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Brandy vs Sherry (How Are They Different?)


Ah, the classic debate: Brandy versus Sherry. While both are strong, spirited liquors often used to celebrate special life events and enjoyed as digestifs during gatherings and after meals, they each have unique characteristics that make them distinct from one another.

To help you better understand each liquor, below is an overview of how brandy and sherry are made, their flavor profiles, appearances, alcohol percentages, and how they compare to port wine:

How is Brandy Made?

Brandy is a distilled spirit drink made from wine or fermented fruit juice. It is usually aged in oak barrels, which give it its distinctive flavor. Brandy can be made from grapes or other fruits and it typically has an alcoholic content of between 35-60%.

In this article, we will explore:

  • How brandy is made
  • The differences between different types of brandy
  • How it compares to other fortified wines like port and sherry

Grapes used for Brandy

Brandy is an alcoholic beverage made primarily from grapes. The best-known brandies come from France, Spain, Italy and Portugal, but brandy is made in many other countries as well. Though it is closely associated with cognac, the spirit can be distilled from wine or directly from fermented fruit juice.

The base ingredient used in making brandy is usually a high-quality grape varietal such as grenache, mourvedre or ugni blanc – depending on the region of its production. In France and Spain, winemakers minimize their harvesting costs by fermenting all overripe or damaged grapes together with sounder ones before distillation whereas in Italy and Portugal they are destemmed and juiced first before distillation.

Grapes are thoroughly crushed and combined with yeast which converts the sugars within them into alcohol. The alcoholic liquid which results (known as wine) is then heated in copper stills to distill it into brandy.

It goes through several rounds of distillation during which its strength increases from around 11–13% ABV to 40–45% ABV (alcohol by volume). Finally it is aged for several years in oak barrels—the amount of time spent ageing affects the character and flavor of each spirit produced through this process.

Distillation pf Brandy

Distillation is the process of heating a fermented liquid and then collecting and cooling the vapor in order to concentrate the alcohol content. Brandy is usually distilled once or twice, depending on the desired character. The distillate is then aged, usually in wood barrels, in order to allow it to develop flavor complexities and aromatics. Some brandy production methods include using stills heated by direct flame or traditional pot stills that produce a smooth, mellow liquor.

Brandy distillation can vary greatly between regions and brandy makers. In one process called double distillation, wine or other fermented juices are first distilled to separate the water from the highly concentrated alcohol (also known as the “wash“). The alcohol is then re-distilled with lees (sediment from fermentation) remaining from previous batches in order to capture all traces of flavor from them.

This distinguishes brandy from whiskey whose wash is often distilled in column pots only once or not at all after being aged for months or years in oak barrels with charred insides for added flavor complexity.

Brandy typically falls into two major categories: pot stilled brandies (those made through double distillation) and column-stilled brandies (those made through single distillations). The most common types of Pot Still Brandy includes Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados while Grappa, Pisco and some American-style North American whiskey are all considered Column-Stilled Brandies.

Aging of Brandy

Aging is a key step in the production of brandy, and it is here where its flavor and color are finalized. Brandy is aged in oak barrels or casks, which not only adds flavor but also helps keep oxygen out as the vapor wines mature. Excessive exposure to oxygen causes brandy to oxidize and develop a sour taste.

Typically, brandy is aged for two years or more before bottling, though unaged brandies (also referred to as white brandies) are produced as well. The longer it’s aged, the more complex its flavors will become – you can think of aging as the process in which the barrel divides hard alcohol from congeners (flavor compounds), adding additional aromatic notes with time.

The smaller barrels deliver more intense characteristics than larger ones that provide much mellower results; it’s all about balancing complexity with balance and finesse.

The amount of time spent aging also affects a brandy’s alcohol content – most standard brands are fortified up to 40 percent ABV, but premium varieties may be past this due to evaporation during aging. Some countries have regulations regarding how long a spirit must spend aging in order to be labeled “brandy,” while others leave it up to the producer’s own discretion.

