Friday, September 03, 2010

The Flor - Amontillado Continuum

In the past week I had the opportunity to drink several Amontillado Sherries. That's because I've been hanging out with Peter Liem and he likes to drink Sherry a lot. I know essentially nothing about these wines - everything that I'm going to tell you from here on is me paraphrasing some of the things he said during several conversations.

I enjoy Sherry and I drink more of it than ever before, but I've pretty much limited myself to Fino, Manzanilla, and the occasional Fino de Puerto - Sherries that are aged under flor for something like 5 to 8 years and then wine is drawn from the solera and bottled. Amontillado Sherries begin as these same wines, but they continue to age after the flor dies - flor lives for about 8 years and then it kind of expires. As there is no longer a protective flor coating, the wine continues to oxidize, taking on a lovely dark color and a new set of aromas and flavors.

One interesting way I've been learning to think about Amontillado is to consider where it might be on the flor - Amontillado continuum. Peter said that it is, in fact, a continuum. It's not as if there is some exact day upon which a Fino becomes an Amontillado. Amontillado can show more or less flor character depending on the wine maker's choices.

Here are the Amontillados I drank recently, along with a few thoughts on each:

Valdespino Tio Diego, price unknown, not imported to the USA. This is made from Palomino grapes grown in the upper portion of the great Marchenudo vineyard. In fact, this is Valdespino's Inocente, as Amontillado. It is completely delicious wine, with a graceful and elegant tone, and a quiet intensity. Peter says that it is unique in the world of Amontillado in that is is actually very close in character to Fino. The solera that contains the wines used to make Tio Diego also contain Sherries with live flor, an unusual decision. In fact, of the 11 or so criaderas used to mature Tio Diego, perhaps 7 of them contain wines with live flor. Peter can sense the flor character in the Amontillado. I could not, but that's because I am not sensitive to it yet. But after drinking several more Amontillados over the next few days, I get it. Now, will some one please import this wine?!? I mean seriously, people...

Lustau Almacenista Amontillado Sherry Matured by Jose Luis Gonzales Obregon, price unknown but I think around $35, Christopher Cannan Selections, Michael Skurnik Imports. We had this by the glass at Terroir TriBeCa and it was simply excellent. Obregon makes both this wine and a Fino del Puerto that goes into Lustau bottles and at this point I will buy and drink wither of them at any chance I get. I found this wine to be just as graceful and elegant as the Tio Diego, but richer and darker, further away from flor on the continuum. I must have it again, and someday I want to drink it next to Tio Diego to better understand the differences between the two wines.

Gutierrez Colosía Amontillado, $32, Bon Vivant Imports. This is a very fine wine that is further still away from flor than the Gonzaled Obregon Amontillado. And still, it shows great freshness, clarity, and focus. A great example of how a wine can be very rich and with all of the deeply nutty character that one would expect from Amontillado, but can still maintain an elegant lightness in mouth feel and aroma. Delicious wine, highly recommended.

Bodegas Tradicion Amontillado, price unknown but I think around $60, Steve Miles Imports. I drank this near the end of a wonderful Sherry dinner put on by Levi Dalton and Dan Melia. I must say that at first, I didn't get the wine - I thought it was all caramel. But maybe that's because drinking small glasses of about 20 Manzanilla and Fino Sherries with dinner can result in mild intoxication. I was lucky/crafty enough to take the bottle home after the dinner and the next day, I found the wine to be staggeringly complex , silky smooth, very rich, and very well balanced. This is made from wines that average 50 years of age! Yes, there is a caramel nuttiness to the wine, but I was getting fresh fruit, like quince and apricot on top, and the texture was really lovely. If I remember correctly, the word that Peter used to describe this wine was "profound," and I would agree.


Tracie P. said...

i SO wish we had access to more sherry in austin.

TWG said...

Help the VLM out, he's confused about sherry.

Unknown said...

Man I miss a good glass of sherry by the fireplace

Joe Manekin said...


Thanks for the linkage. I do love reading about sherry, especially if it involves someone with the depth of knowledge that Peter has. Valdespino's importer is Quality Wines of Spain. I need to ask our local distributor if they have some amontillado for us.

jason Carey said...

I think that Sherry is the finest most intellectually stimulating of wines. I want it to be more popular, yet conversly want it to stay under the radar because I cannot afford for these babys to get too expensive. Places like Terroir are great because they are preaching the gospel, but please don't let it become too popular.
I Just tasted the El Maestro Sierra 1/14 which comes from some kind of whacky 100 year old wines in a crazy ol solera.. anyhow it reminded me of a fine compelling and elegant, yet packing a punch.