NV, Lustau, “Los Arcos” Amontillado Dry Sherry, Jerez, Andalucia, Spain
Wine of the Week with Annette Tomei
Sherry is a fortified wine that has been around for a (very) long time and has seen its social status wax and wane a few times. It’s certainly not an “entry level” wine. But, once you’ve tasted a perfect pairing, you’ll seek out every opportunity to repeat the experience. Chefs want you to drink more Sherry. It’s great with food. Sommeliers want you to drink more Sherry. It makes everyone’s job more exciting. You will want to drink more Sherry. What’s not to love about a wine that skirts the line between wine and spirits, sipper or cocktail ingredient, and pairs so beautifully with great food?
About this Wine
Amontillado is a style of Sherry that begins its life in the Fino style, depending on the flor yeast for its distinctive flavor characteristics (I’ve written about Fino Sherry before here). While the flor protects the Fino from oxidation, the Amontillado is aged in barrels beyond the life of the flor, allowing oxidation to begin. It is also fortified with a grape-based spirit that kills any remaining yeast cells and “strengthens” the wine. The fortification process gives the wine added longevity. After opening, this wine will remain consistent (if refrigerated) for 2-3 weeks.
In the glass, this wine has a lovely golden amber color and intense aromas of toasted nuts and rich maple syrup. On the palate it is simultaneously bright and warm. This is a dry wine that is so redolent with the flavors and aromas of plump raisins, roasted hazelnuts, and sweet maple that it seems to have a hint of sweetness. This is offset by the bright tartness reminiscent of its Fino-style heritage. The heady yeast aromas from the flor yeast make this wine even more distinct.
I’ve always loved Amontillado as an aperitif with hard cheeses and salty Marcona almonds. But my favorite pairing for this wine is roasted butternut squash – you choose the format: soup, risotto, as a side dish, stuffed with chewy grains, dried fruits, and nuts (note: the Olorosso style also pairs beautifully here). This flavor dynamic provoked me to go out on a limb and pair this dry wine with a dessert – a roasted pumpkin flan. The flan was only moderately sweet, and the caramel was pleasantly on the bitter side. This was a pairing that would create a new Sherry lover.
I am the chef who wants you to drink more Amontillado Sherry. It’s typically around $20/bottle, lasts a few weeks after opening – longer for the densely sweet Pedro Ximenez (PX) style – and goes with so many foods that I love. It also blends beautifully into cocktails as well as into food recipes (my split pea soup would not be right without it). Lustau is a reliable brand and has a wonderful product line. There are others with equally long histories that will make great gateways into the great historic world of Sherry.
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