How is Sherry Made

Sherry is a fortified wine made in the Jerez-Xeres-Sherry region of Spain. It is made from white or gray grapes and is the result of a complex process.

To make sherry, a winemaker blends white wines and ferments them with a wine yeast. The result of this fermentation is a light, dry, and delicate wine. The wine is then fortified with brandy and aged in oak barrels, producing a unique and distinct flavor.

In this article, we’ll dive into:

  • How sherry is made
  • How it compares to port and wine
  • Its taste, appearance, and alcohol percentage


Sherry is a fortified wine made from grapes grown in the province of Jerez, in southern Spain. All types of sherry begin with a grape must (freshly pressed juice) made from finely selected Palomino grapes, also known as Ximénez grapes. The juice is fermented and put into barrels to rest for at least three years until it has reached its intended alcohol content. Sherry typically ranges between 15-20% alcohol by volume (ABV).

Various regions grow different varieties of the Palomino grape with different flavor profiles due to temperature variations and the soil’s mineral content. A combination of these variations gives sherry its long-lasting complex flavors and distinct aromatic qualities that distinguish it from other wines such as port or table wines.

For wine production, producers may blend different varieties of Palomino to create a full-bodied, dry varieties (Fino) or sweeter creations (Amontillado), depending on the desired taste profile. To maintain freshness and prevent oxidation during aging, winemakers continue adding fortified spirit. This prevents barreling wines from going off while adding an extra layer of complexity—replenishing some aged material with younger spirits each year helps sherry remain consistent in quality over extended periods of time and balances its aroma profile accordingly.

Fermentation og Sherry

In order to make sherry, wine is first processed through a fermentation procedure. This process involves stripping grapes of their three ingredient layers: serum, pulp, and skins. The layer of serum, or must, is then treated with yeast in order to initiate the process of transforming sugars into alcohol.

After a period of maceration with temperature and oxygen control during this initial fermentation stage this must is then fortified with brandy to stop the fermentation before all sugars are transformed. This unique step in sherry production gives it its distinct flavor and alcohol content.

In a controlled system called the solera method, sherry that has been produced from different grape harvests can be blended together and aged over a period of time lasting from three up to 30 years in barrels designed for balance maturation between oxidation and esterification within an atmosphere protected from external conditions such as fluctuating temperatures.

This system allows for gradual blend development that develops layers of complexity yielding an unusual taste profile often compared to wine mixed with port but none like it anywhere else.

The result is a distinctive set of flavor notes ranging from sweet and fruity (in young softer styles) to delicate nutty tones like almond or hazelnut (as found in older fuller styles).

Appearing rich golden-chestnut hue due to depth obtained through aging, Sherry drinks normally range between 15-25% ABV depending on type; fino or manzanilla being the lightest while older varieties might range upwards close to 20%. Balancing sweetness and acidity these aromas provide good preparation for the full flavors that await sipper-seekers once they enter this intriguing world where only imagination sets boundaries!


Sherry is made from a combination of different types of grapes, and is aged in oak barrels. The aging and the type of barrel used affect the flavor and alcohol content of the sherry. Most sherry ages for several years before it reaches your glass. After an initial period in American or French oak barrels, it is transferred to barrels that have already been used to age Palo Cortado or Oloroso sherries for several years, known as “solera” or “fino“. This slow process creates diminishing layers of flavor in the sherry’s character.

The maturity process has a huge influence on the flavor and aroma of a final product – with the younger versions tending to be lighter, fresher and fruitier in taste, while their older counterparts take on more intense flavors such as caramel, dried fruits and even nuts, depending on how long they were aged in solera.

The texture can range from light to robust depending how long it was aged; but what sets good sherry apart is a distinct nuttiness that comes with age (uvas pasas sherries). The alcohol percentage can also vary depending on what version you are drinking but overall tends to range from 15% – 22%.

