso’s is the style to go for if you like something a little less sweet, with some slightly savoury notes. Tesco’s is traditionally produced by the renowned Bodegas Barbadillo winery. There’s generous helpings of walnut, while fig and raisin abound. Some slight toffee notes give this sherry a rounded finish too. Tesco recommends serving it with traditional Spanish tapas. But at this time of year, we can think of no better match than sipping it alongside a slice of fruit cake.
Another gem from Bodegas Barbadillo; what can we say? After seven generations of production, it knows its sherry. This multi award-winning bottle was also awarded a Platinum, Best in Show for Best Value Dry Fortified at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017. Aged for eight years, this Manzanilla is fruity and bold. There’s apple followed by something buttery, and some soft brioche notes, a touch of minerality and that signature hint of salt.
Sainsbury's Taste the Difference 12 year Sweet Pedro Ximenez Sherry, 18%: £8.00 for 500ml, Sainsbury’s
From one end of the flavour spectrum to the other, Pedro Ximenez sherries are made with the grape variety of the same name, which are picked overly ripe or sun-dried for intensity of flavour. These are deep, dark and rich wines. This fine sherry from producer Williams & Humbert, though intensely sweet is also exceptionally characterful and nuanced. Thick and velvety in texture, and somewhat chocolatey at first, fruity layers from cherry to plum start to reveal themselves slowly, with a slight hint of bitterness upfront. Quite frankly, this is a bargain.
Gonzalez Byass Delicado Fino Sherry, 15.5%: £13.99 for 500ml, Waitrose
Whether you know anything about sherry or not, you’ve probably heard of Tío Pepe; the ubiquitous sherry graces back-bars the world over. So it might surprise you to know that our next pick started life as Tío Pepe. Produced by Gonzalez Byass, Delicado Fino is a limited production, long-aged dry sherry. Or put simply, it’s Tío Pepe aged for six years, and made with liquid selected from three casks in which the layer of flor yeast is still alive. Taste-wise, that means lots of character. There’s orchard fruits, and that lovely freshness, but still a lot of dry character and yeasty notes. This is a great entry into more complex Finos, but if you want to go a step further seek out vintage releases from the brand. Tres Palmas Fino 2016 has been hailed a classic by the likes of Decanter and Spanish wine guide, Proensa. The 2017 vintage is set to be released in November. We also have to give a very special mention to the absolutely beautiful Delicado Pedro Ximenez, a non-vintage that is as soft as velvet.
Lustau Very Rare Amontillado, 18.5%: £54.00 for 6 x 375ml, Marks & Spencer
The Amontillado style of sherry isn’t going to be for everyone. That’s because its flavour profile is best described as umami. This example, produced for M&S by Lustau winery, is perhaps one of the most notable for that particular characteristic. There’s nutty and orange flavours here but that delicious last, and seemingly never-ending note seems to combine a hint of biscuit with cheesy notes akin to Manchego. Sounds like a perfect food match right there.
Bodegas Yuste Aurora Amontillado Sherry, 19%: £12.95 for 500ml, Basco Fine Foods
If you’re wondering who the finely dressed lady on the bottle is, then you’ll be glad to know this sherry comes with a story. Named after Aurora Ambrosse Lacave, who took on the business after the death of her husband in 1911, became a pioneer in the sherry trade. Nutty, with some burnt caramel, quince, a heft of minerality and a pungent finish, there’s plenty of character and boisterousness here. An overriding sharpness keeps it balanced overall. Intriguing, and one to keep coming back to.
The Verdict: Sherries
If you’re new to sherry, the Pedro Ximenez style sherries in our list – from Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference and the Delicado Pedro Ximenez – are perhaps some of the most accessible to go for. Sweet, massively fruity, thick and rich, they’re also perfect for this time of year, especially when it comes to food pairing. But for its incredible value, combined with its accessible but characterful, fruity taste, we think you really can’t go wrong with the Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla. And remember, always read the label for the best way to store each sherry style, and how long to keep it; these are wines after all.
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