Merry with Sherry

Wine reviews – By Michael Wolsey

Time was when most houses had a bottle of Port or Sherry stashed away somewhere. But these fortified wines have gone out of fashion and many of us sample them only at Christmas.

That’s a pity. They come in many varieties and range from an excellent chilled aperitif to a warming after-diner drink with cheese or the Christmas pud.

Port is from grapes grown in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal. Sherry is made from white grapes in Jerez in southern Spain.

Geography apart, the main difference relates to the fortification.

Port is fortified by adding grape spirit before fermentation is complete. This tends to make it sweeter and more alcoholic than Sherry which is fortified after fermentation. But don’t take this as a certain guide. Some Ports can be bone dry and some Sherries sweet.

Names to watch for in Port are:

  • Tawny: sweet or medium dry and considered a dessert wine.
  • Garrafeira: made from grapes of a single harvest and aged first in barrels and then in the bottle.
  • Ruby: the most extensively produced and the cheapest.
  • Pink: made with the same grapes used for tawny and ruby ports. This is a light ruby wine with a pinkish tint and fruity flavor.
  • White: made from white grapes, aged in bottles. It can be dry or very sweet. In Sherry, look for:
  • Fino: the driest type of sherry, aged in barrels with a layer of yeast on top to prevent exposure to air.
  • Manzanilla: a light variety of fino.
  • Amontillado: first aged under yeast but then exposed to air, making it darker with a full body.
  • Oloroso: much darker and richer. The most alcoholic sherry.