Lustau Los Arcos Amontillado
As part of #sherryweek, the wine of the week is another amontillado, a style that marries all the best qualities of sherry. An amontillado is a hybrid, starting life out as a fino before being aged with deliberate exposure to oxygen. As a fino, the wine lives under a layer of flor, a film of yeast that lies on top of the wine protecting it from exposure to oxygen. The colour remains pale and the aromas fresh, despite many - in this case four - years ageing. The flor survives by feeding on nutrients, sugar, glycerol, and acetic acid, making the wine very dry and fresh.
If the flor does not have enough nutrients to consume, it dies. This will happen if the fino isn't topped up with fresh wine. Alternatively, the flor can be killed by re-fortifying the alcohol to more than 16%. Lustau's Los Arcos is made by a combination of these two methods after the fino is four years old. For the next four years, unprotected by flor, the wine is exposed to oxygen which changes the colour of the wine to amber and adds aromas of hazelnuts, dried fruits, caramel, and toffee.
The secret of an amontillado is that it combines the freshness and dryness of a fino with the richness and maturity of an oloroso. Los Arcos does that wonderfully well: despite having 6g/L of residual sugar, it feels completely dry on the palate; there are fresh floral and dough aromas from its time as a fino; and there are mature, oxidative aromas giving the wine greater weight. And all at an extraordinary price.
It also makes a great cocktail: I like to mix equal parts of tequila blanca, Los Arcos, and either dry or sweet vermouth depending on the mood. Sometimes I add a few drops of spice, such as Drink Addition's Cubeb Pepper.
Price: $17 (500ml)
Grape Variety: Palomino
Ageing: 4 years biological, 4 years oxidative in 600L old American oak casks
Food pairing: albóndigas (Spanish meatballs), mushroom soup, dried fruits and nuts, fish stew