One afternoon last summer, I took a young relative along to a big tasting bash. I knew he’d enjoy the free wine, but more importantly I wanted to get his response to all the different styles.


Believe it or not, you can learn more from tasting wine with novices than with experts.


Being Irish, my relative held his drink well and was never short of a comment. Asked to name his favourite of the day he nominated the “queer stuff” from Spain. Which was Fino Sherry. We’d had an extra glass or two of it with our tapas lunch.


Fino is part of the sherry family of wines but it’s usually best not to mention that as most people associate sherry with a brown, kinda sweet drink that old people drink at Christmas. Think instead of something crisp and refreshing. Fino looks like any other dry white wine but it packs a punch due to high alcohol. And it has a very dry tang. It’s definitely challenging. I call it the dry martini of white wine.


Like all crisp whites, Fino works best served cold as an aperitif. But pour less than usual because of the alcohol. I suggest you accompany it with a barbecued shrimp appetizer — one of the great food and wine combinations.

Toss the shrimp in an oil, lemon and fresh herb vinaigrette, put the platter in the middle of the table and dig in. I use small shrimp so I can eat the shells which become a natural bridge with the salty taste in the wine. Plan a warm evening on the patio and pretend you’re in Spain. Enjoying “queer” wine recommended by an Irishman.

P.S. In response to your requests I shall be doing a report on Tetra Pak wines in a few weeks. My LCBO Vintages wine recommendations are posted on www.billysbestbottles.comunder weekly picks. Sign up for my free e-wineletter to receive earlier notification — and all the wine life news worth reading. Cheers!

Billy Munnelly is author, wine critic and publisher of Billy’s Best Bottles Wineletter and Billy’s Best Wines For 2005.

Visit www.billysbestbottles.comfor information about his in-home wine-tasting seminar. To receive a free copy of Billy’s Best Bottles Wineletter, e-mail


• Gonzalez Byass Fino ‘Tio Pepe,’ Spain

LCBO No.: 242669

Price: $16.85