So How Long Does Sherry Last?The thing that you’re drinking is alcohol - a preservative. Fortified wines like sherry have more of it than still wine, which means that the bacteria which makes wine foul dies a swift death in contact with the liquid. In fact, you could employ certain dry fortified wines as mouthwash. Vintners use this knowledge as part of the sherry making process, as some styles of Sherry such as Oloroso are given extra alcohol to kill off yeast growing on its surface while it ferments in barrels. The more alcohol your sherry has, the longer it will last once opened. Those with 14.5% are best consumed in two weeks. Anything with 18% could last for several years if kept in a cool, dark, still place.
Sure, You Could Leave Sherry That Long...But you may not want to. The fresher sherry is, the more of its original taste will be intact, as exposure to the air will begin to break down the flavours in the liquid. As regards unopened bottles of sherry, the drink will continue aging in the bottle. Sweetness or dryness, acidity and tannin develop at different rates in wine. Leaving a bottle alone may help those factors come into balance, but beyond a specific date, they will be off kilter again. Often the label or website description will tell you the optimum window for drinking a bottle at its best.
In a Way, Sherry is Already OldMost sherries are made via the ‘solera’ system. In it, drafts of the liquid are fed down through a bank of barrels over several years, with the barrels at the top storing young sherry while the row at the bottom has the most mature sherry. As all the sherries mingle together, some of the liquid in each barrel will be from the previous year, or the year before. There will even be some traces remaining in the sherry from the year that the solera was set up - perhaps centuries ago. Aside from that, some premium sherries are made which are aged for specific amounts of time. These bottles have greater complexity and are worth their extra prices. Look out for VOS (very old sherry, aged for 20 years), and VORS (very old rare sherry, aged for 30 years). Also there are examples of PX, Oloroso, Palo Cortardo and Amontillado which are aged for 12 or 15 years.
Drinking in the HistoryAt eBuy Wines, we’ve got our hands on some of the real gems of historical sherries. Here’s a selection, with the background that goes them: