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Amontillado Sherry

Amontillado Sherry, with its rich history and complex flavour profile, stands as a fascinating and unique wine in the world of sherry. Originating from the Jerez region in southern Spain, Amontillado is a fortified wine that has captured the palates of enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike, offering a delicate balance between the lightness of a Fino and the richness of an Oloroso.

The History

The history of Amontillado Sherry is as rich as its flavour. Amontillado originated in the 18th century in the Andalusian region of Spain, a key area in sherry production. The name "Amontillado" is derived from the Spanish word "Montilla," a region known for its wines, indicating the style or resemblance of this sherry to those produced in Montilla. The unique production process of Amontillado, involving both biological and oxidative ageing, was developed over centuries, reflecting the cultural and oenological evolution of the region.

Production Process

Amontillado Sherry begins its life as a Fino, undergoing biological ageing under a layer of yeast called 'flor'. This flor layer is crucial as it protects the wine from excessive oxidation and imparts distinct flavours of almond and dough. However, unlike Fino, for which the flor layer is maintained throughout its ageing, Amontillado's flor diminishes or is intentionally removed at a certain point. This shift leads to a secondary phase of oxidative ageing, where the sherry develops a darker hue and richer flavours, akin to those of an Oloroso.

The precise moment when the flor begins to fade varies, and the skill of the sherry maker plays a crucial role in defining the character of the Amontillado. The result is a sherry that combines the crispness and tang of a Fino with the nutty, wood-aged complexity of an Oloroso.

Flavour Profile

The dual ageing process gives Amontillado Sherry a highly complex and nuanced flavour profile. It typically exhibits a harmonious blend of nutty aromas, like hazelnuts and almonds, with hints of dried fruits, such as figs and raisins. There are also layers of caramel, butterscotch, and sometimes a touch of tobacco or leather, underpinned by a salty, yeasty tang that is a remnant of its time under flor.

In terms of colour, Amontillado is deeper than a Fino but lighter than an Oloroso, often exhibiting a rich amber hue. Its palate is dry and medium-bodied, with a balance that makes it exceptionally versatile in food pairings and culinary applications.

Serving and Consumption

Traditionally, Amontillado Sherry is served slightly chilled, typically around 12-14 degrees Celsius. This temperature range allows its aromas and flavours to be fully appreciated without diminishing its refreshing qualities. Amontillado is often served in a copita or sherry glass, which is designed to concentrate its complex bouquet.

Amontillado pairs excellently with a wide range of foods. Its versatility makes it suitable for matching with artichokes, asparagus, nuts, cured meats, and hard cheeses. Its combination of nuttiness and dryness also complements soups and consommés, making it a favoured choice in both casual and formal dining settings.

Amontillado in Culture

Amontillado Sherry has not only been a subject of appreciation among wine enthusiasts but has also found its place in literature and pop culture. The most famous reference is perhaps in Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Cask of Amontillado," where the wine is central to the story's plot, symbolising luxury, deception, and revenge.

Variations and Ageing

The age of Amontillado can vary significantly, from relatively young versions to well-aged examples. The length of time spent in the solera system (a method of blending and ageing sherry in barrels) greatly influences its character. Some producers also offer single-vintage Amontillados, which provide a unique expression of the year's specific climatic conditions.

Challenges and Appreciation

Despite its rich heritage and distinct profile, Amontillado, like many sherries, has faced challenges in maintaining market presence, often overshadowed by more mainstream wines. However, a resurgence of interest in classic wines and fortified wines has brought renewed attention to Amontillado, with wine aficionados appreciating its complexity and versatility.

The Future of Amontillado Sherry

Looking forward, Amontillado Sherry stands poised to continue its legacy as a unique and cherished wine. As global consumers become more knowledgeable and adventurous in their wine choices, Amontillado is likely to gain further recognition and appreciation for its unique qualities.

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