Sherry’s unique production processes make it stand out among other drinks like wine or port. While these beverages also rely on aging techniques for their complexity, sherry develops its unique flavors largely through controlled oxidation processes during fermenting and barrel-aging which will not be found in other spirits.


Brandy and sherry are both distilled alcoholic beverages, but they differ in taste and other aspects. Brandy is made by distilling wine, and it has a higher alcohol content (about 40% ABV) than sherry. Sherry is made by blending wines and is generally drier than brandy, with a lower alcohol content (about 15-20% ABV). Both brandy and sherry have a distinct, tan-brown color.

In comparison to port and wine, brandy has a higher alcohol content but is usually smoother and less sweet than sherry, while sherry has a more rounded flavor than port and wine.


Brandy is a spirit made from distilled wine, primarily produced in France and Spain. Generally, it contains between 30 and 60 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) and is aged in oak casks, which adds flavor and color to the liquid. Brandy comes in a range of colors depending on the amount of time aged and the type of barrels used for aging. The most common ages for brandy are VS (very special), VSOP (very superior old pale) or XO (extra old).

Taste-wise, brandy is smooth and full-bodied but also subtly sweet with notes of citrus, oak, spices, apple or pear. It tends to be very alcoholic but not overwhelmingly so; some people consider brandy to be a smooth alternative to whiskey or scotch.

In comparison to sherry, another type of fortified wine, brandy has a much higher alcohol content than sherry. Brandy is also richer than sherry because it has been distilled once more than sherry; consequently more complex flavors are produced as well as more volatile aromas. In comparison to port or red wine, these drinks have less alcohol content which means that they tend to be sweeter.


Sherry is a type of fortified wine made in the Sherry Triangle region of Southern Spain, whose most famous soil type is ‘albariza’. It is an amber-coloured wine with a distinctive light nutty flavour, created by yeast and acetic acid bacteria which are added to create a unique flavour palette.

When it comes to taste, Sherry may be somewhat light and fruity on the palate or resemble port in richness and sweetness. Some Sherries can be aged for over twenty years in soleras, imparting intense nutty or chocolatey flavours. It also offers a range alcohol content ranging from 15%-21%, depending on the variety being made; this impacts its flavor profile as well as cost.

In terms of its overall taste comparison to other wines, Sherry has often been likened to port due to its sweetness, but it stands apart with its unique dryness, lightness and salty notes that make it both complex yet delicate on the tongue; some sherry varieties may also have underlying hints of dried fruit or honey.

When compared directly against Brandy though (also a distilled grape-based cocktail), sherry bears more refined fruits like berry and prune notes with far less spices present than brandy commonly has – if any at all.


Brandy, a type of distilled wine, and Sherry, a fortified wine, may look quite similar. Brandy usually comes in dark amber and golden hues, while Sherry generally appears lighter, ranging from grey-yellow to golden yellow. Both Brandy and Sherry can be made in a variety of styles, with variations in color and alcohol content.

In this article we will take a look at the differences in appearance between Brandy and Sherry.


Brandy is a spirit produced by distilling wine and is usually made from grapes, but it can also be made from other fruit. It has a distinct fruity taste and can range in color from light gold to deep mahogany. The flavor and strength of the brandy depend on its aging time.

Brandy typically has an alcohol content of 35-60%, although some premium brands may have up to 94% alcohol.

Brandy is often compared to port, sherry, and whisky because all four drinks use a similar distillation process. Brandy tends to be sweeter than whisky, is slightly less sweet than sherry and port, but does not contain as much natural sugar as either one of those drinks. Brandy’s flavor also carries more tannins than port or wine do.


Sherry is a fortified wine produced in the Jerez region of Spain, made from grapes that have been aged and blended with brandy and other spirits. It has distinctive, rich flavors created through a process involving fortification of small barrels combined with oxidation and aging. Sherry can come in either a dry or sweet style, but most varieties are medium-dry or semi-dry.

