Background

Published on December 31st, 2013 | by Ruben

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Where to buy sherry

I’m constantly reading about sherry, and as I’m particularly interested in the better examples, I tend to chase specific sherries until I have a bottle at home. Unfortunately that’s a hard task if you’re living outside of Spain, and it really shouldn’t be so hard.

 

Wine shops and supermarkets: sad situation

Let’s take my own country Belgium as an example. I suppose most of the sherry is purchased in supermarkets. The bigger supermarkets around here offer five to ten different types of sherry, but only the bigger brands like Tio Pepe or Osborne, and only the cheaper expressions. While these are fine table wines, I’m more interested in the artisan products which are mostly sold through specialized wine retailers. The smaller bodegas all have one importer. Usually the importer is also a retailer so you can buy the wines directly from them. They will also distribute the wines to restaurants, bars and sometimes also to a handful of smaller, local shops.

Unfortunately, some just don’t distribute the wines further, which leaves you with one retailer for a whole country. The big problem is that importers seem to pursue exclusive agreements, and once they are the sole importer for the whole region, they will focus on this one bodega and sell no other sherries. From the bodega’s perspective, it’s easy to work with one distributor, but from a consumer perspective, it means having to run across the whole country in order to find a nice selection of sherries from different bodegas. With at least 30 active bodegas, this scattered situation is crazy, especially when compared to the whisky market, for instance. There are around 100 active distilleries in Scotland, and I know at least 10 specialized stores in Belgium where I can get a bottle from nearly every distillery! Same for gin: there are even dedicated online gin shops that sell nothing else.

Of course shops will argue this is down to the low popularity of sherry, but this is a chicken-or-egg problem. Of course artisan sherry won’t gain popularity if you have to drive two hours to find a bottle. In my opinion the exclusivity concept is outdated and it’s clearly not helping to get a wider acceptance and availability of sherry. Bodegas: find more distributors to get your products out there! And maybe look beyond the brick-and-mortar shops altogether…

 

Buy sherry online

In today’s globalized world, online shopping has really taken off, especially for niche products. The best online shops for sherry are located in Spain or the UK but a lot of them are simply not interested in shipping abroad, which limits their potential. Bigger bodegas like Gonzalez Byass have their own webshop, but again they only offer shipments within Spain. While this is a common issue with Spanish webshops in general, I don’t really understand why. With today’s shipping rates, I don’t care where the products come from, as long as I can get them easily. Unfortunately some of the Spanish shops that do ship abroad, have very high rates. Shipping just one bottle to Belgium can add up to € 37 to your bill – usually more than the bottle itself.

Funnily enough, some of the more interesting shops for buying sherry online are originally whisky retailers: La Maison du Whisky in France, and The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt in the UK. They have a decent selection and they ship to virtually every country in the world, with affordable shipping rates. Still they are each showing a rather limited part of the sherry market.

To cut a long story short: finding those really special sherries is harder than it should be. Bodegas should rethink their distribution process as the most interesting products are nowhere to be found, yet they are the key to making sherry popular (again). It’s good that they set up their own webshops, but please look outside the Spanish borders. In fact I think there is a big potential for an independent global shop that sells premium sherry online, from a more complete selection of bodegas. You’d have no reason to look elsewhere or to search local shops trying find a specific bottle.

In the meantime, let me help you find the sherries I’ve been writing about. I’ll share some of my personal favourites among the online shops. The ones in red are shipping abroad. I have bought from all of these shops myself, so I can certainly recommend them, but my top favourites have an asterisk. Of course there are lots of other websites, but as I said most of them are only offering one or two bodegas.

Virtually all of the sherries reviewed on SherryNotes can be found in one or more of these shops, but if you still have difficulty locating a specific sherry, feel free to contact me.

Spain
www.coallagourmet.com *
www.gourmethunters.es
www.grauonline.com
www.monvinicstore.com *
www.vilaviniteca.es *
www.vinissimus.com *

France 
www.whisky.fr *

Germany
www.vinos.de *

UK
www.masterofmalt.com *
www.thedrinkshop.com
www.thewhiskyexchange.com

Belgium
www.cavasyvinos.be
www.xpertvinum.be *

USA
A list of US importers for the most important bodegas can be found here

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About the Author

fell in love with sherry fifteen years ago, but switched to a higher gear in 2013 and started writing about it. Lived in Madrid for a couple of years, now back in Belgium. I also run a whisky blog over at www.whiskynotes.be



  • NIPPER_Amsterdam_NL

    Dear Ruben,

    Thank you for a very nice article again.

    I can only add the following:

    07/25/2012

    First online shop specialising in Sherry.

