Waitrose trolley dash
Waitrose is a relative newcomer for those of living north of the Watford Gap, but recent expansion has seen them sprouting on high streets all over the UK. They have a reputation for being pricey compared to other chains, but like their parent company the John Lewis Partnership, they’re known for quality. And the good news is, you won’t need a second mortgage to buy their sherries!
Despite my local Waitrose being a relatively small store, the branded sherry line-up is pretty impressive. Of all the supermarkets I visited for this series, Waitrose definitely tops the charts for brand choice.
Those stalwarts of all the other supermarkets are there – Croft Original and Particular, Harvey’s Bristol Cream and Tio Pepe – but the shelves are positively groaning with other options, including some you won’t find elsewhere. From Gonzalez Byass, as well as Tio Pepe there’s Elegante Fino (which lives up to its name), La Concha medium Amontillado and three Waitrose exclusives: Delicado Fino, Delicado Amontillado and Delicado Pedro Ximenez.
Delicado is an old Croft brand, and I’m still trying to find out more information about the soleras now used to source the wines. The Fino is lovely – it’s 15.5% and obviously quite old. On the nose it’s saline and flinty, but with notes of warm brioche. In the mouth it’s creamy with a citrus and olive brine finish. The Amontillado is the star of the Delicado stable. 17% and average of 12 years ageing, it has classic Amontillado aromas and flavours, but with a strong flor influence remaining depsite it’s long ageing. Like the Fino, it has a pronounced salinity which is a lovely balance to the classic flavours of nuts and caramel. It’s a steal at £14.99.
Williams and Humbert make a strong showing too, with Alegria Manzanilla, W&H Collection Oloroso 12 year old, As You Like It Cream and Dos Cortados – a fantastic VOS 20 year old Palo Cortado we reviewed last year here.
Harveys VORS Pedro Ximenez also gets shelf space, as does the exceptional Lustau East India Solera Cream. For Manzanilla lovers, they stock half bottles of Solear and 50cl bottles of La Gitana.
Premium range own-label gems
In common with several other supermarket chains, Waitrose source their premium range from Lustau. The Solera Jerezana range comes in 75cl bottles which all retail at £9.99, so pricewise they work out a little cheaper than the Sainsbury’s and M&S ranges. The range includes:
- Fino del Puerto
- Palo Cortado
- Rich Cream
Lustau make a Puerto Fino that I absolutely love, so I was keen to see how the Solera Jerezana version compared. It’s a big fino, with 16.5% ABV – yes you read that correctly, 16.5%! – and interestingly the label carries an Una Palma symbol instead of the usual Fino ‘stick’. You can see it in the photo, in a small circle between the words ‘Fino del Puerto and ‘Solera Reservada’. It’s very seasidey, with a nose full of salted peanuts and grissini, and flavours of anchovies on toast with a long salted peanut finish. Quite different to the classic Lustau Puerto Fino, which is soft, round and delicate, but a delicious and interesting sherry.
All the oxidative sherries in the range are worthy of trying – high quality, well-balanced with classic flavour profiles, but the Oloroso is the absolute star of the show. The nose is a combination of wood smoke, figs and polished wood. Take a slurp and it’s smooth, velvety and full-bodied with flavours of roasted hazelnuts, walnuts, vanilla and black pepper. It’s robust and powerful, yet still manages to be fresh.
I also need to give an honourable mention to the Rich Cream. Regular readers know I’m not a huge fan of cream, although I recently raved about the Harveys Signature 12 year old here. And here I am the following week giving another cream the thumbs up. This one is not overly sweet, and still gives the mouthfeel of a dry wine. Walnuts, figs and smoke from the Oloroso come through and there’s a great balance of sweet, dry and a little bitter too. My Dad is a great cream lover, and nabbed it before I had chance to photograph it. The text message the next day said it all: “my, that is nice”. High praise indeed from the king of creams!
Oh, this is tricky! So many brand options to choose from, and the Solera Jerezana range really shines. From the brands, I have to plump for both the Delicado Fino and the Delicado Amontillado – you can’t get them anywhere else, and they’re very elegant older expressions of classic styles. From the Solera Jerezana range, it has to be the Oloroso. Just fantastic – can it really only be £9.99?!