Commentary by Elizabeth Morse
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 grody stuff your mom used for cooking. The wine 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 and an excellent jumping-off point. It’s about $15. Tastes like apples, with a little bit of herb and salted almonds.
Ah, 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. Bodegas Dios Baco 20-Year Old Amontillado Sherry. This will set you back $80. 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 after a meal. 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 percent and is very intense with dried fruit (apricot and figs) and roasted nuts (almonds and hazelnuts). Complex with cinnamon, dark chocolate and butterscotch. An enormously long, lovely finish. Extremely limited production. Half-bottles hover around $100.