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Holiday Spirits

December 23, 2009

A fellow blogger, reader and commenter has been encouraging me to write a post about port wine.  Really, he has been tweeting about it.

Tweet 1:
I’ve been drinking a ton of port lately. I think it is extremely under appreciated. You should write about it.

Tweet 2:
Port is very inexpensive, even for great examples of it and most people think it’s just for after dinner.

Tweet 3:
Oh my god, this $9 Jonesy port is pretty damn good. #70 on the top 100 too. Amazing, and only $9!!

Port is great.  I went through a big port phase in my mid-twenties.  My mother once came into a 100-year-old bottle of the stuff, which ruined her on all other port forever.  Lucky for me, I didn’t get to try any.  Regretfully, I haven’t been drinking enough of it recently to justify a post, although I will be keeping my eyes open for the Jonesy.

But all this talk of Port got me thinking about my current favorite fortified wine: sherry.

And if I were going to recommend something to sip on all day while trapped with relatives in a house full of food, it would absolutely be sherry.  Here is why:

– It goes great with all kinds of food.
– It is easier to prepare than a cocktail.
– It is less filling than beer.
– It has more alcohol than wine.
– It makes you look like less of a problem drinker than vodka.

I believe when most people think about sherry, they think about cooking sherry.  There are also plenty of bad inexpensive bottles on liquor store shelves labeled as sherry.  And that is really a travesty, because it keeps people from enjoying this lovely wine.

In fact, there are some stores where it is hard to find any good sherry at all.  Many of the higher-quality producers also make mass quantities of plonk.  So looking for big names isn’t a surefire path to bringing home a delicious bottle.

I highly recommend shopping with a trusted aid.  For me that is F. Paul Pacult and his book Kindred Spirits.

I could write an entire post solely dedicated to all the styles in which sherry is made.  But now is not the time.  The two types of sherry I would recommend for spending time with the family and eating snacks before a big meal would be a light snappy fino or a slightly heavier nuttier amontillado.

If you are an Edgar Allan Poe fan, you may be drawn to the latter.

To give you a better sense of these wines, here are two specific reasonably priced bottles (<$12) from larger producers.  I have included snippets of Mr. Pacult’s reviews with each.  They may be difficult to find, but if you have a trustworthy wine merchant, you can always ask them to suggest something similar.

Domecq La Ina Fino
La Ina’s snappy bouquet is one of my favorites in the premium fino category—its vivacity and freshness are completely captivating, showing subtle hints of yellow grapefruit, yeast, roasted almonds, spice, and even some read dough; on palate it’s stone-dry, ethereally light, and mildly yeasty.

Hartley & Gibson Amontillado
The beautiful, clear amber color looks warm and inviting; correct, direct, roasted-almond, minor road-tar aromas lurk in the background shadows of this deceptively potent nose; in the mouth, focused, generous, almond flavors blanket the palate; it owns an unusually long, satiny aftertaste for an amontillado.

So after you have finished up your last-minute shopping, but before you go home, make a run to the wine store.  Maybe you will be lucky and find one of the two bottles I mentioned.  Or perhaps you will find a passionate and knowledgeable merchant who can recommend a dynamite sherry.

Or maybe you just say screw it and buy the vodka instead.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Afsal permalink
    December 23, 2009 7:30 pm

    Hmm – you may have inspired a new holiday tradition! I’ll post a report if I happen by an open wine store. :)

  2. Aunt Ass permalink
    December 28, 2009 8:12 am

    When I used to handle the chalice at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Baltimore (very much worth a look for its Tiffany-designed Byzantine interior), I learned that the pastor’s favored communion wine was a California sherry.

  3. Justin permalink
    December 29, 2009 5:28 pm

    One of the great joys of being Episcopalian is that our sacramental wine is port (some churches use AMAZING stuff), and there is always sherry for coffee hour.

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