Sherry Elite: Fernando de Castilla Amontillado and Olorosso

Posted by Joe Salamone

Sherry Elite
Fernando de Castilla Amontillado and Oloroso
Only Bottles in the U.S.

"Under Jan Pettersen's direction,Fernando de Castilla has become one of the sherry region's elite producers. Each of the wines in the Antique range is a masterpiece." -Peter Liem

It's telling that few have heard of Jan Pettersen and Fernando de Castilla. The best sherries have been neglected in this country for far too long.

In many ways it's a shame and it certainly highlights the status of sherry in the U.S., but besides a few bottles kicking around from years ago when Fernando de Castilla used to be imported, these bottles are the only bottles in the country.

The Sherry region has faced decade upon decade of slumping sales and its landscape is threatened to be forever altered. When you drive by some of Sherry's most renowned vineyards, their Grand Crus, you see vines being taken over by wind turbines and solar panels. Even worse, the Munive vineyard, which produced very delicate and much valued wine for centuries, is now a golf course. These are just a couple examples-others abound.

For wine lovers, they are missing out on one of the more compelling and unique wine experiences around - to say nothing of the value here.

At their best, Sherries offer an almost unparalleled combination of intensity, refinement, complexity and length. In short, they offer everything that makes great wine great.

This brings us to Fernando de Castilla, a bodega decidedly focused on producing world class wine in Sherry. I visited Fernando de Castilla on my first day in Jerez and the wines just never left me. They are that good. The more I tasted, the more the quality at this bodega was confirmed.

Perhaps the ultimate testimony to the quality is that Fernando de Castilla has become a very important source for the prestigious and culty Equipos Navazos La Bota Sherries. Besides being tireless advocates of Sherry's nobility, both Equipo Navazos and Fernando de Castilla are strong believers in minimum filtration, a rarity for the region whose influence shouldn't be underestimated.

In January, we offered Fernando de Castilla's Palo Cortado Antique. Today, we'd like to introduce Fernando de Castilla's Amontillado and Oloroso Antique, a duo that offers an education in sherry styles and highlights the ambition and quality on display at Fernando de Castilla.

To start with the Amontillado Antique, the average age is twenty years and this really impresses with a racy elegance that's married to a rich regal palate presence and a detailed persistent finish. This is a fairly broad shouldered Amontillado that walks gracefully on tiptoes.

We should pause for a moment before heading to the Oloroso, for a Sherry crash course.

Amontillados are essentially aged Finos that have undergone some amount of oxidative aging after the flor, a film of yeast that develops on the surface of Finos, has died or been killed off by the addition of alcohol. Olorosos are fortified from the outset with a level of alcohol that prevents the growth of flor, so they only age oxidatively. Flor consumes glycerin, so Olorosos always have a texture richness that’s absent in Amontillados.

Fernando de Castilla's Oloroso Antique struts this textural richness with grace unlocking a spectrum of clearly delineated notes of burnt orange peel, spice and nuts, all wrapped around a sense of vivacity and thundering finish.

Throughout my travels in Jerez, Fernando de Castilla and its head, Jan Pettersen, kept coming up. Most often, the words were: "He's a real lover of wine." The tiny gem that is Fernando de Castilla is in contrast to Pettersen's last gig, which was at the large sherry house Osborne. While there, sherry sales began to plummet, and the company started to focus on other ventures (among them, launching Red Bull in the Spanish market).

In Pettersen's own words, "I was a little frustrated about this strategy, since I believed, then as now, that Sherry has a uniqueness and tradition that is more than well-worth fighting for." This is essentially what he's doing at Fernando de Castilla - and not only with passion but with a striking business acumen. (Click here for more.)

Tasting the wines, I'm happy that Fernando de Castilla is fighting for the region with an uncompromising focus on quality. Both the Amontillado and Oloroso are probably best drunk alone so that their complexity can be properly contemplated. However, they also excel at the table. Serve with anything from steak to the region's oxtail (or bull's tail) stew, rabo de toro.

To order, please email us at or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Joe Salamone
Wine Buyer
Crush Wine & Spirits

Fernando de Castilla