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Storing Sherry

t
Tarz Aug 3, 2006 08:26 PM

After a service mishap, a wonderful waiter comped the gf and I for a glass of sherry and port with our desserts, perfectly matched with them.

Now I'd love to buy a bottle of the Sherry ... I believe it was East India Solera Lustau. And the Port, I think, was Warre Colheita Tawny, though I'm definitely open to suggestions of other good sherries and ports.

But neither the gf or I are able to drink much alcohol at a given meal. We pretty much reserve opening a bottle of wine for when we have another person over, otherwise we end up leaving a third of it in the bottle (and falling asleep before dessert!).

Does sherry -- or port -- keep well after the bottle has been opened? Should it be put in the refrigerator? Please help me, those drinks were delicious, and thanks in advance!

Tarz

  1. carswell Aug 3, 2006 08:32 PM

    Fortified wines like Port and Sherry suffer less than unfortified wines. And Sherry is already somewhat oxidized to start with. So, yes, an open bottle will keep a week or two in the fridge with nothing other than a stopper, though the wine will slowly lose vibrancy. To keep the wine in top shape and extend its shelf life, you can gas it with a product like Private Preserve www.privatepreserve.com after every use.

    1. Melanie Wong Aug 3, 2006 08:42 PM

      Lustau's East India Solera and tawny ports are fortified and oxidized styles of wine. They'll hold well as carswell describes. Other styles of port and sherry may not and would deteriorate rapidly once opened.

      1. Bill Hunt Aug 4, 2006 03:40 PM

        As has been noted above, fortified wines will store well in the 'fridge. I use a Vac-u-vin vacuum pump/stopper for this task, though some question the true benefits. If the benefits of the evacuation of air is more imagined, than real (I've never done side-by-side control tests) one real benefit is that the seal is less likely to leak, when the bottle is on its side in the wine rack in the 'fridge. Matter of fact, all wines will store, once opened, a bit longer in the refrigerator. You just need to take the reds out a bit longer before consumption.

        Now there are Ports and then there are Ports. Same with Sherries. Not all styles of Port are oxidized. The bulk of the Port production is Ruby, which is a bit more generic, more purple/red and has a different taste profile, than a Tawny. At the top of this large class of Ports are the "Vintage Character," and similar Ports. The highest tier, in most people's opinion, is the Vintage Port arranged by "class" into Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), Single Quinta Vintage, and Vintage Ports. All of these will store, once opened, for less time than a Tawny. The LBV's should be consumed upon release and will not live all that long in the bottle, like a Vintage Port, that may not really come into its own for 25 years, and likely to live for 100 in a well-stored bottle. Most Tawnies are aged for an average (blended from older, wood stored wines) of the date usually printed on the label, i.e. Taylor-Fladgate 20 year Tawny (20 years old average). A Colheita is an aged-Tawny, but from the same year, i.e. Ferreira 1947 Colheita Tawny (all grapes from 1947). These Ports, with their nutty flavors and more "praline" type elements will last the longest once opened. The Rubies thru Vintage Ports are "Ports of the Glass," while the Tawnies are "Ports of the Wood," as they are aged in wood much longer.

        With Sherries, the majority, the Finos, for instance, are very light and not long lived. They should be consumed upon release, served rather chilled, and do not store well, if at all, once opened. However, they are wonderful additions to soups and sauces, so you don't need to toss them, if you do not finish the bottle - just incorporate them into cooking. If your dish experienced higher heat, see Madeiras below). They have little oxidation, as compared to the Creams. The dessert Sherries up to and including Cream Sherries are more heavily oxidized and are actually made in a different style with different agents working on the fermentation, than say a Fino. These store much longer once opened. In the Madeira-class of Sherries is the Pedro Ximénez (PX) made from the grape of that name, rather than the more common Palomino of other Sherries. These wines will last and store to a degree just below a Madeira.

