Sherry or Port?
To understand the differences between Sherry and Port firstly, we’re going to discuss a little bit about the origin of Port and then we can start comparing the process, ageing, grapes and other factors that make Sherry and Port different.
Firstly, let me introduce a little of background into Port, as I’ve already explained the basics of Sherry in my other post. Port is produced in the Douro valley, in the north of Portugal. Englishmen fortified the red wine to stabilize it during the long journeys when they moved the wine from Porto in Portugal to England during the war between England and France. Even though now we find white and Rose Port, the original Port was red and sweet, with Touriga nacional grape as the main grape, with many other types of grapes in smaller proportions.
There are five main differences when comparing the traditional red port with traditional Sherry:
Grapes can be red or white for Port. White grapes can be used, such as Malvasia, Arinto, Rabigato, Gouveio, Viosinho, and other less common grapes. However, the main grapes used are red, such as Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and other less common ones. They can use more than 50 types of grapes.
Whereas for the wine to have the D.O.Sherry, they must only use 3 white grapes, Palomino, Pedro Ximénez, and Moscatel de Alejandría. Palomino is the most common grape, comprising 95% of all vines in the region.
The oxidation during the ageing process causes the difference of colours in different Sherries.
A main difference between Sherry and Port is during the fermentation process. The winemaker creating Sherry waits until all the sugar is fermented and then they add Brandy.
On the other hand, for traditional Port, the winemaker stops the fermentation by adding Brandy. This kills the yeast and stabilize the wine which still contains sugar.
Nowadays you can find dry white port which still contains a slight amount of residual sugar.
Therefore, this brings up another difference in the range of sweetness spectrum. While Sherry can range from extremely dry (<5g/L residual sugar) to one of the sweetest wines of the world (Pedro Ximénez), Port always contains residual sugar.
The alcohol in Port is usually higher, ranging from 19-21%.
While Sherry depends on the style, if it ages under the biological style it is usually 15-16%, while if it underwent an oxidative stage then it can go all the way to 21%. It will depend on the age as the older the wine is, more evaporation occurs and therefore the alcohol would be more concentrated.
When to drink
In the case of Port, people know it as a sipping wine, only for dessert or for an aperitif. On the other hand Sherry is one of the most versatile wines in the world, as there is a Sherry for all kinds of food, from an aperitif, main plate to a dessert.
Port can keep ageing in the bottle, after ageing a couple of years in big tanks (non-oxidized style), or to wooden barrels first and then to the bottle (gently oxidized style), read more here. Moreover, even though most of the time they use two or more vintages, they can also be fermented with just one.
In the case of Sherry it must be first aged in casks in the solera system for a minimum of 2 years, although most are aged more. It also has two styles, oxidized or biological. Although, it can undergo a biological ageing first and when the flor dies, the oxidation starts until the wine is ready to be drunk. When it is bottled, it means that it is ready to be drunk. The use of solera system means that a sherry will never be made with 100% of the same vintage. The sherry is always fed with other younger sherries to always have a similar type of sherry, learn more here.
Are you travelling to Cadiz? Would like to learn more about Sherry production, types of sherry, wine and food pairing with Iberian ham and other local food products like bluefin tuna and bull’s meat? Join our small group tour in our Sherry & Tapas tour. Or if you would like to learn about Jerez-sherry-Xeres D.O., and visit the bodegas, then join us for our ultimate sherry tasting tour. Come and join Explore la Tierra in Vejer de la Frontera, Cadiz, Spain!