In my post on Tio Pepe Fino I said that fino is one of the best apéritifs ever, but the truth is I often have a hard time deciding whether I would rather have an amontillado--a darker, richer, and nuttier sherry-type wine. In the end, I let the food decide. If nothing goes better with green olives than fino, nothing goes better with black ones than amontillado.
Amontillado is known mainly as a wine of Jerez. Check out the on-line Spanish foods store La Tienda to see a good selection of sherries, including several quality amontillados.
Unfortunately we rarely, if ever, find quality amontillados from Jerez in wine shops here in Central Florida. Instead they carry the sweet, spiked imitations labeled amontillado. You have to be careful. Even some amontillados genuinely from Jerez aren't good. As I explained in my post on fino, Spain has a long tradition of exporting its worst sherries, especially to England, and keeping the best for itself. For example, this "amontillado" from Osborne (normally a reliable brand) was sweet, dull, and not much better than the so-called sherry sold in most supermarkets, though at $15 it cost nearly twice as much.
The amontillados of Montilla-Moriles are an alternative. Montilla-Moriles is a DO (denominación de origen) in Andalucia, like Jerez, but in neighboring Córdoba. Alvear is a good brand of Montilla-Moriles, and fairly easy to find.
The amontillados of Montilla-Moriles are different than those of Jerez. They're softer and sweeter--though not artificially sweet like the bad amontillados I've described. Montilla-Moriles amontillados go very well with toasted hazelnuts, tidbits of rich meats (like bacon), consommé, and bronze grapes stuffed with blue cheese.
Wine guides--even the best ones like those by Oz Clarke--often dismiss the export wines of Montilla-Moriles as inexpensive imitations of sherry. It would be more accurate to say that they're just a different style of wine that resembles sherry in some ways.
To me, a botttle of Alvear Montilla-Moriles is disappointing only when compared to the local versions of this wine often served straight from the barrel in Córdoba. Montilla-Moriles tastes better when kept in the barrel--an ancient practice. Why? I don't know. It's not true of sherries, which taste just as good from the bottle. But with the wines of Montilla-Moriles, it's just the way it is.
So if you want to try truly great Montilla-Moriles wines, go to Córdoba. (If you go in early May, you can check out the patio garden shows while you're there.) If you can't get to Córdoba right away, try some Alvear, which is the next best thing.