Although there is no single way to drink something as long as you enjoy it, this guide will provide you with a breakdown of the best ways to enjoy sherry. In this guide, you will learn how to properly serve and drink sherry as we walk you through the following topics:
- Sherry Serving Temperature
- When To Drink Sherry
- Pairings: What To Drink Sherry With
- Sherry Glassware
- How To Store Sherry
- Does Sherry Go Bad?
- How Long Does Sherry Last?
Simply use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read it all!
How To Properly Drink Sherry
See The Best Sherry Brands
Sherry Serving Temperature
You are, of course, free to drink sherry however you enjoy it and don’t have to follow any rules. Nevertheless, serving it within a particular temperature range will only help improve the overall experience.
Depending on its variety, the classic types of dry sherry are best served at the following temperatures:
- Fino: 5°C – 7°C [41°F – 44.6°F]*
- Amontillado: 12°C – 13°C [53.6°F – 51.8°F]
- Oloroso: 13°C – 14°C [51.8°F – 57.2°F]
* Some may argue that Fino sherry can be served as much as 9°C [48.2°F]
Meanwhile, sweet sherry varieties are best served within the following temperatures:
- Pale Cream: 9°C – 10°C [48.2°F – 50°F]
- Medium: 10°C – 11°C [50°F – 51.8°F]
- Cream: 11°C – 12°C [51.8°F – 53.6°F]
- Pedro Ximénenez: 13°C – 14°C [51.8°F – 57.2°F]
Sherry is composed of a plethora of rich volatile aroma compounds, which are captured within a relatively strong alcoholic base. As a result, they will evaporate at different rates according to the temperature at which it is served.
In short, the flavours won’t express themselves if the sherry is served too cold. Conversely, its taste will likely be too strong, masked by alcohol bloom, and indistinguishable if too warm.
Of course, it can be difficult to serve sherry at the exact temperatures indicated above unless you have a thermometer and wine cooler. The best approach is to take it out of the refrigerator and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.
Once you serve it, you can then sample it until it has warmed up to what you feel is the best temperature. This exercise is also a great way to experience how its flavours will open as it warms up.
When To Drink Sherry
Given its historical popularity in England, sherry has been incorporated into the traditional formal dinner. As a matter of fact, its typical glass placement is on the far right-hand side, which indicates that it is to be consumed first.
Indeed, sherry is commonly served as an apéritif in Britain and works well with snacks like olives and canapés. Nevertheless, the diversity of the different types of sherry means that it’s far more versatile than is typically assumed!
Needless to say, dry sherries tend to fare better during starts, mains, and cheese platters while sweet sherry is best saved for dessert. You can learn more in the section below.
That being said, sherry doesn’t always have to be reserved for meals. Of course, you can simply enjoy it on its own for pleasure. For example, Oloroso sherry works wonderfully with certain cigars.
What To Drink Sherry With
Dry sherry is a great meal pairing. Indeed, it’s often used for cooking for this very reason.
For instance, Fino sherry pairs well with white meat like pork, ham, and seafood. Meanwhile, Oloroso sherry accords nicely with red meat and strong-flavoured game. Furthermore, Amontillado works well with soup or particularly fragrant varienties of fish.
Otherwise, most types of dry sherry will pair well with different types of cheese. Fresh young cheese tends to fare better with Fino sherry whereas more mature and strong cheese marries well with Oloroso. Likewise, Amontillado is a good compromise for a diverse cheese platter.
Finally, sweet sherry tends to be best kept for accompanying dessert and you can consider pastries, fruit, and ice cream. After all, sherry and mince pies is a Christmas favourite!
What Glasses To Use For Drinking Sherry
Historically, sherry was served in a small stemmed glass called a “copita”. However, it’s often argued that while it’s the tradition, these glasses don’t necessarily offer the best tasting experience.
Given that they have an outward curve shape, the glass doesn’t capture the aromas for nosing and it’s easy to miss out on the wine’s complexity.
Small 75 ml (3 Oz) or 120 (4 Oz) white wine glasses, such as the Riedel Ouverture, are recommended instead as the generous bowl allows the wine to fully express itself.
Meanwhile, Glencairn, a brand best known for its whisky glassware, has produced excellent copita glasses, which are designed for tasting fortified wines like sherry, port and Madeira.
Thanks to its pronounced tulip shape and intuitive glass stopper, the Glencairn copita glass is an effective way to enjoy sherry.
Do You Decant Sherry?
