Context is everything. When I went to Petra, for example, I hadn’t seen it in an Indiana Jones movie, or any movie, or read about it, or knew what I was getting into. Then you round the corner in a narrow canyon and before you lies the Treasury. It was the proverbial “awesome.” And unlike Giza, which is on the map so to speak, Petra isn’t surrounded by suburbs or littered with vendors like an over-hyped Bordeaux. The Disney Haunted Mansion has its charms, just like a cold beer on a hot day, but Petra has an authenticity. To which I must add, there are no words to explain that feeling I had on discovering Petra just as there are no words to say how exceptional I feel about this Byass Apostoles 30 year old sherry. On its own it might have been different but paired with food it blooms to exception. It is not something prone to wine words or typical descriptives. It really is nectar from the gods.
We served it with a cheese course. As I say, it was context. There were five options:
- Salt Spring Island (soft) goat cheese: Too subtle and gentle a flavour to stand up to the sherry but OK.
- Rembrandt Aged Gouda: Very nice. A bit of a battle between the inherent nuttiness of the cheese and sherry, but good.
- Tiger Blue (from Poplar Grove, Naramatta): I believe Canada’s best blue cheese and a formidable choice for the sherry.
- Chevre Fermier (a raw milk firm goat’s cheese from the Pyrenees): Truly nirvana. One guest held up the sherry, the chevre, and a piece of our homemade apple bread (Jim Lahey’s My Bread homemade bread, also exceptional, if you haven’t bought his book I highly recommend it) and asked the gods to package the sensation.
- Chateau de Bourgogne (a cow triple cream brie): My favourite. All the heavy lusciousness of cheese delineated by the complex depth of the sherry.
There was also some chestnut honey, mission fig spread, a few Medjool dates and Duchy oaten biscuits on the plate, but Jim Lahey’s bread, the cheese, the sherry, were sufficient. I honestly can’t imagine a better pairing. This was one of those rare instances where the heights of food and wine artistry married perfectly. There is really nothing more to say about this magnificent wine. As Hugh Johnson has many times pointed out, aged sherry and Madeiras are the best wine values on the planet.
Price: An unfortunately very steep $34.99 for 375 mls.
Market Liquidity: In context, worth every last after tax penny.