        At the top of the list for long lasting and good storing fortified wines are the Madeiras. These wines are very heavily oxidized and store almost indefinitely. They also make great cooking wines, where higer heat is required, as they have been "baked" already.

        Next time that you are doing Port for dessert, or AS dessert, try a Tawny beside a Ruby, or one of the Vintage Ports. Personally, I like the Tawnies WITH dessert and the Rubies (especially Vintage Port) AS dessert. Experience the differences in character. Note: I grouped the Vintage with the Rubies on a sytlistic basis. Any purveyor of Port will point out that true Rubies and Vintage Ports should never be referred to in the same sentence, let alone grouped!

        Hunt

        2 Replies
        1. re: Bill Hunt
          Melanie Wong Aug 4, 2006 05:42 PM

          The Port category "Vintage Character" is no longer allowed.

          Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) is of a single vintage, but should not be called a Vintage Port as it spends more time in wood than a Vintage Port, that is more than 2 years. There is a growing trend in LBVs to return to the old style of not filtering/fining before bottling. This has the effect of making them more backward on release and some producers advise that they will indeed mature and improve in the bottle. An example of this unfiltered LBV style would be Niepoort.

          The category of "Wood-Aged Ports" includes Ruby, Reserve Rubies, formerly Vintage Character, and Late Bottled Vintage, which spend 4+ years in wood vats before bottling. It also includes Tawnies, which spend much longer time in contact with wood. White ports are sometimes put in this category. "Bottle-aged Ports" refers to Vintage and Single Quinta Vintage which are aged in cask for less than 2 years before bottling and derive their character from long-maturation in the reductive environment of the bottle.

          Fino style sherries are a small percent of sherry production and far from the majority. Sherries on the rayas track - olorosos, creams - are a much larger part of total sherry production. As you note, rayas type sherries are intentionally oxidized, meaning they are "maderized" but they are not Madeiras. Madeira wines come from Portugal's island of Madeira and are made from different grape varieties than Spain's sherries.

          1. re: Melanie Wong
            Bill Hunt Aug 5, 2006 05:57 PM

            [The Port category "Vintage Character" is no longer allowed.]

            This must be a recent development. The abandonment was considered by the Instituto do Vinho do Porto, as the term was considered to be confusing and detrimental to the sale and prestige of Vintage Port. However, the IVP could well have succeeded more recently, than I am aware. My references on this terminology only goes to 1998, and much may well have happened in the eight years since.

            [Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) is of a single vintage, but should not be called a Vintage Port as it spends more time in wood than a Vintage Port, that is more than 2 years. There is a growing trend in LBVs to return to the old style of not filtering/fining before bottling. This has the effect of making them more backward on release and some producers advise that they will indeed mature and improve in the bottle. An example of this unfiltered LBV style would be Niepoort.]

            You are correct in the time in wood for LBV’s, which is roughly 4 years, as opposed to the 18-24 months for Vintage Port.

            Also correct, Niepoort has found many followers for its old-style LBV production techniques and some “houses” are rethinking their LBV recipes. But, as Port Houses differ, it is difficult to broadly classify all LBVs by what a few houses do. Many writers make blanket assertions, such as LBVs do not throw sediment and do not need to be decanted, or that LBVs need to be consumed upon release. While true in some cases, there are many exceptions. I do agree that LBVs, in general, are different than Vintage Ports, though I find them to have more similarities to VP, than to Ruby, or Tawny.

            These “house differences” are often very pronounced within the “age-classified” Tawny group. Sample a Cockburn’s 20 Tawny, beside a Taylor-Fladgate 20 Tawny and a Porto Barros 20 Tawny. Major differences, yet all are 20 year old Tawnies!

            Of the Ports, with which I am familiar, I believe that only LBV’s and Colheitas are not blended Ports. All other Ports are blends of different Quintas, or, if Single-Quinta, blends of different years. Same with the age-classified Tawnies - blends of different ages (in barrel) with an average of 10, 20, 30 or 40 years. Also, consider that Colheitas are bottled by “vintage,” but are anything but “Vintage Port.”

