If I had a spare £8,000… I’d splash out on an awesome 115-year-old Amontillado.—

What’s it like to taste an £8,000 bottle of sherry?

I recently visited Bodegas Barbadillo in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain to taste an ultra-rare Amontillado, carefully guarded in the Barbadillo family’s personal stash since 1891. There are just 100 bottles available worldwide. If fossils and dinosaurs tasted excellent, or if Doctor Who would let you lick his Tardis, it would give an inkling as to all those years packed into a single sip.

I tasted Don Manuel Barbadillo’s personal cask from 1891 with his grandson, the current Don Manuel, who summed up the emotion of the experience perfectly: ‘Sherries have the privilege that they never die.’ 

Sherry is made in a continuous solera system, where barrels of older sherry are topped up with younger wines in a cycle that can stretch back uninterrupted for hundreds of years, which is why sherry is, to me, the ‘Eternal Drop’.

And there are plenty of other sherries for a fraction of the cost that are some of the best-value wines in the world.  They pair brilliantly with tapas: salty manzanilla is impeccable with green olives; fino makes walnuts as bright as jewels; oloroso is a revelation with sumptuous steaks or a slice of Comté.

Tasting Barbadillo’s Reliqua Palo Cortado, which is around 100 years old, the huge intense umami effect bolstered by the slow burn of nearly a century left me speechless.   As for the £8,000 Versos, presented in its bottle shaped like an inkwell to mark Don Manuel’s penchant for poetry, it’s the taste of magnificence, layered with unrivalled complexity, from tantalising bitterness to mineral saltiness, vivacious acidity to mellow wood from the cask.

If I had £8,000 in my back pocket, the man from Del Monte would most definitely say yes.

OLLY’S PICK OF THE BUNCH

MANZANILLA Solear (15%, 37.5cl) £ 4.75 waitrose.com Silky, bright and delicately salty,chill this bottle and serve with anchovies for a moment of magic.

FINO Morrisons Fino Sherry (15%, 75cl) £5 Morrisons Grab a bag of salted almonds, stick this beauty in the fridge and revel in the savoury tang of a perfect pairing.

AMONTILLADO Tesco Finest Amontillado Sherry (18.5%, 50cl) £5.75 Tesco  From Bodegas Barbadillo, this bargain shares roots with the £8,000 Versos. Exquisite with Jamon Ibérico.

PEDRO XÍMENEZ Marks and Spencer Rare Pedro Xímenez (17%, 37.5cl) £8 Marks & Spencer Dark, sweet and delicious to pair with bitter chocolate or to pour over vanilla ice cream. A real treat!

WINE OF THE WEEK

Côtes-du-Rhône Rive Droite, Rive Gauche 2014 (14%) £6.75 thewinesociety.com  Outstanding value for money – and fabulous insulation for the final frosts of winter.

This column was originally published in EVENT Magazine, Mail on Sunday 28th February 

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