Following on from my previous post I visited the home of Sherry, Jerez de La Frontera a beautiful city in Spain’s Andalusia region for a short holiday.
It was like going back in time with its impressive Cathedral, baroque churches, palm and orange trees adorning quaint cobbled streets and remnants of a thick city wall surrounding the city built by its Moorish occupants in the 11th and 12th centuries. Walk down any street you cannot fail to notice that this city is famous for Sherry there is even a constant alcoholic whiff in the air from the numerous Bodegas housing this very underrated and utterly delicious fortified wine.
Sherry made from three grapes, the Palamino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez, the former for the drier styles and the last two for the sweeter wines and are made in the so-called golden sherry triangle of the cities Jerez, Sanlucar de Barrameda to the west and El Puerto de Santa Maria to the south all having their own micro-climate which contributes to the character of their own local styles.
As you wander around the city, references to sherry are everywhere, from barrel centrepieces in the plazas to bars and restaurants with sherry barrels made into tables and chairs, all the shops have souvenirs and their are numerous signposts to the many bodegas scattered around.
My wife and I visited three Sherry Bodegas and a winery, yes WINE! (which I will post about later) these were Lustau, Gonzalez Byass, (who make the recognisable Tio Pepe) and Tradicion. Just to point out the actual Bodegas do not make the sherry they are only used to store and age the wines. The one thing that struck me about all the bodegas we visited is how understated the buildings were, most of them tucked down little side streets.
Lustau – As with all the Bodega’s we visited the smell as soon as you entered was heady to say the least. The tour was priced at €25 each but that included some tapas and 12 sherries including a couple of Vermouth’s. The tour itself was very leisurely with no more than 12 people. The guide was very amiable and informative explaining the history of the Bodega and the process of making sherry. The tasting itself was superb, sampling their whole range from dry Fino’s through to the sweetest Pedro Ximénez (Often abbreviated to PX ).
Gonzales Byass – A little more commercial than the others and they make the most recognisable Fino sherry called Tio Pepe with its well-known bottle logo. A bigger Bodega than the others featuring a short promotional film and train ride through the property. Bigger groups, around 30 or so, felt a little more impersonal but with some interesting stories shared by the guide especially the so-called myth about the drunken mice in which a glass of sherry was placed on the floor with a small ladder to
discourage the mice chewing on the barrels.
The tasting after was again very commercial situated in a modern tasting room where depending on what you paid you sampled a number of glasses and tapas. We tasted four and got a selection of cheese, ham and potatoes to pair.
Tio Pepe Fino was everywhere in Jerez, served chilled it was the perfect accompaniment to salty tapas and often found for as little as €1 – €2 a glass.
Last of the Bodegas we visited was the prestigious Tradicion – Again tucked away in a side street and this time we sampled five premier sherries ranging from €55 upwards. These were truly special, some of them over 30 years old.
The tasting was conducted in a beautiful rustic courtyard with a covering of vines for shelter. All of the bottles we tasted were special as the price reflected and it was a fitting end to our Bodega tours.
As a final treat the owners allowed us to view their private art collection of some of the finest Spanish painters including the impressive San Fransico de Asis en oracion, Oleo sobre lienzo by ‘El Greco’
Cannot recommend Jerez highly enough, very peaceful, very Spanish, very cheap and very hot and if like me you don’t mind a glass or two of Sherry it’s the perfect holiday