Stay-at-Home Tour of the Wineries of Spain & Portugal: Sherry and Port

Carrying on with my class on ‘Tasting the Wines of Spain and Portugal’, I am going into the third segment, the fortified wines: Sherry, Port and Madeira. In our class we actually only tasted one Sherry and one Port (bottles number 11 and 12), so I have been forced to do some research on my own (poor me!)

The Sherry

Sherry is made from Palomino and PX grapes that grow in the Jerez region of Spain. They are aged using a ‘solera‘ system that uses fractional blending from several years for consistency.

a 'Solera' aging system at Jerez de la Frontera

a ‘Solera’ aging system at Jerez de la Frontera – this is really ancient stuff!

There are several types of Sherry: Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso and Cream (as in ‘Harvey’s Bristol Cream’)

Oloroso Sherry

Oloroso Sherry

  • On my own I tested Fino, a dry Sherry that goes well with salty dishes such as olives, salted almonds or a mild hard cheese such as Young Manchego. Fino doesn’t keep like other sherries and must be drunk up pretty quickly. Here is the Spanish description from my Soleado course: El fino es un jerez blanco seco. En España se bebe mucho en los bares acompañado de tapas como aceitunas, queso manchego, salame o sardinas. Servir bien frío. (All about the vinos of Spain in easy Spanish).
Fino con queso y olivas

Fino con queso manchego y olivas

The Port
  • W & J Graham’s Vintage Port that we had in our class was heavy and very sweet, $25. When we were in Oporto, we went to few ‘Casas dos Vinhos‘, and the ports we tasted there were wonderful, and I think better than this, although none were available in Vancouver at the time.

    W & J Graham's Vintage Port

    W & J Graham’s Vintage Port

I have added some photos of Oporto, where they make Port. As noted before, all of the ones that we tasted there were better than the one we had in our class. A white port especially stood out, but it wasn’t available in Vancouver. I could only find one white port sold here, and it was basically undrinkable unless one added a lot of lemon.

    • Sandeman Port House in Oporto

      Sandeman Celler in Oporto

      Sandeman Port House in Oporto

    • all of the Port Houses are built along the river in Oporto, allowing easy access to river transport.

      boats on the river in Oporto

      port boats on the river in Oporto

    • a boat carrying barrels of port down the river

      Porto, a port boat crossing the river

      Oporto, a port boat going down the river

  • The river floods on a regular basis, and there are flood markers on many Port Houses; they told us that when it floods the barrels just float out and down the river, and are gathered up and returned after the flood is over. The highest flood marker is 23 DE DEZEMBRO 1909, the oldest is 2 FEV. 1825. In terms of the height of the waters, Al (below) is six foot three…
flood markers on a wall in Oporto

flood markers on a wall in Oporto


I have only used Madeira for cooking, as in: ‘1/4 cup of Madeira wine was added to the pork & breadcrumb mix’. I may have tested a drop or two but don’t remember much about it except for ‘sweet’.

Madeira Wine from an island off Portugal's coast

Madeira Wine from an island off Portugal’s coast

This concludes my wine-tasting class featuring the wines of Spain and Portugal.


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