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Is Sherry one of the best value wines in the world?

By Master of Wine, Christopher Burr


a glass of sherry wine

Many of you may remember the days of cheap sweet Sherry, served in ghastly glasses called schooners to make the measure look bigger!

The sherry was most often not from Spain where “real” Sherry comes from, named after the town where most of it is made south of Seville, in Jerez. The name Sherry being an anglicized version.

Most cheap sherry back in the 1950’s through to the 1980’s came from Commonwealth countries like Australia, a brand called Emu, South Africa a brand called Cavendish Cape and Cyprus with a brand called Emva Cream! There was also a “sherry” made in Leeds from grape must called Old England, and another filthy brand called QC!

Most of these concoctions were sweet and cloying, and drunk by ones grandma! Because they were cheap they were also a brown paper bag favourite of alcoholics on station forecourts, as they delivered the cheapest alcoholic kick for your money!

Fortunately these products were eventually to become thankfully unfashionable, and proper Sherry from Spain was able to agree regulations banning the use of the word sherry.

There were one or two decent Spanish Sherries on the market, the most famous being Harvey’s Bristol Cream. But again the stigma created by the cheap imitations and the change in fashion away from sweet styles created a huge decline, and Sherry became unfashionable.

But now there is something of a revival, not of the sweet styles, but of lovely bone dry lighter styles like Fino and Manzanilla, and also older nutty dried fruit styles like dry Olorosos and Pali Cortados.

One of my favourites is Tio Pepe, made by Gonzales Byass. Widely available in most retailers for anything between £11and £13, but it’s currently just £9 on Amazon making it phenomenal value for money! Clean crisp fresh and intense salty yeasty mouth-puckering. The ideal aperitif before every meal, with perhaps some salted almonds and green olives, it is also a wonderful accompaniment to smoked fish.

Tio Pepe

Comparing with a white wine as well made as Tio Pepe, it would have to be at least £25 a bottle. I extravagantly said to a good friend recently that I thought Tio Pepe must be one of the most consistent and best value brands in the world!

The other brilliant sherry I love is from right by the sea near Cadiz from Sanlucar de Barrameda, where the Sherry from there is called Manzanilla. These are even lighter than Finos, but just as intense and complex. Manzanillas have a wonderful freshness from the salty sea breezes, as well as lovely fresh yeasty nuttiness. La Gitana, from Hildalgo is one of best, and again widely distributed at around £12 a bottle but currently just £5.38 per bottle with our Virgin Wines voucher!.

La Gitana Manzanilla

These Sherries are a modest 15% alcohol, the same as a big new world Chardonnay, so not only are they not too heavy as many fortified wines, but also provide an excellent accompaniment for food, small snacks which the Spanish call tapas.

Remember, sherry is no longer unfashionable, these wonderful light fresh wines are increasingly fashionable, you will see why.

Updated 15th January 2021

Christopher Burr, MW

Christopher Burr, MW

Christopher has been involved in the wine business for over 45 years. He is one of only 502 MW’s from 31 countries worldwide. Learn more about his experience as a Master of Wine here.

Read more articles by: Christopher Burr, MW

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