A week in Jerez and more Sherry !

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 it’s 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 ).

Impressive tasting at Lustau

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

My rating 8.5/10 Corks 

 

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Taste of Spain in London

On the 28th May I attended the ‘Feria de Londres’ in the wonderful setting of Potters Fields Park on the banks of the river Thames overlooked by Tower bridge.

Over the bank holiday weekend the park was transformed into a celebration of all things Spanish including music, flamenco and wonderful food,tapas and drink.

I arrived early, the stalls and stages were being set up and the atmosphere was building as was the smell of different kinds of Spanish foods drifting across the park. There was lots of pop up bars serving ‘Cruzcampo’ beer, white and red wine and the excellent ‘Tio Pepe’ Fino sherry.

From about 12.00pm the sun came out and the festivities got underway as the noise level got louder as more and more people arrived. Before it got too busy I booked myself onto a Iberico Ham and Sherry Materclass and received my complementary drink and food tokens as I was there on behalf of ‘Mid Week Wines’.

With class booked I set out to enjoy the afternoon, first stop was the bar where I got a pretty large glass of chilled Tio Pepe Palamino Fino sherry which was just what was needed as the temperature and humidity was steadily rising.

For those of you who haven’t tasted the delights of Fino and Manzanilla sherry they are a delight with salty almonds and olives and as I found out later a real winner when paired with Iberico ham. This particular bottle of Tio Pepe (which needs to be served very cold) was extremely dry, a little yeasty but with a saline edge which smelled of the sea. There was also some lemon peel in the background and the finish was fresh if a little bitter

Food was next on the agenda and I got myself a freshly made plate of Valencian Paella made up of chicken, broad beans and green beans.

Next up was the Iberico Ham Masterclass with Jose Sol (Spanish ham Master) Complete with more Tio Pepe sherry which complimented the ham beautifully.

Iberico ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests (called dehesas) along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns during this last period. It is also known as jamón ibérico de Montanera. The exercise and diet have a significant impact on the flavor of the meat; the ham is cured for 36 months. Here Jose taught us about the different styles and quality of ham culminating in the excellent Pata Negra (best quality) ham from the black pig.

As well as the Toi Pepe Jose introduced us to a cold soup like substance called Salmorejo which he actually made that morning (basically soaked bread with tomatoes, garlic and lemon sprinkled with ham and sometimes sliced boiled egg), this again complemented the ham beautifully if a little garlicky. It was a very informative masterclass and big thanks to Jose for sharing his knowledge with us, I certainly learned a lot.

The afternoon and evening carried on with more drink (yes another glass of Sherry), food and Flamenco with  a performance by Tomasito (Flamenco dancer and singer) with lots of ladies and children dressed in traditional outfits.

The Feria de Londres was a free event and I for one will be back next year, Viva Espana