Sherry is my desert island wine. I am baffled by the fear or reservation or misunderstanding or just plain dislike of fortified wine. I would trade in my desert island book for an additional cask. Sherry can earn plaudits of 95 points from the pointsters with nothing but raves, stars and medallions yet still languish on the wine store shelf.
I would ditch most of the heavy reds any day for a well stocked sherry bar. You need, first, some Alvear in the house. The medium is a must have for any vegetarian risotto, but particularly the first ladle in classic porcini after the Arborio has been sautéed. But it’s nice too, even if when you sip it your friends ask if you have a tissue shoved up the sleeve of your cardigan.
The dry Alvear Fino is something found more often in my fridge than eggs or butter. One of the finest cocktails ever invented, the Bamboo (1902 I think, but I didn’t Google it), captures the versatility of sherry in a breath: it’s half sherry, half vermouth. I make it with dry and a twist in the summer, with sweet and a dash of orange bitters in the winter. Equal parts. On ice. Screw Manhattans.
Those two Alvear sherries, I should add, cost less than most BC blends.
Sherry is versatile, indispensable, incomprehensibly complex and nothing if not pleasurable. You can even find it on one per cent of the finest wine lists (I write with some open hostility).
If you’re ever in London, there is a wine bar on Villiers St at Embankment tube in a lock of the Thames with water dripping off the bricks and candlelit tables where the wine is diverse and thoughtful but nothing beats the casks of sherry. Glasses from the spigot.
The next best thing about Sherry is how you don’t need to sleep out five nights in front of the government liquor store (as recently happened with the rare whiskey release in Vancouver), or compete with the X7 driving hordes on the Bordeaux release, as happens annually, to get a rare bottle. Sherry: It will be sitting there, waiting for you, beckoning you (probably dusty to boot).
Witness the Amontillado Los Arcos dry. Where to begin? This is nothing if not a Mary Berry British Bake Off Technical Challenge extraordinaire. It’s basically a master class in dry sherry. Inimitable and luscious and pure pleasure; room temperature, chilled, or on ice.
Sherry is so many things; rough and smooth, strong and hearty, unique and indescribable; one sip can be like Carol Channing singing then Neal Young singing then Lou Reed singing then the jarring Glass soundtrack of Koyaanisqatsi then the trance like repetition of Tubular Bells and finally just the Arvo Pärt ish minimalist note of hazelnut skin left on the tongue. And sometimes it’s bad and boring and MMMBop, sweet and cloying, like a clown nose squeaker. Still, more often than not, it’s an adventure.
Price: The Los Arcos can be found for around $30 in Vancouver.
Market Liquidity: Decanter magazine once voted the Los Arcos as one of the ten best in the world. Who am I to disagree?