Bargain bottles of delicious, under-the-radar sherry

Bargain bottles of delicious, under-the-radar sherry

The fortified tipple is back in fashion courtesy of the small-batch movement

Salt and Cava (Image: Daniel Neuhaus)

In the 1990s, when young wine drinkers began dismissing the predilections of their parents and aging aunts, sherry fell out of favour. These days, there’s new interest among millennials, who’ve given sherry the artisanal stamp—they love that it’s made in tiny batches by small bodegas, and that the selection has drastically improved.

Sherry can be sweet but the best are dry, which makes them highly versatile for food pairing—a fact not lost on some discerning Toronto sommeliers. Excellent (and trendy) Spanish restaurants like Bar Isabel, Bar Raval, Barsa Taberna, Salt and Cava all have comprehensive selections, and you can also experiment with the decent lists at THR & Co. and Edulis.

For many of us, sherry is an acquired taste, and it still flies under the radar, which keeps prices low. To me, that means there’s no excuse not to try a bottle. The LCBO selection of aged sherries is meagre, but right now there are three stupendous, bargain-priced wines from the 120-year-old Spanish producer Lustau. A glass can warm you to the core, making it an ideal aperitif on a cold winter night with crumbly parmesan, dried fruits and nuts. It also belongs on the dinner table with winter roasts and hearty soups.

Lustau Los Arcos Amontillado

Lustau Los Arcos Amontillado
Jerez, Spain
$15.45 | 91 Points

Amontillado sherries mature slowly under a blanket of oxygen-inhibiting yeast called flor, then age in porous oak casks to slowly oxidize. This creates an apricot and orange fruitiness amid the nutty, coffee bean and caramel flavours. Try it with pâtés and firm, strong cheeses. LCBO 375097

Lustau Don Nuño Oloroso

Lustau Don Nuño Oloroso
Jerez, Spain
$14.75 | 93 Points

Oloroso is aged for longer than the amontillado style and without flor development, for a deeper and browner wine. This rendition is bone-dry, with intense aromas of walnut, dried apricot, fig, orange peel and molasses. Outstanding length; try it with steak. LCBO 375105

Lustau East India Solera

Lustau East India Solera
Jerez, Spain
$24.95 | 94 points

In the glass, this sherry has a brown centre and yellow-green rim, the telltale sign of a very old wine. It was blended with 20 per cent pedro ximénez, which gives it a raisiny and dried fig scent, with some vanilla, chocolate and candied ginger. It’s viscous, warming and slightly tannic from long aging in wood, and it goes well with soft cheese. LCBO 342931