Archive for ‘Sherry’

November 13, 2016

Sherry. Lot’s of Sherry. And Lustau Amontillado Los Arcos Dry, in particular.


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.


bamboo-cocktail 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.gordon-wine-bar-sherry-casks


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?

February 21, 2012

Gonzalez Byass Palo Cortado Viejo Apostoles, 30 years old

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.