Valdespino Tio Diego amontillado in a nutshell
A bone-dry amontillado sherry from a single vineyard; one of the world’s great wine experiences.
They love their uncles in Jerez. There’s Tio Pepe, the world’s bestselling fino, and then this, Tio Diego, meaning Uncle Jacob. It’s made by one of the most traditional bodegas in Jerez. The Valdespino family can trace their lineage back to 1264, though they only began in the sherry business in 1875. Owned by the Estevez group since 1999, the firm produces some of the most traditionally and sought-after wines in the region. Unusually, they still ferment the wine in old oak casks as opposed to the now ubiquitous stainless steel.
Even more unusually, this wine is from a single vineyard in the prestigious Macharnudo Alto area (most sherries are blends of vineyards). It’s a classic old amontillado. This style starts life as a fino, ageing under a protective layer of flor (yeast that stops the sherry oxidising), but either the flor dies naturally or it’s fortified with brandy to kill it off, and the wine then ages oxidatively. As they age, amontillados start to take on the taste of nuts, orange peel, and sometimes sweeter notes like butterscotch, though the wine contains no sugar. With great age, it begins to take on a salty rasp and can be mouth-puckeringly dry. Amontillado can be the most challenging style of sherry for people not used to it – in the past such wines were usually sweetened for the British market – but it’s also the most prized by sherry lovers.
There’s no such sweetening going on at Valdespino. Tio Diego spends 10 years ageing under flor before being fortified to 17.5%, which kills the flor. It is then aged for approximately eight years more with oxygen contact. After ageing, it comes out at 18% ABV. The smell is almost like a single malt whisky with a touch of smokiness. On the palate it’s a little salty with the taste of almonds and hazelnuts, but also there’s some fruity refreshing fino character still here. It’s one of those wines that you can still taste half an hour later. One of the world’s great wine experiences and a bargain to boot.
Get out your finest jamón Ibérico or oldest, saltiest cheeses. Also superb after dinner instead of malt whisky.
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This review was last updated in November 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.