Typically it ranges between about 11 and 15 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) depending on the fortified spirit content.

Sherry has a unique golden-orange to deep brown color unlike any other wine. This color comes from the combination of both fermentation and oxidative aging processes. A dry sherry tends to have more golden-golden hues while sweeter varieties are usually deep red or brownish in color when bottled.

In terms of its taste, sherry can vary greatly by style, but generally has a nutty flavor that may contain notes of cocoa, dried fruits, caramelized sugars, leather and spices. When compared to port wines and white wines it has a higher ABV with less sweetness than port and more body than white wines which gives it great versatility in pairings at the dinner table.

Alcohol Percentage

Both brandy and sherry are types of fortified wines which are made by distilling wine and then adding a variety of different alcohols to reach the desired taste, flavor, and alcohol percentage.

Brandy and Sherry differ from other wines because of their higher alcohol content usually ranging from 18 to 60%.

Let’s explore the differences in the alcohol content between Brandy and Sherry to understand more about their flavor, taste, and production.


Brandy is a spirit made by distilling wine. It is often aged in wood casks, which give it its distinct amber hue and mellow flavor. Brandy generally contains 35–60% alcohol by volume and has a sweet, sometimes smoky taste. Depending on the grape variety used, brandy can be light, mild and fruity or robust, full-bodied and complex – similar to fine red wines. As a result of its high alcohol content, brandy has a longer shelf life than other alcoholic beverages.

When compared to port or wine, brandy has a high alcohol percentage – usually between 30–60%. This percentage can vary depending on the type of brandy; for example an VSOP (Very Special Old Pale) brandy contains 40%, while an XO (Extra Old) brandy can range from 40-50%. In comparison to other spirits like whiskey or rum, which contain around 40%, brandy generally occupies the highest end of the spectrum when it comes to alcohol content.


Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the town of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, Spain. The word “sherry” is an Anglicization of Jerez; it is also sometimes referred to as Xeres. Sherry has a unique flavor and aroma derived from the aging process and its proximity to the sea.

Sherry comes in a variety of styles, each with its own distinct flavor profile and alcohol content. The most common types of sherry are Manzanilla at 15-17% alcohol by volume (ABV) and Fino at 18-22% ABV; these two varieties account for more than 50% of all sherry production worldwide. Other popular varieties include Oloroso (17-21% ABV), Amontillado (18-23% ABV), Palo Cortado (19-23%), Cream (15-17%) and Pedro Ximénez (18-21%).

In terms of taste, sherry is typically described as fruity with a hint of nuttiness due to oxidative aging in wooden barrels. It can be enjoyed on its own or used as an ingredient in cooking or cocktails. In comparison to port wine, sherry tends to be lighter with less sweetness while compared with other wines, it has higher levels of acidity and tannins as well as higher alcohol content that creates emboldened flavors and aromas without being overly sweet.

How Does it Compare to Port and Wine?

Brandy and sherry can be two enticing options to choose from when you are looking for a drink to enjoy. Though brandy and sherry are similar in terms of production and alcohol percentage, they are different in terms of taste, appearance, and how they compare to port and wine.

So, how does brandy and sherry compare to port and wine?


Brandy is a type of spirit made from distilled wine and is generally composed of 35-60 percent alcohol by volume. It is created through the process of distillation, often times in copper stills, where the heated vapors are condensed back into liquid form which can then be aged and bottled. Depending on the type of brandy, aging time can range from a few months to several years and even decades! Popular varieties of brandy include Cognac (usually made from specific grapes) from France, Spanish Brandy de Jerez, Armagnac from Gascony, and Calvados made in Normandy.

Brandy typically has a mild flavor that varies depending on the type you are drinking; some have fruit flavors such as apple or pear while others have earthier tones. It has an amber or copper color with a viscosity that varies between light and syrupy depending on age. Brandy can also be used for cooking to add depth and flavor to food dishes but be aware that it will become more alcoholic if it is heated so use accordingly.

