^ Only when casks have been deemed ready by Lustau's cellar master, Sergio Martínez, can they be chalked for removal from the bodega
Sherry is, without a shadow of doubt, the best-value wine on the planet. Its styles ranges from bone dry to aromatic and nutty, all the way to sticky and sweet, and its versatility in food-matching is unrivalled. So why aren’t more people drinking it? The perception of Sherry as a sweet concoction drunk at Christmas by people of a certain age hasn’t helped, but thankfully this image has started to change.
Sherry is made in the chalky soils of Jerez in southern Spain, usually with the Palomino grape. It ranges from umami-rich, super-refreshing fino and manzanilla, through to amontillado, oloroso and palo cortado, which are all fuller-bodied and richer. There’s a handy way to plan your food and sherry pairings: ‘If it swims – fino; if it flies – amontillado; if it runs – oloroso.’ Then there’s Pedro Ximénez, a gloriously rich, decadent style that’s a killer match with chocolate desserts.
Sherry’s fortunes have started to improve, thanks in part to the rise of Spanish cuisine around the world – and the endorsement of culinary wizards such as José Andrés and former El Bulli maestro Ferran Adrià, who quite rightly describes Sherry as ‘a magical wine’.
Mixologists have played their part, too, recognising the depth of aroma and flavour that Sherry can bring to a cocktail, inspired by the Sherry Cobbler that was created in the early 1800s and remains a classic to this day.
Once many people discover Sherry’s charms, they wonder why they didn’t do it sooner. Here's the pick of Sherries from IWSC 2020.
Dos Cortados Palo Cortado Aged 20 Years
Bodegas Williams & Humbert
An enduring nose highlighting the big aromas of vanilla, dried fruits, roasted hazelnuts and coffee beans. Rich and compelling on the palate with a smorgasbord of cooked exotic fruits all delectably seasoned with a pinch of sea salt. Divinely memorable. 21.5% RRP £26 from Field & Fawcett
Invitingly rich and complex nose with lusty aromas of raisins, walnuts, orange peel and vanilla. Gloriously opulent and sticky on the palate with impeccable balance and superb concentration. Seamless and intense with a ravishingly long hedonistic finish. 20% n/a in UK
Palo Cortado VORS
Beautifully complex nose with big expressive aromas of caramelised almonds, vanilla and salted caramel. Terrific precision on the palate with warm flavours of tangerine and hazelnuts that meld effortlessly into a long buttered nut finish. Exquisite. 20.5% RRP £78 from Whisky Exchange
Alegria Manzanilla NV
Bodegas Williams & Humbert
Expressive and invigorating with aromas of ripe yellow plums, vanilla biscuits, peat and sea salt. Classically dry on the palate with long bracing flavours of marzipan and salted caramel. Wonderful. 15% RRP £5.50 from Waitrose
Rounded aromas of walnut and fascinating rancio character on the nose; intense and crisply dry with lovely salinity on the palate and prominent toasted almond and marzipan notes. 21.5% RRP £78 from Whisky Exchange
Very Old Palo Cortado Blend Medium VORS
Expressive and rich aromas of figs and rum cake advance sleekly on to the palate along with a velvety concentrated array of dark fruits. Possesses vast epicurean length. Truly delightful. 19% RRP £38 from Amazon
San Emilio Pedro Ximenez NV
Intense dried sultana and Christmas cake aromas carry through to a soft, lusciously textured palate that oozes dark treacle, sweet raisins and plums, with hints of dried tobacco and nutmeg. 17% RRP £14.50 from Noble Green Wines
Del Duque Amontillado VORS
Expressive nose of lemon zest and roasted almonds carried on a saline sea breeze, before a powerful and intense palate of firmly focused orange, for remarkable length and complexity. 21.5% RRP £27 (half bottle) from Hennings
Rich, indulgent nose of black treacle, dried fig and bittersweet plain chocolate; very concentrated yet still perfectly balanced with candied walnut notes and a delightfully thick, creamy texture. 20.5% RRP £23 from Whisky Exchange