In October 2018 I led two tours to this wonderful region. Steeped in history, Jerez lives and breathes sherry and has seen at first hand the ever changing fortunes of this famous drink. We heard from the people who are driving the change that sherry is, without doubt, undergoing a renaissance of very high quality albeit at much lower than historic production levels.
Our first visit was to Valdespino, a historic Sherry house now owned by Grupo Estevez which has maintained and developed the Valdespino brand into one of exceptional quality. The facilities on the outskirts of Jerez are amazing as they have recreated the historic old bodega in a more modern building.
We viewed the piano room with much memorabilia and photos, the library of labels, the art museum filled with Picasso prints, the horses and the fabulously huge cellar.
In the Sacristia where they age some their oldest barrels we tasted Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso, Cream and Pedro Ximenez sherries which gave the perfect insight into the range, and started us on our journey to understand the nuances of sherry production.
On tour one we visited Valdespino for dinner on the first night, on tour two we had a fabulous first night meal at La Cruz Blanca restaurant: a superb selection of starters comprising wonderful hams and cheese, oxtail croquetas, scrambled eggs with mushroom and jamon, a creamy snapper fish pate and a tostada with goats cheese and marmalade. Phew! Most people were full at this point but main course was a choice between black rice with prawns or cod followed by a selection of desserts. This was all washed down with some local chardonnay and Garum from Luis Perez who we were to visit the next day.
In the historic town of Sanlucar de Barrameda we tasted Manzanilla directly from barrel, at the historic Hidalgo La Gitana bodega. 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 Viña 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.
He strongly believed in the potential of red wine production in the area and planted Merlot, Syrah, Cab Sauv, the local Tintilla Rota as well as number of other experimental vines. Despite meeting much local resistance they persevered and now manage to sell the majority of their 170,000 bottle production in the local area.
The property is called Vistahermosa – beautiful view, and it commands a stunning position from which you can see Cadiz. We tasted grapes from a number of the experimental vines and enjoyed the sunshine and views.
In the beautiful old farmhouse, we at and tasted the Palomoino Blanco, El Triangulo (made from Tintilla), Garum, Samaruco (both made from blends) and their stunning 100% Petit Verdot.
All the wines were accompanied by a delicious selection of tapas – a great visit and a surprising break in a region dominated by sherry.
Bodegas Tradición was set up by the Rivero family in 1998, this is a tiny bodega that focusses solely on old and rare sherries. Having acquired a number of old Soleras from a range of producers, they started selling sherries in 2000. The bodega is just within the city walls and from the outside looked somewhat unsalubrious. But inside, we discovered this delightful courtyard, totally covered by vines with a wonderful sense of tranquillity.
Plus there was a surprise…an extraordinary collection of art from a range of Spanish artists reflecting many centuries of style. . Further Solera explanations ensued before we rounded the visit off with a superb tasting of their range. Quality is exceptional and the prices are high – but worth every euro!
From Tradición we drove for 20 minutes to Viña La Constancia. This is a relatively new Bodega set up in 1999 which also purchased some barrels from other bodegas. Juan was our wonderful host who immediately took us on an energetic walk in the vineyards to see some amazing views from the top of the vineyards.
As we reached the cellar a surprise was waiting…..tables, chairs, mood lighting, a stage.
However, before the surprise was revealed we looked at their vinegar ageing cellar and discovered more about the Solera system. Aside from all the different sherries, they also make sherry vinegar and their bodega has also become a destination for…..Flamenco.
This was another big surprise for everyone as we sat down to seven sherries, seven tapas pairing dishes and seven different flamenco songs and dances, a fabulous first on one of my tours.
Our tours ended on a high note with dinner at one of Jerez’s best restaurants – La Carbona.
Set in an old sherry bodega with high wooden ceilings we sat down to a wonderful selection of starters: game pate, prawns with artichokes and salmon; some perfectly cooked seabass, beef skirt and a wonderfully rich chocolate cake. All washed down with a local chardonnay, a tempranillo, cabernet merlot blend, oloroso with the beef and cream and PX sherry with dessert.
A fitting end to a great tour and we all hoped to be visiting Jerez again soon.
What my clients said about this tour
“I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the tour to Jerez. It was an interesting and informative few days and great fun too. Lovely food and tasting and good company” – Jenny Pond, Goring on Thames