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DWWA 2014: Sherry insights

Hear from our Sherry Regional Co-Chairs Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW and Sarah Jane Evans MW on which wines to buy, which wines to leave on the shelf and what to keep an eye on from this year's Decanter World Wine Awards....

Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW

Again, the defining factor for Sherry is sheer quality. I cannot think of any other category of wines that, year after year, has a hit-rate that exceeds 80% medal winners. Furthermore, the high number of Gold medals is a problem rather than an advantage, since we tend to be tougher when so many wines are excellent. Many Silver medals were particularly close to Gold in this category. But the Trophyand Gold-winning amontillados – plus the olorosos, palo cortados PXs and, of course, the Moscatel and fino Trophies – are, without exception, miracles of complexity and sensorial beauty.

What should we buy from here?

Rare old boutique wines in small bottles. Most will keep well for up to two weeks after the bottle is opened. Enjoy sipping a few drops of the elixirs that are amontillados and palo cortados each night for many nights, or pour a bit of PX over the best Stilton for the ultimate dessert. Treat these beauties as drinkable perfumes.

What should we leave on the shelf?

The most basic categories of fino and manzanilla are not worth bearing the Sherry name. Sherry is a special wine and costly to produce; cheap bottles are the result of a compromise with quality – a notion foreign to real Sherry. The same applies to cheap creams and pseudo-amontillados. Also avoid manzanillas and finos that look to have been on the shelf for a long time. These wines deteriorate relatively quickly in bottle.

What should we keep an eye on?

Moscatel – it’s an original style with great aromatic precision and worth trying. And in Jerez, big can be beautiful, so don’t be afraid of buying Sherries from the big brands. They have broad ranges of every style and practically all of them are a guarantee of quality.

Sarah Jane Evans MW

With three trophies and 11 Golds, this was a very successful year. Some Sherries earned their medals easily, being simply perfect all round. Others, especially the oldest wines, were less immediately lovable. These, though, had a venerable depth, which made up for their almost mouth-puckering intensity. This is what history tastes like. From amontillado through palo cortado to oloroso and PX, the Palomino grape revealed its astonishing capacity for transformation in the cellar. If there was a disappointment – and there was – it was that we were not able to give a single Gold to a manzanilla, and only one to a fino.

What should we buy from here?

Any of the Golds and Silvers listed here. Go to Jerez and taste them in situ if you can. It’s a small region, easily visited by car, and all of the wineries listed here welcome visitors. This year Jerez is European Wine Capital, so the city is especially welcoming. Finally, be sure to try the Moscatel Trophy – it’s a frequent runner-up in the Trophies, and this year for the first time it beat a fine selection of PXs to take top prize.

What should we leave on the shelf?

In general, the low-priced, too-young manzanillas and finos. This cradle-snatching means that they simply have not had enough time in the cellar to develop any character.

What should we keep an eye on?

The en rama finos and manzanillas. These are seasonal bottlings of more or less unfiltered Sherries straight from the barrel – fresh and unique. Following the same trend, there are some producers offering finos with more age than is usual – on the way to becoming amontillados. This, too, is a way of rediscovering the lost flavours of fino. With bodegas releasing this range of treasures from their cellars, there has rarely been such a good time for Sherry lovers as the present.

Written by Decanter

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