A Glass of Amontillado

Part of the label on a half-bottle of Sánchez Romate Hnos. 'Amontillado Olvidado' sherry.

It’s quite likely that my maternal grandmother was responsible for my first taste of sherry, it being her booze of choice. I found the ‘cream’ sherry she favoured overly sweet, if pleasant enough in small servings. A glass of manzanilla at a Spanish seafood restaurant some twenty years ago brought another style of the wine to my attention – one that was more to my taste. After that I’d occasionally seek out a bottle of the stuff – an exception to my general preference for red wines over whites.

I had never tried amontillado sherry until the other week, despite long familiarity with the word thanks to Mr. Poe. The label above caught my eye during a visit to a nearby branch of Waitrose. It adorned a half-bottle of Sánchez Romate Hermanos' Amontillado Olvidado, where ‘olvidado’ relates to the wine having reputedly been left forgotten and undisturbed in the company’s cellars in 1000-litre toneles for 25 years.

The blurb on the back of the bottle describes it as “elegant, with delicate hazelnut reminders and antique furniture notes”. The latter comparison seemed fanciful to me until I took a good sniff, with the bouquet of the amber nectar within redolent indeed of old wood and furniture polish. My palate was more oblivious to those hazelnut reminders – “tastes like sherry” was my own unhelpful conclusion; albeit a broader, deeper, more intense kind than I’d sampled before. Its lengthy spell in the barrel hadn’t altogether mellowed the wine: it was smooth but not without brashness, something like (attempting a fanciful comparison of my own) the flavour equivalent of a brass fanfare and its lingering reverberations.