I’m delighted to report on our first ever Sherry tour! I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that after nearly 30 years in the wine trade it took me until January 2018 to actually visit the beautiful town of Jerez. Steeped in history, Jerez lives and breathes sherry and has seen at first hand the ever changing fortunes of this famous drink.
Sherry is, without doubt, undergoing a renaissance of very high quality albeit at much lower than historic production levels.
Our first night dinner was at Valdespino bodega where we toured the extraordinary cellars as well as the collection of Picasso prints before settling into a delicious three course dinner paired with a range of sherries. This set the scene perfectly for our journey into the relatively well known but much misunderstood wine.
Friday 12th October
Despite our somewhat late finish the night before, it was an 08.45 departure to the historic town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda – the home of Manzanilla. It is not well known that Manzanilla sherries can only be made in Sanlucar, but essentially they are produced in the same way as Fino.
Our first stop was at the historic Hidalgo La Gitana bodega.Victor showed us round and conveyed a lot of information very quickly as we tasted directly from the barrels. Building on our experiences from Valdespino, we started to understand the differences between sherry styles, both in taste and production method. Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Cream, PX….it could easily become a blur, particularly if you drink a tad too much.
From Sanlucar, it was a 30 minute hop to Vina Luis Perez and a chance to experience some wines of the region rather than sherries. This bodega was founded 15 years ago by Luis Perez Rodriguez and his family. An enology professor who also worked for Domecq, Luis Perez fervently believed in the potential for table wines – and yet was ridiculed by other winemakers.
Fast forward to now and they have done very well. It has clearly taken a lot of hard work and persistence but their wines are now well distributed locally and exports are growing. They also have a fascinating experimental vineyard with over 30 different varieties from all over the world as they seek to explore how the southern Spain climate collaborates with grapes hitherto unplanted in the region.
The winery is well financed and resourced with a total focus on high quality and with some fantastic views over the countryside. Following the visit we tasted their Garum and Samaruco blends of Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah as well as their 100% Petit Verdot and local Tintilia Rota – paired with some filling meat pastries, chickpeas, hams and cheese.
A great visit and a surprising break in a region dominated by sherry.