Is there a more versatile drink than sherry? This fantastic-value fortified wine can be lean, briney and bone dry; savoury and nutty with a haunting aroma; or it can be as rich as can be, sticky-sweet and full bodied. We’ve gone through this year’s IWSC results and hand-picked the best sherries to try if you’re a novice to this Spanish star.
Sherry fans have been shouting from the rooftops about its taste, quality and versatility for years, but sherry still remains something of a secret to the general public. Fino has gained a little ground in recent years, thanks to the spread of tapas bars in the UK and elsewhere, but sherry is still not the wine of choice for many. It’s time that changed.
Sherry hails from Jerez in south-west Spain. Made primarily with the Palomino grape which is grown on chalky soils, it’s important to know the key styles. Fino and manzanillas are dry – sometimes racingly so – with a maritime, coastal vibe, and they generally make great matches with seafood and jamón.
Williams & Humbert Alegria Manzanilla Superior NV, an IWSC Gold medal winner, is an excellent example. It scored 95/100pts and impressed with its layered palate of almond, orange peel and spice, balanced by its mineral, saline finish.
Amontillado is the next key style, but in the winery the protective layer of flor (yeast) that keeps finos and manzanillas fresh is allowed to ‘die’, which gives amontillados a nuttier, more oxidative character. Emilio Lustau’s Amontillado VORS NV wowed the IWSC judges, scoring 96/100pts, and displaying classic notes of dried fruits, fig and candied peel on a fresh, invigorating palate. Lustau’s Oloroso VORS NV also took top honours, showing this style’s typical aromas of walnut, marmalade and leather.
Finally, Harveys Pedro Ximénez VORS NV showed all the hallmarks of the richest, sweetest sherry style, offering notes of prunes, tar and complex nuttiness, complemented by a brilliant thread of acidity.
Each sherry in this year’s IWSC was judged blind by an expert panel, led by Master of Wine Dirceu Vianna Junior MW, assisted by former Waitrose buyer Nick Room, C&C Group’s Harriet Kininmonth, Matthew Horsley of The Wine Society, and JetVine director Kelly Stevenson.
Once you discover Sherry’s charms, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Here is the pick of Sherries from the IWSC’s 2021 Northern Hemisphere tasting.
16 award-winning sherries from the IWSC 2021
- Emilio Lustau Oloroso VORS NV
- Williams & Humbert Dos Cortados Aged 20 Years Palo Cortado VOS NV
- Emilio Lustau Palo Cortado VORS NV
- Emilio Lustau Amontillado VORS NV
- González Byass Matusalem NV
- Harveys Pedro Ximénez VORS NV
- Williams & Humbert Alegria Manzanilla Superior NV
- Harveys Very Old Amontillado VORS NV
- Barbadillo Manzanilla Pasada En Rama NV
- Harveys Very Old Palo Cortado Blend Medium VORS NV
- Morrisons The Best Oloroso Dry NV
- Emilio Lustau Waitrose No 1 Fino del Puerto Don Luis NV
- Williams & Humbert Don Zoilo 12 Year Old Amontillado NV
- Morrisons Fino NV
- Harveys Very Old Oloroso Blend Medium VORS NV
- González Byass Apostoles NV
HOW DO WE JUDGE THESE WINES?
We run a tightly structured, rigorous wine tasting process. That means that each wine sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC wine judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the wine industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.
HOW DO WE SCORE THESE WINES?
Only the best wines sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, wines have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.
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