What to drink this week
True dry amontillado
The days are getting longer, but the thermometer refuses to budge. February’s only virtue, a drily humorous English teacher who inculcated the rules of grammar and the rudiments of a sense of style once told me, is its brevity. He also alerted us to its etymology as the month of fevers. At this difficult time of year, you need Dutch courage—a wine that’s not just fortified, but fortifying.
A bracing sherry is just the thing to warm the bones, advises
Why you should be drinking it
If sweet, dense Port is the perfect wine for those dark months from November to January, then dry but warming amontillado sherry is ideally suited to this lighter, yet still bonechilling, time. True amontillado, as readers of this column well know, is bracingly dry, not medium-sweet. Medium amontillado is a bastardisation—the real stuff is, in fact, dry fino sherry that has gained a certain weight and nuttiness through a decade or more’s ageing in cask.
What to drink
The relative unfashionability of sherry means you can get superb-quality, aged amontillado at a very reasonable price. Sainsbury’s 12 Year Old Amontillado Taste the Difference (£8 per 50cl; www.sainsburys.co.uk, below) from Lustau is brilliant stuff and astonishing value; pungent, nutty, quite rich-flavoured, but dry, it’s perfect with soups or cheeses. You get more length and intensity with Valdespino Amontillado Tio Diego (£16.83; www.cambridgewine.com). Longer-aged amontillados can be finer still: the Antique Amontillado from Fernando de Castilla (£22.95 per 50cl; www.slurp.co.uk) is a beautiful, coppery-gold colour, extremely tangy and long on the palate.