There’s no better time of year than now to drink fortified wines than when the temperatures sink, and the winds blow cold. It’s the perfect time to sit by the fireplace and open a bottle of Sherry or Port to drink with cheeses and nuts. We taste and review Sherry and Port wines whenever we have the opportunity. In this article we present our recommendations for consuming or giving to others based on our tastings over the past year. In addition to Sherry and Port, consider a fine Madeira, too. We recently published a review article on the outstanding, historic Madeiras from Vinho Barbeito and the Rare Wine Company.
Sherry is one of the world’s most complex wines, made in a unique way with soleras dating back a hundred years or more. It’s also one of the great wine values of the world. The world of Sherry is varied, ranging from the super dry, biologically aged Fino and Manzanilla to the equally dry Amontillado and Palo Cortado wines that benefit from both biologic and oxidative aging to the intensely sweet Pedro Ximénez made from dried grapes. The still very popular, sweet Cream Sherry fits in between. Below, we present several dry Sherries that we’ve tasted this year as well a Cream we recommend.
Fino and Manzanilla
Bodegas Dios Baco NV Buleria Fino Jerez ($28) 90 Bronze-tinged light gold. The Buleria reveals scents of the sea with iodine and seaweed notes. The palate is delicate and very dry with subtle notes of roasted nuts and marzipan and a pleasant saline like edge. Would pair well with calamares fritos. Made of Palomino and aged a minimum of 5 years.
Fernando de Castilla Antique Fino ($45/500ml) 93 This is a superb fino that is complex and rich yet maintains the saline, flor-influenced freshness one seeks in a Fino. Redolent of tangy citrus, brine, lightly toasted nuts, and resin, the wine is intricately layered, both on the nose and the palate. Finishes with lovely length. Sourced from the Pago Balbaino estate vineyard with its very high limestone content. Aged in American oak butts under flor for 8 years.
Gonzalez Byass NV Tio Pepe Fino en Rama Jerez ($20/375ml) 93 Denser and more complex than the regular Tio Pepe Fino, this special bottling shows Fino sherry at its best. Herbs, almonds and olives show on the nose. Soft and smooth on entry, the palate is delicate yet intense revealing nuances of poached pear, ripe apple, citrus and even a hint of caramel. A complex and superbly balanced sherry. Bottled in 2022, this is the 13th limited release of the unfiltered and unclarified Fino en Rama.
Lustau Fino Jarana Xerez ($15) 91 Pale amber-gold. The Fino Jarana reveals rich almond aromas with green olive notes. It’s dry and crisp on the palate with good weight, a lanolin texture, and brioche, nuts, and capers notes. Pairs beautifully with food; try with mussels.
Lustau Papirusa Manzanilla Sanlucar de Barrameda ($19) 91 Light gold straw color. Beautifully complex bouquet of herbal tea, almonds and olive brine. Soft and round attack with a silky smooth and pristine mouth feel with a briny, saline edge. Very flavorful and very long finish.
Bodegas Dios Baco NV Baco Imperial Palo Cortado VORS Jerez ($180) 94 Made from a 40 year old solera, this outstanding dry sherry reveals hazelnut and toasted almond along with hints of toasty oak and dried fruit. Made by the José Páez Morilla family from a 40-year-old solera, it’s an elegant take on Palo Cortado.
Fernando de Castilla Antique Palo Cortado ($45/500ml ) 93 Amber-copper. Showing a complex mélange of toasted almond, dried fruit, dates, figs and vanilla-caramel with a hint of tangy orange, this is an impeccably balanced Palo Cortado with complex aromas and flavors and bright acidity. Has a very persistent finish. The average Solera age of this wine is over 30 years, so it is technically a VORS.
Gonzalez Byass Leonor Palo Cortado Xerez ($17/375ml) 92 Aged 12 years in cask, Leonor is a harmonious, dry sherry that’s packed with flavor. Its aromas and flavors evoke glazed walnuts, dried grapes and figs, maple syrup and orange marmalade. Dry with a very long finish. A superb, complex Palo Cortado.
Gonzalez Byass Solera 1847 Cream ($17/375ml) 91 Dark amber in color. Opening with an effusive bouquet of figs, toasted hazelnuts, and vanilla cream, the Solera 1847 Cream offers a velvet smooth palate with notes of dates, raisins, caramel and milk chocolate. A delicious after dinner wine to sip by the fire. Finishes sweet with a toffee note but not cloying. A blend of 75% Palomino and 25% Pedro Ximénez.
Vintage Ports are great wines, but youthful ones are firmly structured, so they are best given to serious Port lovers who have the patience (and cellar) to age them. Older Vintage Ports and vintage dated LBVs (Late Bottled Vintage Ports) are best for consuming now. Below, we present a recommended Port in each category. More recommendations can be found in the article we published last year on Vintage Dated Ports.
Ramos Pinto 2017 LBV Port ($30) 91+ Opaque red. Offering a multifaceted bouquet of dark cherry compote and dark chocolate shavings that are mirrored on the palate, this LBV Port is broad and full with excellent freshness and a very dry finish. A blend of 59% Touriga Nacional, 32% Touriga Franca, 7% Tinto Cao and 2% Tinta Barroca. Outstanding value.
Ramos Pinto 2000 Vintage Port ($75) 93 This 2000 Port is ready to drink now. It exudes aromas and flavors of dark cherry and chocolate with notes of Earl Grey tea and licorice. The full-bodied palate is rich and creamy with good balance and round tannins. Finishes long with a prominent dark chocolate syrup note. A blend of 60% Touriga Nacional, 15% Tinta Roriz, 10% Tinta Barroca and 15% old vines aged 20 months in large wood casks.
Quinta do Noval 2020 Vintage Port ($122) 95 Deep, very dark core and purple at the rim. This is a refined but youthful Port that needs significant time for tannins to soften. Hence, it is a Port to give a wine lover who has both patience and a cellar. It is a magnificent, medium weight wine revealing cassis, dark berries, and violets on the nose. It’s beautifully flavored with a silky texture and superb freshness with abundant, fine tannins. A field blend of foot trodden Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinto Cão, Sousão, and Tinta Roriz matured 18 months in oak.