Want to know which sherries to buy? Once overlooked and undervalued, sherry is enjoying a renaissance as more and more of us embrace the versatility of this Spanish fortified wine. Check out our guide to some of the different types of sherry, as well as recommendations on what to buy.
The driest of all sherries, fino is aged under a layer of yeast called flor that prevents contact with air and adds flavour (a process called biological ageing). Pale straw in colour and usually around 15% ABV, it has delicate yeasty, savoury notes that make it an ideal appetite-whetting aperitif. Serve cold with salty nibbles such as almonds and olives. Once opened, keep chilled and drink within a week.
BUDGET: Tio Pepe Fino En Rama 2018 (£8.99, cambridgewine.com)
‘En rama’ refers to sherry that is bottled straight from the barrel without undergoing the heavy filtration used for other sherries. This half bottle of fino is intensely savoury, with a lovely nuttiness.
BLOW OUT: Xeco Fino (£15.95, masterofmalt.com)
This release from one of the newest sherry brands is a crisp, light and refreshing introduction to the fino category – try it mixed with tonic for a low-ABV drink.
Though made in the same way as fino (aged under flor) and very similar in taste, manzanilla is only produced in the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda (whereas fino is produced further inland). This difference in climactic conditions gives manzanilla more of a saline character, with a zesty brightness (green apple notes are common in this style). As with fino it’s a great partner for salty foods, or try it with seafood or even sushi. Keep chilled and drink within a week, once opened.
BUDGET: Barbadillo Manzanilla Solear Sherry NV (£6.25, oddbins.com)
This pocket-friendly half bottle of manzanilla has a cheek-puckering dryness that’s rounded off by floral apricot and subtle green apple.
BLOW OUT: Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla En Rama (£17.99, waitrosecellar.com)
This intense unfiltered wine from a popular manzanilla maker might divide opinion with its hint of farmyard funk – one for experienced sherry drinkers who want to explore more unusual styles.
This intriguing sherry style undergoes two ageing processes. It starts life as a fino, aged under flor, but is then exposed to air and allowed to oxidise for a period. The end result is a complex wine, richer than fino, with a beautiful amber colour and nutty aromas. Served lightly chilled, it makes a perfect partner for vegetables and poultry. Once opened keep in the fridge and consume within a couple of weeks.
BUDGET: Gonzalez Byass Viña AB Amontillado Seco (£13.95, thewhiskyexchange.com)
With an enjoyable dryness, subtle salinity and nutty notes, this amontillado is light and fresh, and would pair well with hard cheeses.
BLOW OUT: Harveys Very Old Amontillado 30 Years V.O.R.S (£30.13, masterofmalt.com)
Though popularly known for that 70s classic, Bristol Cream, Harveys also do a well-regarded range of fine sherries. This amontillado has been aged for over 30 years and has a rich golden hue, with nutty notes of almond and hazelnut, a savoury minerality and a long, dry finish.
Unlike fino and manzanilla, oloroso is aged without flor and is allowed to oxidise – this deepens the colour and allows the wine to concentrate and lengthen. Usually a rich mahogany in hue, it’s a full-bodied sherry with nut, tobacco, spice, dried fruit and leather notes. Typically weighing in around 20% ABV, it often smells quite sweet but is still very dry, and makes the perfect foil for red meat and game dishes. Once open it will keep, chilled, for around four weeks.
BUDGET: W.m Morrisons Oloroso Dry (£6, Morrisons)
Made for the supermarket by a well-regarded sherry bodega, Lustau, this dry caramel-coloured oloroso has leather notes and hints of tangy apple akin to manzanilla. A good budget-conscious choice if you’re new to the style and just want to try out a half bottle.
BLOW OUT: Pedro’s Almacenista Selection Oloroso (£14.99, Majestic Wine)
With its pretty label art, oaky notes and an almost briny edge, this is a clean, not-to-sweet oloroso that would make for a lovely gift.
Palo cortado sherry
This rare sherry style is hotly debated as different producers have their own ways of making it, but classically it starts as a fino, maturing under flor. At some point in the process the yeast spontaneously dies off, and the sherry continues to age through oxidisation – the end result is a cross between amontillado and an oloroso. Once opened, keep in the fridge and consume within a couple of weeks.
BUDGET: Cayetano Del Pino Palo Cortado Solera (£14.95, Wine Society)
With tobacco, toffee, oak and vanilla notes, this sherry is a nice balance between dry and sweet.
BLOW OUT: Gonzalez Byass Apostoles Palo Cortado V.O.R.S (£26.50, Fortnum & Mason)
Dark and sultry with raisin notes, it has good, mouth-coating viscosity and a balanced sweetness that rounds everything out. Very drinkable, this is one for those who find Pedro Ximénez too sweet.
Pedro Ximénez sherry
Unlike fino, amontillado, oloroso et al this is a sweet sherry thanks to the grape variety used to make it. Whereas dry sherries are made with palomino, PX is made with ripe Pedro Ximénez grapes that are allowed to dry in the sun, concentrating their natural sugars. Dark and syrup-like in consistency, it’s is often described as liquid Christmas pudding, with notes of sweet dried fruits (especially raisin), cocoa, coffee and liquorice. A good-quality PX is lusciously sweet but stops short of cloying thanks to a bright acidity. Once opened it will keep, chilled, for up to two months.
BUDGET: Tesco Finest PX Sherry (£6, Tesco)
An olive magazine supermarket awards winner (see the full list here), this half bottle has complex flavours of burnt caramel and juicy raisins – perfect for sipping after Christmas dinner.
BLOWOUT: Lustau Pedro Pedro Ximénez Murillo (£16.99, Waitrose Cellar)
A really special PX that’s not as syrupy-sweet as others in its category, this has sophisticated layers of liquorice, leather and golden raisins.
Words by Hannah Guinness