What is Sherry

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Sherry is a popular alcoholic beverage and to many of its aficionados, it is one of the most underrated wines in the world. Sherry can be made with different kinds of grapes and using various production methods, which is why its characteristics cannot be generalized.

What is Sherry?

Sherry is a form of fortified Spanish wine using specific white grapes that are grown in Andalucia, a region in southern Spain. Initially, the production process for sherry is very similar to wine, in that the grapes undergo a fermentation process. Following this, however, the wine is fortified with great spirit, which increases the final alcohol content. Most sherries are considered to be quite dry, although some of the most popular forms are sweet. In some varieties of this alcohol, different wine vintages are blended together before the fortification process, so there is not a clear vintage year for most varieties of sherry. Sherry can be served as an aperitif, or with a meat or cheese platter, and sometimes, even as a dessert wine. [1]

In terms of content, most varieties of sherry top out at about 17% ABV. While some sherries are stored in cask barrels for up to 30 years, once they’re bottled, the aging process stops. After opening a bottle of this alcohol, it should normally be consumed in the first day or two, although some varieties will last for up to one week when refrigerated. [2]

Sherry in different wine glasses on a counter

A selection of different kinds of dry to very sweet Sherry Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Types of Sherry

There are quite a few different types of sherry, and they mainly differ in the types of grapes used and the production process applied.

  • Generoso: These are dry varieties of this alcohol prepared along with a thin veil of yeast on the surface of the wine. [3]
  • Fino: This variety is golden in color, dry to taste, and has a slight flavor of almonds.
  • Oloroso: Ranging from amber to dark red in color, this variety smells of walnuts and has a high alcohol content of up to 22%.
  • Palo Cortado: A bright red wine that smells of hazelnuts, this type of sherry is classified based on its distinctive flavor, and high content of malic acid.
  • Pedro Ximenez: This dark, sweet fortified wine is considered one of the best sweet wines in the world and has the aroma of molasses. [4]
  • Moscatel: This variety is made exclusively with sun-dried muscatel grapes and has a sweet aroma.

Other types:

  • Amontillado
  • Sweet natural wines

Sherry Nutrition Facts

In terms of nutrition, this fortified wine provides roughly 90 calories per 100-gram serving, as well as very low levels of carbohydrates and protein. This is in addition to negligible amounts of iron and calcium. There are also a number of antioxidants and active ingredients present in this alcohol, similar to those found in wine.


There are potential health benefits associated with drinking this beverage, in moderation, including its ability to reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases and increase blood circulation.

  • May lower overall cholesterol levels
  • May reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Could prevent hypothermia
  • May increases blood circulation to improve oxygen delivery [5]
  • Delays the aging process
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • May help ease insomnia and other sleep disorders

However, these are not science-backed and are based mainly on anecdotal evidence. One study on moderate sherry intake and cholesterol levels was published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. Researchers in Spain found that the polyphenols in red wine, which are associated with reducing the incidence of coronary artery disease, are also found in sherry. [6]

Alcoholism and binge drinking is detrimental to your overall health and can undo any possible good things that moderate amounts can impart.

How to Store?

If you are storing sherry at home, be sure that the bottles are sitting upright in a cool dry place.

  • As mentioned, the aging process will not continue after bottling, but when stored properly the flavor and taste profile can be maintained for years. [7]
  • After opening a bottle of sherry, be sure to drink it within one week as the flavor is quick to go off and taste the vinegar.
  • Sherry is often consumed as an after-dinner drink, in small quantities, but can also be added to certain recipes that call for a sweet, alcoholic base.

Sherry Side Effects

Always consume alcohol in moderation. As with any alcohol, there are a number of side effects when sherry is consumed in excess, including the following: [8]

  • Hangovers
  • Nausea
  • Dehydration
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who should not drink alcohol include women who are pregnant, individuals younger than 21 years of age, and people who are recovering from alcoholism or cannot control the amount they drink. Also, it should be avoided by people who are planning to drive or any other activity that required focus and skill. However, different countries have different rules on alcohol purchase and consumption. [9]

Also, cooking with alcoholic beverages results in only some loss of alcohol content. Foods baked or simmered in alcohol can retain anywhere from 4 percent to 85 percent of the alcohol, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data lab. [10]

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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