30 Second Wine Advisor: To warm a winter night

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In This Issue

 To warm a winter night When the wind is blustery and the fireplace is crackling, there's nothing like a taste of Sherry to warm a winter night.
 Hot off the presses! The California Wine Club! Hot off the presses! LA Times, Chicago Tribune and Robb Report magazine recommend The California Wine Club this holiday season.
 Emilio Lustau Palo Cortado "Peninsula" Sherry ($21.99) Showing aromas and flavors of cracked pecans with lemon zest, this appealing Sherry is rich and full-bodied but dry.
 This week on WineLoversPage.com Randy "Bucko" Buckner's 100 new wine reports feature plenty of Beaujolais and Champagne for the holiday table. On the WineLovers Discussion Group, an interesting and respectful conversation about wine in Biblical references compared with the wines of today.
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To warm a winter night

When the wind is blustery and the fireplace is crackling, there's nothing like a taste of Sherry to warm a winter night.

Sherry? I can hear some of you saying "Meh." As I wrote in a report on this Spanish nectar a while back, SHerry owns an unfortunate and not entirely fair stereotype: Many think of it as sickly sweet stuff that your elderly aunt would keep in a dusty old cut-glass decanter from Easter until Christmas, or that your grad-school English prof would pour in tiny sips during after-class soirees.

But the current popularity of Spanish tapas and Latino bocaditos has prompted quite a few wine lovers to reconsider Sherry. And the arrival of winter weather in the Northern Hemisphere offers another good reason to take a new look at this warming drink.

Like Madeira but in contrast with Port (which is invariably sweet), Sherry comes in a wide range of styles, from the relatively light and bone-dry Fino (and its neighbor, Manzanilla) through the richer Amontillado and Oloroso to the thick, syrupy-sweet Cream Sherries and Pedro Ximenez, the latter so dessert-like that some aficionados prefer it poured over ice cream rather than sipped from a glass.

Today's featured wine is a bit of a hybrid between styles. It's called "Palo Cortado" ("Cut stick") because old-time Sherry makers used to mark the barrel with a cross-shaped symbol when a batch intended as Fino or Amontillado mysteriously lost its blanket of traditional flor yeast and began to oxidize. The result was a wine that fell stylistically between an Amontillado and Oloroso: Rich, full-bodied byt dry, not sweet.

For those who shun traditional sweet Sherries but can, er, warm up to the idea of a rich, unsweet model, Palo Cortado forms a logical choice. Nowadays, rather than waiting for nature to throw out an occasional surprise, many producers blend it intentionally by mixing Oloroso and Amontillado to achieve a tasteful in-between.

You'll find my notes below on an excellent example, "Peninsula" Palo Cortado from the respected producer Emilio Lustau.

Most Sherries, by the way, are non-vintage, and while all except Fino will keep well on the wine rack or in the cellar, it's nice to know how old your bottle really is. Fortunately, most modern Sherries contain a bottling date in small print on the back label. Although it's coded, it is fairly easy to interpret. For details, page down to the section "How old is my Sherry?" in my previous Sherry report,

Emilio Lustau Palo Cortado "Peninsula" Sherry ($21.99)

Emilio Lustau

Clear bronze with glints of gold. Nutlike aroma focuses on freshly cracked pecans, with a hint of lemon zest in the background. More of the same on the palate, full and dry, pecans and snappy citrus in a long finish. U.S. importer: Europvin USA, Oakland, Calif.; Selected by Christopher Cannan. (Dec. 5, 2008)

FOOD MATCH: Rich, dry Sherry works with a surprising range of dishes, from cracked nuts to French onion soup to oysters on the half-shell. We generally enjoy it on its own, though, as an after-dinner drink on a nippy evening.

VALUE: Rising prices make good Sherry a bit less of a bargain than it used to be, but in fairness, the $20 range remains more than competitive for a wine of this quality. Compare its pricing, for example, to Port.

WHEN TO DRINK: Richer-style Sherries, sweet or dry, will last for years, but the high alcohol content tends to preserve them rather than foster evolution in the bottle.

The importer's site - http://www.europvin.com - has only limited information about Lustau. However, here's an excellent report on a visit to Emilio Lustau from the British Website "The Wine Doctor," hosted by Chris Kissack:

Find sources and compare prices for Emilio Lustau "Peninsula" Sherry on Wine-Searcher.com:

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Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

This week on WineLoversPage.com

Bucko's Wine Reports: 100 new wines
Randy "Bucko" Buckner focuses this month on Beaujolais and Champagne, wines that are extremely versatile on the holiday table and should not be overlooked. Here is his monthly report on 100 new wines.

WineLovers Discussion Group: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?
The Bible is full of vinous references, from the Wedding Feast at Cana to the Psalms ("And wine that maketh glad the heart of man"). Was Bronze Age wine different from the wine we enjoy today? Join in this interesting, respectful conversation in the WineLovers Discussion Group.

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. However, we're skipping some editions at this point, and the Wine Advisor FoodLetter, customarily distributed on Thursdays, has been on break. I hope to resume it before long.

 Budget Barbera (Dec. 5, 2008)

 Wine Focus - Head for the foothills (Dec. 3, 2008)

 Riesling trio (Dec. 1, 2008)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive: