Winter has officially arrived, making it the perfect time to explore Sherry. It’s definitely appropriate year-round but is a fortified wine (read higher in alcohol) which gives the “warming” effect that’s perfect in cold weather. I’m not talking about the grodie stuff your mom used for cooking. Sherry is Spanish in origin and made from white grapes (usually the Palomino grape). The wines range from table styles such as Manzanilla and Fino to much heavier versions like Amontillado and Oloroso.
If you’re new to Sherry, start with a very old brand, Emilio Hidalgo. An excellent choice is their Bodega Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla. A nice, dry table wine, it is well-known as a standard by which others are judged: an excellent jumping-off point. It’s about $15. Tastes like apples, with a little bit of herb and salted almonds.
Ahhh, this one is an old friend from early in my restaurant days. I discovered it at a tasting I hosted in 2002 and it became a year-long obsession. One of the kitchen guys and I polished off a bottle per week between the two of us. Bodegas Dios Baco 20 Year Old Amontillado Sherry. This will set you back $80ish. Keep in mind that this is a sipper so a bottle goes a long way. It makes a lovely offering with nuts and hard cheeses or with dessert after a meal. Or whenever, actually. It has a light mahogany color and tastes like nuts and caramel. Serve it at room temperature.
El Maestro Sierra offers two Oloroso styles. My favorite is this big boy: Oloroso Extra Viejo 1|7 VORS (El Maestro Sierra). This is high in alcohol at 22% and is very intense with dried fruit (apricot & figs) and roasted nuts (almonds and hazelnuts). Complex with cinnamon, dark chocolate and butterscotch. An enormously long, lovely finish. Extremely limited production. ½ bottles hover around $100
Pro Tip: An opened bottle of table-style Sherry will last nearly a week in the fridge. Amontillado and medium-sweet Sherries will last for 2-3 weeks and Cream Sherries can last up to three months.
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