Port vs Sherry: FULL GUIDE to Similarities & Differences

Do you know the difference between port vs sherry wine?

If you’re wondering when and how to choose port or sherry, read on to learn about them and when each one is usually served.

In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between port and sherry, as well as their unique flavor profiles.

We will also give you a few tips on how to choose the right one for you.

What is Port Wine?

Port Wine
Port wine is a fortified wine that’s a favorite digestif or accompaniment for dessert.

Port wine is a type of fortified wine that originates from the Douro Valley in Portugal.

Unlike other wines, Port is typically produced by adding spirit to the wine while it is still fermenting.

This fortification process stops the fermentation process, resulting in a sweeter and higher-alcohol wine.

Port is typically categorized by its sweetness, with categories ranging from dry to very sweet.

Port tends to taste like chocolate, nuts, dark berries, or even cinnamon and butterscotch.

In addition to being enjoyed on its own, port is often paired with cheese or chocolate.

It can also be used as an ingredient in cocktails or desserts.

Thanks to its unique flavor profile, port has become a popular choice for wine lovers around the world.

Read our related article, Madeira vs Port Wine for another in-depth guide and comparison.

What is Sherry Wine? 

Sherry Wine 
Sherry wine often enjoyed as an apertif and is enjoying a recent resurgence in popularity.

Sherry wine is a popular type of fortified wine that is often sipped as an apéritif before a meal.

In fact, sherry is one of the best-known Spanish wines, and it has been produced in the Sherry Triangle region near the southern coast of Spain for hundreds of years. 

Sherry wine is made using the sherry method, which involves starting with a wine base made from locally grown grapes such as Palomino or Pedro Ximénez.

To this base, sherry producers then add alcohol such as grape brandy or cane spirit to increase both sweetness and alcohol content, giving sherry its distinctive flavor.

Sherry can have an earthy flavor, but is often described as tasting like cookie, caramel, nuts, mushrooms, raisins, and various types of citrus.

Flavor is greatly impacted by the aging methods.

Today, sherry wines can range in style from bone dry varieties to sweeter dessert styles. 

Discover Sherry and what makes it have such a big flavor in this video from Tio Pepe winery in Jerez, Spain.

Port vs Sherry Wine – The 4 Big Differences

1. Port Wine is Sweeter With Higher Alcohol Content Than Sherry

Port wine and sherry wine are two very different types of alcohol.

While port wine is generally sweeter and has a higher alcohol content, sherry is drier and typically has a lower alcohol content.

Both styles of wine have long traditions in their respective countries of origin and are highly regarded among connoisseurs.

While some unique blends may feature subtle hints of port or sherry flavors, these wines tend to stand out on their own due to their distinct characteristics. 

The difference in sweetness and alcohol content makes them enjoyable at different times.

Sherry is a good apertif while port is usually enjoyed after dinner or with dessert.

Read our related article on Port Wine Substitutes to see which wines are most similar to your favorite bottle of Port!

2. Port and Sherry are Produced Differently

3 bottles of port wine
There are quite a few variations on port wine and many types and flavors of sherry.

Port and sherry wines are fortified, meaning that a distilled spirit has been added to them.

The intent of fortification is to stop the fermentation process, resulting in a sweeter wine with higher alcohol content.

This increases the shelf life of wine, which meant it could be shipped farther in old times.

Port is typically produced by adding a neutral grape spirit to wine while it is still fermenting.

This kills the yeast and leaves residual sugar in the wine, resulting in a sweet port.

Sherry, on the other hand, is fortified after fermentation, allowing some yeast to remain alive.

This results in a dryer sherry as the yeast continues to consume residual sugar.

Both port and sherry are typically red wines, although white port and cream sherry do exist.

Port is often served as a dessert wine, while types of sherry can be served as an appetizer wine or a dessert wine.

3. Port and Sherry Are Made in Different Areas

Port originates from the Douro Valley in Portugal, while sherry wines are from the Sherry Triangle region near the southern coast of Spain. 

This may not seem like a big deal, but grapes grown in different soils taste differently and create quite astonishing variations in the flavor of the resulting wine.

Both port and sherry come in a variety of styles, from dry to sweet, and they can be enjoyed on their own or as an accompaniment to food.

When it comes to port vs sherry, there is no clear winner – it simply depends on your preferences. 

Read our related article, Sherry vs Brandy to see how Sherry compares to the flavor profile of Brandy!

4. Port and Sherry Are Served at Different Times

There are many factors to consider when choosing between these two varieties, and when you intend to indulge is one of those factors.

For example, port is typically enjoyed either on its own after a meal or as a pairing with cheese or chocolate, while sherry is often served as an apéritif before a meal.

What this really means is you don’t have to choose between them.

You can enjoy sherry before your meal, then relax with a glass of port when you’re done eating.

Read our related article on How to Drink Sherry for an in-depth guide to serving and pairing Sherry.

How To Choose and Serve Port and Sherry

cordial glass
Port and sherry are traditionally served in 1.5oz cordial glasses. The drink is meant to be savored carefully and in extreme moderation.

When it comes to port vs sherry, there is no clear winner – it simply depends on your personal preferences.

So why not try both and see for yourself?

Here are a few tips to help you choose the right port or sherry for your next gathering:

  • If you’re looking for a light and refreshing drink to enjoy with cheese or appetizers, go for dry sherry
  • For rich and sweet dessert wine, opt for port wine
  • If you want to try something in between, look for a semi-dry sherry or a ruby port

No matter which type of port or sherry you choose, be sure to serve it at the proper temperature.

Sherry should be served chilled, while port should be served at room temperature. And, of course, don’t forget the glasses!

Port and sherry are typically enjoyed in small glasses called “cordial” glasses. So go ahead and pour yourself a glass!

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