Amontillado is a type of alcoholic beverage called sherry. It is normally considered to be a medium-colored, fortified wine that falls in between the lighter fino sherry and the darker oloroso varieties. The name amontillado comes from the Montilla region of Spain where the variety was first made back in the 18th century. Some commercial sherry producers use the name to describe any sherry that has a color that falls in between that of fino and oloroso sherry.
Basic sherry is made from white grapes grown in Spain and falls into the fortified wine category. Fortified wine is made by adding a distilled beverage to wine. Brandy is the commonly preferred additive. Other popular fortified beverages include vermouth, Madeira, Marsala and port.
The amontillado type of sherry normally begins as fino, which is typically considered the lightest of the three common sherry types. Fino, which means “fine” in English, has a flavor so delicate that it begins to fade just hours after the bottle is opened, and the contents is exposed to air. To safeguard the flavor, a layer of yeast is often used as a cap for fino during production. If that cap fails to properly form, either accidentally or by design of the sherry maker, the fino is transformed into amontillado. This fortification process increases the alcohol content of the liquid from 13.5% in the fino to 17.5% in the amontillado.
Based on its dry, slightly sweet flavor, this type of sherry is frequently paired with appetizers like cheese, salted nuts or olives or served with entrees like rabbit or fowl. Most consumers prefer it served lightly chilled. Centuries ago, it was a common accompaniment to thin soups like consommé that were often served as a first course in a formal meal.
Because it has been professionally preserved and aged prior to being sold, amontillado holds up well. Its stability is superior to fino and, if properly stored, can survive a few years in a properly controlled environment. If refrigerated and securely corked, the sherry will be suitable for drinking for about two weeks after the bottle is opened.
Oloroso, the darker cousin of amontillado, translates as “scented” from Spanish. This may be attributed to the intense nutty aroma commonly associated with Oloroso, which is produced by oxidative aging. It has a higher glycerin content than amontillado and is generally the smoothest and least dry of the three varieties. It is often marketed as cream sherry and, unlike the others, is generally not recommended as a cooking ingredient.