In comparison to its counterparts such as port and wine, brandy tends to be sweeter with more intense flavors while port has a higher alcohol content at around 15-20%. Also when comparing these drinks visually you will notice differences in color – brandy typically having an amber hue while port ranges in color according to age/varieties with tawney having an orange hue while ruby being redder in color. Wine ranges widely depending on what type it is but usually comes in shades ranging light – deep purple/red hue.


Sherry is an aromatic fortified wine produced in various fortified styles ranging from dry to very sweet, and usually aged for a minimum of six months though these days many are aged for much longer. It is made primarily with the Palomino grape, thanks to its special ability to produce sweet flavors and long-lasting wines. Sherry’s origin can be traced back centuries, as information from texts from the 12th century suggest that winemakers in southern Spain were already making sherry at that point.

This flavor profiles found in sherry span the whole spectrum of tastes; depending on the aging process used, you can find everything from light, salty and citrus-y sherry perfect for aperitifs to lusciously rich dessert wines best served at room temperature. There are four main styles when it comes to producing sherry:

  1. Fino and Manzanilla – being light and fresh with mineral notes
  2. Amontillado & Oloroso – more than nutty
  3. Cream sherries – sweetness balanced with acidity
  4. Pedro Ximenez & Moscatel – intensely sweet.

When compared with port or wine; Sherry has higher alcohol content (typically between 15-22% ABV), since it is fortified with brandy during production, although producers do work hard to achieve a balance between low levels of alcohol with aromas and flavors of food and drinks such as almonds or cheeses whereas Port has lower alcohol content (typically around 17-20%) making it slightly weaker than Sherry. Both have distinctively different appearances as Sherry typically has pale shades of straw yellow or ambers depending on age whereas Port has bold deep dark red colors. Tastewise, while both offer notes of dried fruit sweetness they are more pronounced on Port due its higher sugar levels while Sherry offers freshness combined with hints of bitterness similar to those found in beer alongside powerful aromas often not present on other types of wine such as nuts, baking spices and sometimes tobacco flavors.


Both brandy and sherry are classic alcoholic beverages that have various subtleties to their taste, appearance, and production. Brandy is a spirit distilled from wine or other fermented fruit juice, while sherry is a fortified wine made with white grapes. Brandy can be made in more regions but the most common styles have their roots in France, Spain, and the United States. Sherry production is mostly focused in the south of Spain.

Brandy has a higher alcohol by volume content than sherry, ranging from 40%-60%. It usually has a golden-brown color (for aged brandies) and notes of caramelized fruit or oak on the palate.

Sherries are sweetened wines with an alcohol content between 15 – 20%, can vary greatly depending on how long it has been aged for and range from light color to deep mahogany browns. On the palate, notes of caramelized nuttiness as well as citrus fruits like lemon or orange may be present.

Brandy is versatile enough to be enjoyed neat or mixed into cocktails like an Old-Fashioned while sherries are typically enjoyed straight or after dinner drinks like an Amontillado cocktail. Sherry also pairs well with seafood dishes or heavier meats, like pork chops.

Finally, when compared to port wine and table wine; both brandy and sherry are significantly higher in alcohol content than both port wine (18%) and table wines (8% – 14%).

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How is Brandy made?

A: Brandy is made by distilling wine. The wine is heated until it evaporates and the vapors are condensed into a liquid. This liquid is then aged in oak barrels to give it the characteristic flavor and color of brandy.

Q: How does it compare to port and wine?

A: Brandy is often compared to port and wine. Port is a fortified wine, meaning it has a higher alcohol content than regular wine. Brandy is distilled and aged, giving it a smoother, more distinct flavor than either port or wine. Brandy also has a higher alcohol content than both port and wine.

Q: What is the alcohol percentage of Brandy?

A: The alcohol percentage of Brandy varies depending on the type. Most brandies have a minimum of 35% alcohol by volume (ABV), but some can be as high as 60% ABV.

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