Demonstrating a marvelous clarity and tension - El Maestro Sierra Palo Cortado VORS

Posted by Joe Salamone

"Marvelous clarity and tension"
El Maestro Sierra
Palo Cortado VORS 375ml
Soulful, World-Class Sherry

"The bodega's greatest treasures are undoubtedly its stunning collection of VORS wines, of which a mere 400btls of each are released every year... each is an outstanding example of its type" - Sherry, Manzanilla, Montilla. Peter Liem and Jesús Barquín

If I had to sum up El Maesto Sierra in one word, it would be soulful.

That goes for both the wine and the bodega. The wines possess a depth and a singularity that cannot be better expressed by any other word.

They also show a level of refinement that's a potent reminder of just how noble a wine Sherry is.

When it comes to refinement, El Maestro Sierra's Palo Cortado VORS represents the pinnacle of their range.

I'm happy to offer half-bottles of El Maestro's VORS for $84.95 per 375ml.

While $84.95 per half-bottle is not inexpensive, when you factor in the wine's age (all VORS wine are at least 30 years average age,) not to mention its finesse and complexity, it offers plenty of value in the context of the world's great wines.

Palo Cortado is the most beloved, potentially profound and baffling Sherry category. The easy way to sum up Palo Cortado is that it combines the steeliness of Amontillado with the richness and depth of Oloroso.

That's nice and neat, but things are more complicated than that. Essentially, it's up to the bodega to determine their "take" on what a Palo Cortado is. And if they say it's a Palo Cortado, then it's a Palo Cortado. They range from richly opulent to piercing and nervy. There's not enough room here to cover Palo Cortado's intricacies, but Liem's and Barquín's book offers a very insightful and comprehensive discussion. If you're interested in Sherry, their book is essential reading. (Pricing is included below.)

El Maestro's Palo Cortado falls into the more bright and tension-filled side of Palo Cortado. Peter Liem sums it up really well when he writes, it's "an opulent fragrant wine tethered by the racy structure of biological aging, demonstrating a marvelous clarity and tension."

One of things that has always stood out to me is the way it combines such intensity and complexity with a finessed and dancing palate presence. There's an almost airy sleekness to the wine.

El Maestro is one my favorite bodegas - it's easily the most fascinating and individual bodega of Sherry country. From its inception, El Maestro has assumed a unique place in the region. El Maestro's founder, José Antonio Sierra, was a barrel-maker at González Byass. His founding of El Maestro upset the aristocratic bodega owners, who saw the bodega's founding as a crossing of class boundaries. Today, the bodega is run by three women - a rarity in the male-dominated Sherry trade.

The situation and methods of the bodega are also unique. The bodega is located on a hill that enjoys humid breezes from El Puerto de Santa María and a high water table that makes its positioning so special.

It is unwaveringly old fashioned in its methods. Most bodegas rely on machines to work the soleras - the wine is drawn and replaced by pumps. El Maestro relies on the tradition tools, like canoes, jars, siphons, etc. These are very labor intensive processes, but they claim they are worth it on a qualitative level: the exposure to oxygen is more desirable, the wine in the barrels is disturbed less. The only other bodega that I know who also uses these traditional methods is the small and well-funded Bodega Tradición.

El Maestro's Sherries show a distinctiveness and mysterious depth that make them very compelling. They're captivating wines that reflect the individuality of the bodega.

When it comes to their Palo Cortado VORS, this soulfulness is delivered with a world-class level of complexity and elegance. Simply put, it's really impressive and exciting wine.

To order, please email us at or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Joe Salamone
Wine Buyer
Crush Wine & Spirits