Completing the Book on Amontillado
Manzanilla in the Solera at La Cigarrera
Last week, Eric Asimov of the New York Times, published a piece on Sherry, titled “The Book on Amontillado”. And while we’re glad for the attention that he’s given to sherry over the past few years, we thought it necessary to turn the page in that book on Amontillados, because there’s much more to the novel than Chapter One.
Tasting 18 amontillado sherries (about the same number of sherries that we have in our book), Asimov and Florence Fabricant were joined by Ashley Santoro and Talia Baiocchi, who selected La Cigarrera Amontillado Viejo Sanlúcar as one of their top three sherries. From Manzanilla de Sanlúcar, and situated in el barrio bajo, La Cigarrera is the only winery in the region to remain in its original location, since its inception in 1758. Given the story behind this Amontillado Viejo, alongside its fresh yet complex flavor profile, Asimov was spot-on in highlighting La Cigarrera for his piece.
However, no story on Amontillado is complete without El Maestro Sierra Amontillado 1830 VORS. With only two barrels in total at the bodega in Jerez, El Maestro Sierra Amontillado 1830 VORS offers singing acidity. This is a wine that as Asimov wrote of “good amontillados”, is “in motion, tensely balanced between their origin and their destination.” Slightly floral with aromas of hazelnut and flor, the 1830 VORS was constantly evolving toward a finish that evokes the memory of a cedar cigar box.
The oldest Sherries at El Maestro Sierra
As one of the five bodegas that we represent, each from a different area or sub-region, El Maestro Sierra typically offers five sherries, not including the five VORS that are available via special order only in the fall. Making sherry since 1832, El Maestro Sierra was founded by master cooper Jose Antonio Sierra, whose signature marks the original staves that form the 2,000L barrels that the bodega still employs. Not limited to VORS, Maestro Sierra also makes a youthful Amontillado 12 Años Sherry that is fortified once the flor starts to decay. After being passed through a series of criaderas, the wine is bottled, still fresh with traces of brine and flor, and elegantly structured by the oxidative aging that follows.
And because three Amontillados are not enough to fill the love that we have for all things sherry, we cannot forget the Amontillado from Bodegas Grant in El Puerto de Santa Maria. Owned by the same family since 1842, Bodegas Grant resides in close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the Guadalete River, providing an element of humidity that creates a unique terroir for flor. Aging for nine years on average, the Bodegas Grant Amontillado La Garrocha is rich, savory and floral with sweet almond aromas. As with all of the best Amontillados, it’s right to savor, to seek that fine line that links the characteristics of biological aging under flor with the oxidative aging of an oloroso, the perfect accompaniment as we spend the next few months flipping pages, transitioning from winter to spring.