Wine: It’s time to rethink your attitude to the nectar from Spain

IMAGINE tasting a wine that started its life in the 19th century.

A wine of this age, you might think, would be outside the ordinary oenophile’s budget – but it isn’t. You can buy it for under £20.

It is one of the best value wines in the world considering its age and incredible taste. The key to its complexity and drinkability lies in its amazing balance with rich, sweet, dried fruit undertones and nutty rancio savoury notes, freshened by vibrant whistle-clean acidity that you could quaff with anything from meat to cheese to cakes, or just sip it by the fireside with a handful of nuts.

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The wine in question is an Oloroso from an old “solera” blend first made back in 1842, by one of the oldest and most traditional sherry bodegas, Valdespino. I have now mentioned “sherry”, so that might have put off some of you. Please read on as this famous fortified wine is unique.

Oloroso is one of the richest styles of sherry – and the perfect autumnal wine. With 20 per cent alcohol you can serve this nectar in tiny quantities and still impress your guests.

Oloroso is exposed to air right from the time of fermentation as a young wine, giving it a specific oxidative nutty character. All Olorosos are made principally from the white palomino fino grape, yet all have a deep dark colour. It is labelled either Dry – or Rich/Dulce, when dried grape Pedro Ximenez sweet wine is added into the blend.

You may see the word “solera” on the bottle. This indicates it has been made by the solera ageing system that relies on fractional blending from a number of different years, including, in the case of the 1842 Solera, some from that year.

Once opened, a bottle will last for months – making it ideal for those unexpected festive guests – and any left over can be used up in cooking.


Waitrose own label Lustau Dry Oloroso Solera Jerezana

(£8.19, Waitrose)

This tangy, rich, dry sherry is a bargain at just over £8.

Lustau Dry Oloroso Don Nuno

(£12.90, Peckham’s; Luvians, Cupar; Wine Raks, Aberdeen)

Bone-dry, baked prune and damson notes. Good value.

Fernando de Castilla Antique Oloroso STAR BUY

(£22 for 50cl, WoodWinters, Bridge of Allan, Edinburgh; Waitrose)

Walnut, spice, cinnamon and orange peel – like Christmas in a glass.


Lustau East India Rich

(£9.19, Luvians; Waitrose)

A very affordable dulce Oloroso with prune notes and a roasted nut taste.

Valdespino Solera 1842 Dulce Oloroso STAR BUY


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Wow! A fascinating balance between savouriness and rich sweetness in the same glass with bitter dark chocolate, prune and almond undertones.

Gonzalez Byass Dulce Muy Viejo VORS (Very Old Rare Sherry)

(£15.99 hf bt, Majestic Wine; £16.99, Tesco)

After 30 years in sherry butts, this dark molasses-looking liquid has coffee, chocolate and liquorice flavours with dried fruit undertones.

Lustau Anada 1990

(£19.49, Waitrose)

An unusual dated sherry from a high quality solera: rich, figgy taste.

• For beginners’ wine courses in Edinburgh and Glasgow, see www.rosemurray