Drinks: Fortified, Sherry, Wines
Location: Europe, Spain

Some great wines and amazing prices. In fact, it was only the category’s persistent (and troubling) lack of fashionability that prevented more Golds being awarded

Stories about sherry’s death might be exaggerated, but rumours about its stellar renaissance also need to be treated with caution. Tasters in this competition have long swooned over the quality of the bottles sent in, but reluctant common sense about the drink’s sales potential have often held them back from giving away quite as many medals as their hearts feel they should.

‘I’d love to say that sherry is trendier than it was five years ago, but I can’t,’ said
a regretful (and sherry-loving) Joris Beijn. ‘People still don’t know the difference
between fino and manzanilla, never mind amontillado and oloroso.’

Hence, although there was a decent spread of sherry styles submitted, the tasters were cautious about overstocking the list with what will remain a difficult sell for all but a few specialist outlets.

If the dry styles are seeing a slow rebirth, the sweeter wines remain the toughest
of sells, and there was recognition among the tasters that any of the stickier styles
would definitely require, at the very least, a specific pairing on the dessert menu and probably a hand-sell.

A fino, a manzanilla, a quite magnificent dry oloroso (which turned out to be Fernando de Castilla yet again) and a PX made up a compact, high-quality Gold List offering that ticked all the boxes at astonishingly good prices.

‘The market is still slow for sherry but people will list a good fino or manzanilla, and there is certainly some amazing value in the wines here,’ said Kyri Sotiri.

“Sherry is a great value-for-money category. There are some lovely wines here at £5 a bottle. We haven’t seen that in many flights today. ” Joris Beijn, Andaz


Williams & Humbert Alegria Manzanilla NV, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain
£3.05 @ Ehrmanns
SWA 2011 Gold List Is this the bargain Gold of the day? I think so! Bronze and olive green in colour, with green apple and light rancio notes on the nose, this is delicate yet weighty on the palate, and finishes long and crisp. Try with fish and shellfish as well as having as an aperitif. ‘Very sexy,’ enthused Angela Reddin, Team Leader.

Valdivia Fino Seco NV, Jerez, Spain
£6.59 (50CL) @ Liberty Wines
SWA 2011 Gold List With plenty of flor character, a complex bouquet of citrus, mineral and iodine, this has good texture, lovely saltiness and a balanced acidity. ‘Almost scrumptious,’ said Angela Reddin. ‘This modern style is light and elegant – a perfect manzanilla. Cries out for prawns.’

Fernando de Castilla Antique Oloroso NV, Jerez, Spain
£15.09 (50cl) @ Boutinot
  A wonderfully aromatic, bone-dry sherry with coffee, caramel and dates on the nose. ‘Very complete and multi-layered,’ said Angus Macnab. ‘Really clean, with a lovely throat grip, very fine flor character and elegance,’ said Angela Reddin.

Valdivia Sacromonte Pedro Ximenez Dulce NV, Jerez, Spain
£9.06 (50CL) @ Liberty Wines
One of the best PXs I have tasted for a long time,’ said Angus Macnab, as he mused over the ‘incredible baked fig, date and syrup nose’. There are prunes and baked fruits on the intense, balanced palate with good underlying acidity and oodles of spice.


La Gitana Manzanilla NV, Jerez, Spain
£7.86 @ Mentzendorff & Co
Quite a nutty style of manzanilla – Angus Macnab found raw almond and walnut – this has a subtle, defined palate with delicate citrus hints, good viscous texture, and an ever-refreshing salty tang on the finish. Classic aperitif material but magic also with seafood, ham or soft cheese.

Williams & Humbert Pedro Ximenez 20 Year Old NV, Jerez, Spain
£8.85 @ Ehrmanns
Unashamedly rich, raisined and generous, this has delicious black fruits and treacle. Frédéric Billet, Marylebone Hotel, called it a ‘perfect dessert wine to match with sticky toffee pudding’.


Williams & Humbert Dry Sack 15 Year Old NV, Jerez, Spain
£7.41 @ Ehrmanns
Lush and welcoming with raisined, nutty notes, an excellent balance and good length. ‘The nose is lovely and pronounced, with prune, fig and molasses notes,’ said Angus Macnab.

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Since its launch in March 2007, Imbibe magazine has established itself as the UK’s leading publication for on-trade drinks professionals. Imbibe’s editorial coverage takes in all the main drinks categories, from wine to water, spirits to soft drinks.

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