    The web features up to 500 different brands, as well as other goods produced in the area’s bodegas.

    losvinosdejerez.com e-commerce site was presented at the head office of
    the Regulatory Council on the 27th of June, and the event was attended
    by the project’s promoter Raúl Díez, the head of development for the
    website, Álvaro de la Calle and the councillor for Economic Development,
    Francisco Cáliz. Although it is a completely private initiative, the
    specialised nature of the website certainly merited its presentation at
    the Regulating Council’s own San Ginés bodega.

    Although there are numerous online wine shops, this is the first one of
    its kind to focus entirely on Sherry. The launching of
    losvinosdejerez.com gives us the first e-commerce site dedicated solely
    to the wines produced in the region of Jerez, and features up to 500
    different brands, as well as other goods produced in the area’s bodegas.

    During the presentation, the director of the Regulatory Council, César
    Saldaña, expressed the organisation’s satisfaction with these types of
    initiatives, embracing as they do, new technologies, and offering
    important commercial possibilities for the bodegas of the region.

    http://www.losvinosdejerez.com is available in english and spanish

    Source: Consejo Regulador Denominations of Origin “Jerez-Xérès-Sherry” and “Manzanilla – Sanlúcar de Barrameda”.

    Have a nice 2014 with lots of good sherries (and whiskies) !

    Hans Stok.

  • SherryNotes

    Hi Hans
    Have you ordered there already? I know the website but I can’t really recommend it. The automated English translations will make you laugh, foreign customers don’t have a DNI or CIF, you’re forced to buy by the case (6 or 12 bottles) and 50 euros shipping for one case is outrageous. For some reason the website received sponsoring from the Consejo Regulador but in my opinion there is still a big potential for a more professional, independent, global online shop.

  • NIPPER_Amsterdam_NL

    Hi Ruben,

    I did not buy with this shop and because of what you write, I can understand why it is not included in your list of favorite shops. And like you, I am surprised that the Consejo Regulador is backing up this webshop. Can you – with your also Spanish background – do something towards the Consejo Regulador ?

    I also would appreciate a one-stop (EU and/or USA) sherry webshop which is first of all reliable and sells by the bottle and has reasonable shipping costs.

    What you wrote in your article about exclusivity is a difficult thing. A national importer/distributor (I have been one myself, but not in the sherry business) wants rightfully exclusivity, because he (under normal circumstances) is making promotional and other costs and is taking (stock) risks which he all wants to earn back. And that is a good reason for exclusivity for both the importer and the bodega/producer. That’s also a or the reason why bodega’s are not, can not and should not deliver outside Spain, which – as producers – they can do at much lower consumer prices than national distributors (if they want).

    Compared with whisk(e)ys, I think the big difference and the big problem is indeed the very low turnover for sherries.

    I like to hear from you further.

    • SherryNotes

      Obviously this is a complex situation. Part of the problem (in my opinion) is that most importers are merely small local retailers, not really distributors. They have their own shop and finding other shops to sell the same wines is not a priority – they seem to be afraid it will lower their own end user sales. Hence very limited visibility.

      I’m not a sales professional so I don’t have THE solution, at least not a quick one. I’m only sharing my view as a sherry enthusiast who simply cannot get the most interesting products. On the one hand bodegas are complaining about lowering sales, on the other hand they seem to be hiding their key products.

      • NIPPER_Amsterdam_NL

        Thanks, and indeed, unfortunately it is not an easy problem to solve (when the national turnovers are too low).

        The only thing I can think of now is: maybe bodega’s – stimulated or even initiated by the Consejo Regulador (!) – must take the risk and stop issuing exclusive national contracts and start selling themselves worldwide thru webshops and allowing others to run national, EU, USA or worldwide webshops ?!
        We are living in 2014 now !

        During the presentation of http://www.losvinosdejerez.com, the director of the Regulatory Council, César Saldaña, expressed the organisation’s satisfaction with these types of initiatives, embracing as they do, new technologies, and offering important commercial possibilities for the bodegas of the region.

        Can you – with your also Spanish background and backed by your nice website – suggest this towards the Consejo Regulador ?

        I wil also post this in the Sherry etc. group on LinkedIn for discussion.

  • I have ordered sherry from Vinissimus, as they have a very good wine selection.

    Decantalo is also primarily a wine shop. They have a smaller sherry selection but they carry El Maestro Sierra. I will give them a try in the future.

    • SherryNotes

      Yes, Vinissimus is a very good shop. In fact it was already in the list: Hispavinus.de is the same shop.

    • I find the Spanish shops much cheaper than the UK ones (30-50% cheaper), even with shipping to UK included. I imagine a small part of that is the lower excise tax on alcohol, and the rest I dunno, high cost of doing business in UK?

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