Some types of port are often decanted as they are bottled with sediment. While port shares many similarities, sherry doesn’t particularly need decanting.
Particularly old 30-year VORS blends may occasionally benefit from the brief aeration offered by a decanter. However, it will greatly decrease its lifespan as described below.
Otherwise, you may decide to decant sherry for aesthetic purposes, particularly on a special occasion such as a formal dinner. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that you will ever really need to decant sherry for practical reasons.
Generally speaking, you can serve sherry directly from the bottle without feeling embarrassed. If you’re in Spain, you might be lucky enough to try it straight from a barrel where it’s served with a Venenciador.
How To Store Sherry
As with most wine, sherry is best stored somewhere dark, cool, and quiet. Wine is sensitive to light and vibrations while cool and consistent temperatures prevent the contents of a bottle from spoiling.
A wine cellar temperature of around 12°C (53.6°F) is recommended, which is coincidentally the best temperature for serving Amontillado sherry. Indeed, if you have access to a wine cellar, you can always serve sherry straight from there.
Otherwise, a basement is ideal whereas a refrigerator is fine in most cases. As sherry shouldn’t be stored too long, it is often bought soon before it is consumed. Therefore, a few weeks in the refrigerator won’t do any harm.
Unlike most wine, however, sherry is best stored upright. Modern sherry bottles are injected with an inert gas when bottled to prevent oxidation. If you place the bottle on its side, it comes into contact with the cork. As a result, it will come into more contact with oxygen.
Similarly, sherry’s high alcohol content can even damage the cork, which can increase air exposure and even spoil the wine.
Does Sherry Go Bad?
Despite being fortified, sherry is ultimately a white wine. Ordinarily, most white wine doesn’t age particularly well once bottled.
Of course, there are some exceptions, but those that have bottle-ageing potential tend to have a high level of acidity, which contributes to the wine’s body, allowing it to evolve over time.
Fino sherry is quite alkaline as it’s aged under a layer of yeast called flor, which converts the wine’s natural acids into aldehydes. Therefore, Fino sherry is quite fragile and therefore best consumed soon after bottling when still young.
Furthermore, the flor is primarily used to create a natural barrier that protects the sherry from oxygen. Similarly, this process renders it particularly sensitive to air, which means that it soon spoils once opened.
Meanwhile, an Oloroso will have undertaken intense oxidative ageing, which means that its prolonged exposure has made it particularly resistant to air contact. Although first aged under flor, Amontillado sherry’s oxidative ageing also helps improve its longevity.
Similarly, the higher alcohol content helps preserve their flavours. Likewise, the sugar content of sweet types of sherry will also double as a natural preservative.
That being said, all sherry has a relatively limited lifespan once bottled and after it has been opened. Therefore, we suggest that you refer to the section below to check who long it can be kept.
How Long Does Sherry Last?
As described above, different types of sherry will have varying shelf-lives. Depending on the style, unopened sherry should be consumed within the following time after being bottle:
- Fino: 1 – 1.5 Years After Bottle Date
- Amontillado: 1.5 – 3 Years After Bottle Date
- Oloroso: 2 – 3 Years After Bottle Date
- Pedro Ximénenez: 2 – 4 Years After Bottle Date
Creams, which are sweetened versions of the styles above, will have the same shelf life as their unsweetened counterparts. Head to our guide to the different types of sherry to check what a pale cream, medium, and cream are based on.
Meanwhile, an opened bottle of sherry will last the following lengths of time before spoiling:
- Fino: 1 Week Once Opened
- Amontillado: 2 – 3 Weeks Once Opened
- Oloroso: 4 – 6 Weeks Once Opened
- Pedro Ximénenez & Creams: 1 – 2 Months Once Opened
As you’ll see above, on this occasion, creams last about as long as PX-style sherry. Earlier, we mentioned that the added sugar helps preserve the wine, which benefits it only once opened.
That being said, bear in mind that the above timeframes should be largely regarded as guidelines only and their longevity may vary. Generally speaking, the best practice is to open the bottle when you think that it will be consumed in its entirety within just a few days.
For instance, it’s quite common for the Spanish to discard any leftover sherry on the very same day that it was opened.
Finally, you can always extend the durability of your sherry by storing it in the refrigerator. Cold temperatures will slow the oxidation process. Remember just to take it out a few minutes before serving as described above!
Now that you have read how to properly and drink sherry, discover our other guides to the fortified wine!