Sherry trophy winner 2020: Bodegas Williams & Humbert

Wine news

Wed 24 Feb 2021

By Stuart Peskett

Bodegas Williams & Humbert has been in operation for nearly 150 years. Founded in 1877 by Sir Alexander Williams and Arthur Humbert, the family-owned company is one of the most renowned producers of sherry and brandy. It had a hand in creating the Jerez-Xérès-Brandy DO, and owns one of the biggest single-unit bodegas in the world – which has also won architecture prizes for its design.

Its wines and spirits are well worth talking about, too. The Williams & Humbert range includes the hugely popular Dry Sack sherry, as well as Gran Duque de Alba brandy. But the wine that got the IWSC judges most excited this year was Dos Cortados Palo Cortado Aged 20 Years.

Palo Cortado is one of the happiest accidents you’ll find in the world of drinks. Palo Cortado sherries start off life as a fino, but along the way, they develop oxidative qualities, harnessing a rich nuttiness. They end up marrying the beautiful aromas of an amontillado and the body of an oloroso.

Dos Cortados Palo Cortado Aged 20 Years scored a top-notch 95/100pts, taking the overall sherry trophy and drawing huge praise from the judges: “An enduring nose highlighting the big aromas of vanilla, dried fruits, roasted hazelnuts and coffee beans. Rich and compelling on the palate with a smorgasbord of cooked exotic fruits all delectably seasoned with a pinch of sea salt. Divinely memorable.”


Bodegas Williams & Humbert's trophy-winning sherry

We spoke to winemaker Paola Medina Sheldon to get the inside track on this magical sherry, and her approach to winemaking.

Tell us about the history and background of Dos Cortados Palo Cortado…

Dos Cortados belongs to the original soleras of our winery and is one of the most emblematic sherries of Williams & Humbert. Palo Cortado is a rare variety of sherry classified between an amontillado and an oloroso, where by sheer chance, certain casks in the winery don't develop along the predicted path to the type of sherry originally intended.

The term “palo cortado” refers to the crossed line that the cellar master draws in chalk upon such casks if, when tasted, characteristics are detected in the sherry which vary from the norm and indicate a different evolution of the wine. The expressions “dos cortados” and “tres cortados” refer to the marks made in chalk on the casks to describe the corrections made to the wine.

How did you get into wine?

I graduated in chemistry, oenology and viticulture at the universities of Granada, Cádiz and Madrid. My professional life started outside of Jerez, in Ciudad Real, where I worked as an enologist in the Bodega 14 Viñas. But obviously my family has strong links with Jerez and I’ve had the chance to live in the wine world of Jerez since my childhood. I joined the family bodega in 2010.


Bodegas Williams & Humbert winemaker and oenologist Paola Medina Sheldon

What is your winemaking philosophy?

I work in the production of wines with marked personality and clearly defined style. My philosophy is to respect the personality of these wines. An oenologist must contribute their knowledge so that wines mature, revealing their best of their character. The goal is not to try and change them, but to help them age showing their best qualities.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given and how did you use that in your winemaking?

The key to success is to take into account each and every one of the small details in the process and also the people, to form a stronger team – this is something I have learned from the people I have worked with.


Bodegas Williams & Humbert winery in Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz, Spain

Who or what has been your most important influence and why?

My father Nicolas, one of the founders of the family business. His complete dedication to sherry has been something which has influenced me from an early age.

How can people best enjoy your wine?

For me, Dos Cortados is an excellent choice at any moment. Its richness makes it an exceptional sherry for appetisers, after-dinner conversations or paired with cheese, fresh tuna, mushrooms, cold meats and spicy meat stews.

Read more about award-winning Sherry: