Save 25% on Sherry at Waitrose Cellar
By Master of Wine, Christopher Burr
A very interesting statistic appeared last week from Nielsen, who do the industry audit of all retail sales. They reported that sales of sherry are showing an 18% increase over the last year, with the brand leader, Tio Pepe, showing 21% increases. Moreover, in January the sales were 50% up so the trend is continuing, if not growing stronger.
The recent history, I mean the last forty years, of sherry had previously been one of slow decline, from the peaks of the Cream sherry brands like Harveys Bristol Cream which sold four million cases in the UK at one time. Including all sorts of fortified wines from places like South Africa, Australia, Cyprus and even the UK (made from imported grape must), all calling themselves "sherry", sales were huge!
In the late 1970's the real Sherry industry from south of Saville, based around Jerez de la Frontera, and down to the sea near Cadiz at Salucar de Barrameda, managed to make International agreements to protect their origin.
But apart from the sherry look-alikes, even much of the sherry coming out of Spain wasn't great. So it was not surprising that consumers voted by moving on to other drinks like Vermouths and table wine was booming.
I should say that most of the decline was for sweet sherry and the dry Finos and Manzanillas with great brands like Tio Pepe have generally remained popular as consumers tastes moved to dryer styles of all wine.
The Industry analysis of the reasons behind this recent surge of sales during lockdown is that 90% of sherry is drunk at home, where we have all been most of the time. Secondly, often more than one generation has been resident together, so the younger consumer may have learned to enjoy Sherry from spending time with an older group.
It is also interesting than all styles of sherry form very dry and fresh Finos, to nutty Amontillados and Olorosos, right through to lusciously sweet Pedro Ximenez have grown in sales.
My own view is that the sherry now on retailers' shelves is of a very high standard of quality and now has the benefit of being able to have aged in cask for longer periods. Indeed, if you compare the cost of a good bottle of Fino, like the brand leader Gonzales Tio Pepe, which is anything between £10 and £12 a bottle, with a good bottle of white wine, be that from Burgundy or even Australian or New Zealand, it is great value for money.
These Finos and Manzanillas are lovely and fresh due to high turnover, and the alcohol is only 15% so the high end of a table wine and one of the lowest for a fortified wine. So many reasons why it starts to fit consumer trends.
One of the best ranges of any retailer is at Waitrose. They have a great arrangement for their own label No.1 selection with one of the very best producers Emilio Lustau. Currently you can save 25% across their whole range of sherries when you buy six bottles or more making it the perfect time to buy.
My selections, start with the driest styles, Finos and Manzanillas.
I have already mentioned Tio Pepe, and it would be high up in my selection for its amazingly consistent high quality for a big brand. Intense fresh and crisp, slightly salty and yeasty with a lovely "flor" aroma. £10.49 per bottle (only £7.87 when you buy 6 bottles).
The Waitrose No1 Dry Amontillado made by Lustau is excellent, more alcohol at 18.5%, more weight, nutty and aromas of dried fruit, crisp on the finish and lots of sweet oxidative character, but still a nice dry wine . £11.99 (only £8.99 when you bu 6 bottles).
All the Waitrose No1 range are excellent, the Puerto Fino, the Dry Oloroso, but one of my favourites is the No1 Palo Cortado. At 19% a robust sherry with masses of character from its long ageing. Again £11.99 (only £8.99 when you bu 6 bottles).
Finally, I don't think there is a poor sherry on Waitrose stock list and they have a great range. If you want to experiment it is a good place to start, and if you want to splash out a bit Gonzales Byass have some wonderful old sherries. Their Apostoles Palo Cortado Muy Viejo is a minimum of 30 years old, an intense rich and slightly sweet blend of old Palo Cortado and Pedro Ximenez. £19.99 (only £14.99 when you buy 6 bottles)
The Cayetano del Pino Very Old Palo Cortado half bottle for £10.99
(only £8.24 when you buy 6 bottles) is an extraordinarily fine wine, and if you are a lover of old mature sherry, one you must try.
Finally, Waitrose have a 25% off deal for a six bottle purchase.
With the boom in sherry drinking, don't wait until these great wines run out, or the price goes up a lot!!