Published on April 19th, 2016 | by Ruben


Contrabandista (Valdespino)

Adding a tiny amount of PX takes away the rough edges… as well as some of the complexity

Contrabandista is a Medium Dry Amontilllado Blend, which means it has a wide base of Amontillado, mixed with 5% of younger Pedro Ximénez. It was originally made for the American market (with more sweetness) but apparently they’ve toned down the sweetness in recent years.

All grapes come from the pago Macharnudo Alto and are fermented in butt, which was common in the past but now unique to Valdespino. It is basically the Amontillado Tio Diego (which in turns is the older brother of the Fino Inocente), aged for around 8 years under flor and an additional 8 years in the Amontillado solera.

The Medium Dry category goes all the way from 5 to 115 grams of sugar. While most Medium sherry is in the upper region of sugar content, this one contains around 30 grams of residual sugar, which means it should be off-dry rather than thoroughly sweet.


Contrabandista ‘Medium Dry Amontillado’ (18%, Bodegas Valdespino)

Nose: quite a lot of caramel and milk chocolate, with prune jam or prune tartlets. Also hazelnut cream, honey and (slightly burnt) brown sugar. Just a little orange peel and a faint maritime note refer to its Amontillado / Fino origins. Hints of old wood as well.

Mouth: much less sweet than expected. It’s just off-sweet and fairly timid at first. Then there’s a firm dry, oaky side to it, with chestnuts, walnut skins and a briney touch. Light bitterness of dark chocolate (with salt flakes) and coffee. It’s a bit peculiar, it lacks the complexity and intensity of a true Amontillado and at the same time it lacks the richer texture of PX.

Availability: not very wide. Around € 20-25.

Summary: Contrabandista is a smooth Medium blend with an emphasis on bittersweet notes. It's lighter and less rich than a sweetened Oloroso, but an interesting introduction to older sherry. It doesn't have much Amontillado character but it's easy to like.



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About the Author

is a Certified Sherry Educator who fell in love with sherry some twenty 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

4 Responses to Contrabandista (Valdespino)

  1. Thanks for the review, Ruben! I have just recently discovered Sherry, and this one is my favorite so far. What would you suggest to try out in the same style?

    • Dry Sack from Williams & Humbert is a well-known example with more or less the same style. Many other bodegas have similar blends, but it’s difficult to tell which ones are available in your market. Look for ‘Medium Dry Amontillado’ on the label.

      • Couldn’t find W&H right away. One I have in the same e-store I use is Tio Diego. You mentioned it in the article. Would you recommend it?

        • I do recommend it but Tio Diego is a regular Amontillado: completely dry (0 grams of sugar). If you appreciate the sweet edge of Contrabandista then it may not be a proper replacement.

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Many thanks!