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Sherry & Cheese Tasting - 11 September 2017


Level Two, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, London SE1 9PH


The Sherry & Cheese Tasting was one of the Masterclasses available at this year’s Great Sherry Tasting, an annual event sponsored by Sherry Wines UK.


Susy Atkins, wine-writer for the Sunday Telegraph’s Stella magazine and a regular on Saturday Kitchen, hosted the class.


Susy walked us through the various styles of sherry and then selected a cheese from the vast range available from Paxton & Whitfield, the highly renowned London Cheesemonger, to accompany each wine.  The results of her suggestions together with my comments are detailed below:


Manzanilla and Fino

For the purposes of the tasting, Susy grouped these two wines together.  Manzanilla is extremely pale, light, dry and fresh.  It is aged by the sea in Sanlúcar de Barrameda and exhibits bready characteristics, hints of green olive and salinity.  Whilst Fino shares similar characteristics to Manzanilla, i.e. 100% Palomino grapes and aged biologically under a layer of flor, it matures in Jerez de la Frontera or El Puerto de Santa María.  As such, it develops a more savoury character and is slightly fuller in body and deeper in colour.

Cheese pairing: Westcombe Cheddar

This is a full flavoured, creamy and slightly earthy, hard cheese produced in Somerset.  I think that it pairs better with the Fino than the Manzanilla as the slightly fuller body of the Fino offsets the firm structure of the Cheddar.  I do however like the saltiness of the Manzanilla when paired with the Cheddar but overall find the Manzanilla a little light for this cheese.



Amontillado is a Fino or Manzanilla aged biologically under flor for the first few years before being matured considerably longer in an oxidative state.  This style of sherry develops either when the flor dies naturally due to lack of nutrients or when it is killed off by fortification.  This wine is more complex - pale gold, light and delicate with hints of caramel, roasted nuts, orange peel and baked apricot.  It is bone dry and has a long, nutty, raisined finish.

Cheese pairing: Applebys Cheshire

This is a rich, moist, crumbly hard cheese produced around the Cheshire/Shropshire border.  The unique quality of this cheese is attributed to the heavy salt deposits in the area which results in the cattle that graze there having an unusually high salt content in their milk which transfers to the cheese.  I think the salty, tangy Cheshire pairs extremely well with the Amontillado.  I also think it works well with the salinity in the Manzanilla.



Oloroso is aged in an oxidative way, without any flor.  The base wine is a heavier, fuller style than those wines selected to become Fino or Manzanilla.  It is fortified to 17-18% which makes it impossible for flor to develop.    Oloroso is deep amber and has aromas and flavours of wood, spice, Brazil nuts and figs.  It is richer, fuller and darker than any of the preceding wines and has a dry, savoury, umami finish.

Cheese pairing: Truffle Tunworth

This is a rich and powerful Camembert-style cheese produced in Hampshire. It is earthy and mushroomy on the nose yet sweet and nutty on the palate.  It is infused with Brillat Savarin - a triple cream French soft cheese - and black truffles.  The result is an extravagantly indulgent, mushroomy, earthy delight!   When paired with the Oloroso, this rich ripe powerhouse has the ability to stand up to the full flavour of the sherry and together they are a stunning combination. 


Palo Cortado

Palo Cortado is one of the most ambiguous styles of sherry.  It has the elegance of an Amontillado combined with the body of an Oloroso.  Produced from a delicate base wine, it spends less time under flor than Amontillado before being fortified to 17-18% to continue development oxidatively.  Medium amber, this wine is rich, spicy and nutty with hints of Seville Orange Marmalade, black treacle and cream.  It has a long dry finish.

Cheese pairing: Gorwydd Caerphilly

Produced in North Somerset, this is a mould-ripened, aged cow’s milk cheese which takes its name from a small town in South Wales.  With a crumbly texture, it has a fresh lemony tang when youthful which develops into a richer, more creamy mushroomy flavour as it matures.  For this pairing, I think the Palo Cortado is more powerful than the cheese but the umami flavours of the Caerphilly do complement the nuttiness of the sherry.


Cream Sherry

Cream is the name given to sherry which has been sweetened by the addition of Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel.  This example is the result of adding 20% Pedro Ximénez to an Oloroso.  Browner in colour, it has aromas of fruit cake, raisins, dates and figs.  It is rich and viscous - literally clings to the glass - and has coffee, caramel and dark chocolate notes with just a hint of saltiness on the finish.

Cheese pairing: Windrush Valley Goats Cheese

This is a mild, soft, creamy goats cheese produced in Windrush, Oxfordshire.  It is youthful, light and delicate.  Served with fresh hazelnuts and honey, alongside the Cream Sherry, this is a match made in heaven – the perfect pairing.  Simply delicious!


Pedro Ximénez

Pedro Ximénez wines, more commonly referred to as PX, are naturally sweet and produced from the grape variety of the same name.  Grapes are picked very ripe and/or dried in the sun to concentrate the flavours.  Sugar levels are typically between 300-500g/litre.  Dark brown in colour, this beautiful wine is incredibly rich and viscous and literally coats the glass and your mouth.  It is intensely sweet, with aromas and flavours of ripe figs, dates, sultanas and black molasses.  It has an incredibly long finish.

Cheese pairing: Perl Las

Perl Las is a handcrafted creamy blue Welsh cheese with a saltiness that intensifies with age.  In my opinion, the saltiness of the blue cheese pairs extremely well with the PX.  The cheese effectively calms down the PX so that the sherry is less overwhelming.  This is an incredibly smart pairing.


I would like to thank Susy Atkins for suggesting some perfect partners for our much loved sherry wines and of course, thanks to Sherry Wines UK for hosting another fabulous Great Sherry Tasting in 2017.


Copyright of - September, 2017

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