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A Spoonful of...Sherry?: Exploring Grandma's Drink 

This isn't grocery store cooking wine, or as a local bartender fondly recalled, the cheap butane-like fino stolen from his parent's liquor cabinet.

I've recently spent some time watching Mary Poppins with my 2-year-old daughter, which got me thinking about sherry. Mr. Banks, as you might recall, has a penchant for the sweet libation and I thought I'd give it a try. I've drawn on such inspirations before, sipping rum during a read of Treasure Island and curling up with a bottle of Jameson to Angela's Ashes. As a sherry novice, I was initially unsure if the drink was an appropriate subject for a wine column.

This isn't grocery store cooking wine, or as a local bartender fondly recalled, the cheap butane-like fino stolen from his parent's liquor cabinet.

Sherry is fortified wine from the region around Cadiz in southern Spain and comes in a remarkably diverse range of weights. They can range from bone-dry unfortified finos to the heavy, dried fruit-laden styles made from the Pedro Ximenez grape.

A sherry's color reflects the weight. And judging from the silver screen, I'd say that George Banks was a fan of a mid-range dry amontillado. If it was anything like the famous and widely available Emilio Lustau "Los Arcos" ($7-$8 a glass), it might have revealed a surprising palate of dried autumnal herbs, very tart, and a long clean finish of almonds and a slice of Tokyo Rose apple. Or perhaps it was slightly darker, more like the Pedro Domecq dry amontillado, with its unsettling (but alluring) blend of tart new mown hay and rich Calamyrna fig.

If you're in the mood for something really remarkable, try the Alvear Pedro Ximenez ($9), which is like drinking raisins. Cooked on the vine in the hot Mediterranean sun, this stuff is so strong it doesn't need to be fortified.

Whether you need a light glass of fino to go with your tapas, an aperitif, or night cap, a well-developed sherry list is sure to provide something suitable. And you can guess where my next spare tuppence will be spent.

- Thomas Rodhouse

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