While I'm not all that new to the world of fortified wines, sherry remains something of a mystery to me. From the Andalucía region in southern Spain, it tends to be either very pale or an attractive golden brown in color. The variety of styles is fairly large, and I will admit that my decision to first begin tasting and learning about sherry came partly from my enjoyment of Edgar Allen Poe's famous short story A Cask of Amontillado.
Because of its longer exposure to the air, amontillado is typically a deeper, richer color than a fino or manzanilla, all of which are fermented with the film of yeasty "flor" for which sherries are so well-known. Opening the Hidalgo Clásica Amontillado, I find a very fine-looking wine about the color of amber, or perhaps dark honey. It has a heady nose with an aroma of raisins. It smells smooth and buttery, but also rather hot, which is to be expected. Fortified wines, after all, tend to be rather strong, and this one weighs in at about 17% ABV. The flavor is dry and tart like an apple, but the sugar balances it wonderfully and prevents it from being too cloying like so many ruby ports can be, for instance. It is superbly drinkable.
There's an additional bonus to drinking sherry. It is indeed a fine drink, but it's also remarkably affordable. It's possible to spend less than $20 on a very drinkable and excellent bottle, where you might expect to spend up to twice that on a comparable port. In fact, this particular sherry can frequently be found for right around $10. I'd advise readers to get out there and enjoy sherry now, while all of the other fortified wine people are still stuck on sherry's Portuguese cousin.