            [The category of "Wood-Aged Ports" includes Ruby, Reserve Rubies, formerly Vintage Character, and Late Bottled Vintage, which spend 4+ years in wood vats before bottling. It also includes Tawnies, which spend much longer time in contact with wood. White ports are sometimes put in this category. "Bottle-aged Ports" refers to Vintage and Single Quinta Vintage which are aged in cask for less than 2 years before bottling and derive their character from long-maturation in the reductive environment of the bottle.]

            Actually, the majority of Ruby Ports spend about 2 years in the wood, very similar to the time that Vintage Port does. It also comprises the bulk of Port production, and includes various styles. The slightly higher-end ones are often referred to as “Branded Ruby,” (while I have not heard the term that you mention, “Reserve Ruby,” I assume that these two are the same) with names such as Sandeman’s Founder’s Reserve, Graham’s Six-Grape, to name but two.

            For “Bottle-aged Ports,” I think that the above mentioned Nierpoort LBVs, and similar, would fit this classification, as they DO age/mature in the bottle. I’d say that the LBVs are real “fence-straddlers,” as how to accurately classify them. This problem is compounded by the divergent styles within the LBV envelope.

            We also have Ports labeled as “Tawny,” that are not Tawnies by most definitions. These wines are actually blends of Ruby Port and White Port. IMHO, I think that the IVP needs to force a change in the labeling of these to reflect their difference.

            For what is considered to be the most highly-regulated wine and wine region on Earth, there are certainly a lot of differences in Port, and some of the demarcations are confusing, at best, and “misleading” at worst.

            [Fino style sherries are a small percent of sherry production and far from the majority. Sherries on the rayas track - olorosos, creams - are a much larger part of total sherry production. As you note, rayas type sherries are intentionally oxidized, meaning they are "maderized" but they are not Madeiras. Madeira wines come from Portugal's island of Madeira and are made from different grape varieties than Spain's sherries.]

            However, I believe that one is more likely to encounter Finos in more restaurant situations, as well as in wine shops. Could be very wrong about this, as I have not done a survey of wines lists for Sherry - just casual observations.

            I did not intend to give the impression that any Sherry was a Madeira, or vice-versa. Some may exhibit some similarities in style, and possibly flavor profiles, but are from different countries, locations, and are made from quite different grape varietals, as you point out.

            I also deliberately omitted Palo Cortado Sherries, White Port and Crusted Port (an archaic term, that is starting to get some use, as of late) amongst others, as they are less likely to be seen in restaurants and wine shops.

            As I started out my original piece, there are Ports, and then there are Ports... The same with Sherries... A full discussion and classification of either could well fill a book the size of Jancis Robinson’s “The Oxford Companion to WINE.” Plus, by the time it got to press, the IVP, or some other governing body might have changed the laws.

        2. rworange Aug 5, 2006 03:29 AM

          So, this is nice to know, but do restaurants take that care with ports and sherries? It seems to me I always see these just stored on a shelf in the bar, no special care taken.

          Is turnover that great in restaurants so that I'm assured of getting a recently opened bottle when I buy a glass?

          1 Reply
          1. re: rworange
            Bill Hunt Aug 5, 2006 06:04 PM

            My experience suggests that some do, but that most do not. Possibly the best way to handle this would be to inquire as to when the bottle was opened. One can usually see for themselves, the storage conditions. Also, a restaurant that sells a lot of Port will likely turn the bottles much more quickly. I also suspect that one is likely to get a pour of a Tawny, that is closer to what the wine tasted like upon opening, than they are with a Vintage Port. However, some restaurants do turn their by-the-glass VPs quickly enough as to get pretty close in the freshness arena.

            As an aside, I usually order a Tawny if I am having the wine WITH a dessert. OTOH, I do order my share of VPs to have AS my dessert, and ask about the bottle.

            Hunt

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