Sherry Tasting in El Puerto de Santa María

el puertoThe thing I like best about all my bodega visits is that everyone involved is so passionate about sherry, a passion I have come to share over the last couple of years, and that even very important people in the business are prepared to give their time to anyone who shares their interest. After recent trips to visit bodegas in Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, I knew I had to revisit one of my favourites in El Puerto de Santa María and get to know at least one other in order to round out this year’s Sherry Education. All of which helps me to give better and better Introduction to Sherry Tours in Sevilla.

Bodegas Caballero
caballeroCaballero is now one of the big players in the world of wine, with bodegas all over Spain (and they’re owners of Lustau of Jerez, too), but our visit was to the modestly-sized San Francisco bodega in El Puerto de Santa Maria, the production centre for their Fino Pavón sherry. As with a lot of bodegas, a rather warehouse-like exterior conceals not only the “cathedrals”, but some pleasant open spaces and gardens, in this case including a Drago Milenario, which seems to be something of a city symbol.

Our guide was Verónica, who showed us around the vast bodega while explaining the methods of ageing sherry and the solera/crianza system. We also saw the sacristy, the special room in every bodega that houses the unusual and high value products. Afterwards we moved on to the Castillo San Marcos a few minutes walk away, for a tasting of some Cabellero and Lustau sherries, along with some lovely snacks of jamón Ibérico, olives, cheese, and one of the best tortilla de patatas I’ve ever tasted. The castle, also owned by Caballero, was an impressive and perfect backdrop – a 13th century fortified church built over a former mosque, complete with Roman walls under the basement.

Bodega visits are by appointment only.

Bodegas Caballero

Calle San Francisco, 32
Tel: +34 956 851 751

Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosia
gutierrez colosiaGutiérrez Colosia is a family run bodega down on the riverside in El Puerto de Santa Maráa, producing a full range of sherries including a top of the range Palo Cortado. The original bodega on this prime site near the mouth of the Guadalete River, where the moist winds off the sea help to maintain the best environment for making sherry, was built in 1838. It was bought by the great grandfather of the current generation of the Gutiérrez family around the beginning of the 20th century.

This was actually my second visit, but the atmosphere (in both senses) of these sherry cathedrals, with their yeasty smell, coolness and dimness, is always both novelty and homecoming. Our guide Carmen (daughter of bodega co-owner Carmen Gutiérrez) took us through the history of winemaking in the region, and of the bodega, with the natural passion of someone born to sherry making.

After the bodega tour we went to the tasting room to sample six fabulous sherries accompanied by snacks, and we were joined by Carmen “madre” who added a few personal anecdotes and answered more of our questions. This is a family run bodega in the very real sense that only half a dozen people take care of everything. Very rare these days, and very special.

Bodega visits in both Spanish and English are held every day at 12.15 pm and cost 6€ per person. For larger groups or special requests get in touch with the winery directly.

Bodegas Gutierrez Colosia
Avenida Bajamar, 40
Tel: +34 956 852 852

Sherry Tasting in Sanlúcar de Barrameda

Hot on the heels of my whirlwind visit to sherry bodegas in Jerez I planned a trip to the home of manzanilla, Sanlúcar de Barrameda. I was curious to learn more about the differences between manzanilla and fino first hand, furthering my own sherry education so I could also better inform guests on my Introduction to Sherry tours.
sanlucarManzanilla is basically made in the same way as a fino, using the same grape (palomino fino) and the same methods, resulting in a very pale, dry wine. What makes the main difference in flavour is the very particular micro-climate in Sanlúcar, located on the sea estuary of the Guadalquivir river. Consistently cooler temperatures and higher humidity than in Jerez or El Puerto de Santa María (the other two main towns that make up the Sherry Triangle) contribute to a thicker cover of flor, the natural yeast that protects both fino and manzanilla wines from contact with the air while it ages in oak barrels. The result is a lighter, more delicate, slightly salty flavour. Delicious!

During my two days in Sanlúcar I was invited to visit three very different family-run bodegas and, as in Jerez, I felt honoured and was very grateful for the time given to me by these very passionate people. Here they are in the order I visited them (click on images to enlarge).

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Sherry Tasting in Jerez de la Frontera

Although I’ve long been a fan of fino and manzanilla, and dabbled a bit in olorosos and amontillados, some of you may remember that just over a year ago I kind of underwent a sherry conversion, which ended up being the inspiration for starting my own Introduction to Sherry tours. I wanted to give others the chance to experience sherry the way I felt it should be enjoyed – poco á poco, together with food and friends. But although my knowledge of sherry was enough for a “beginners” tour, I was keen to learn more. So when I found out that I wasn’t able to get into this September’s Sherry Educator course (though I’ve been promised a place for next year by the Regulatory Council) I was feeling all disappointed. And so of course the obvious thing to do was go to Jerez and start educating myself!

sherry marathonThe whole three day adventure came together in just a few hours. Hotel was booked, train tickets reserved, and four fabulous bodega visits were set up. My friend Peter Tatford @SVQconcierge came along with me as he was also interested in finding out more about Jerez (both the city and the wine).

Other than the regular tourist visit we did at González Byass when we first arrived the rest were all private tours, and I felt both honoured and privileged that the people at these very special wineries made me feel so welcome. It was not only super educational, it also felt like entering a whole other world, and as much as I learned (which was a lot!) the main thing I learned was that I still have a lot more to learn. I asked each person to take me through the sherry making process from the beginning, in their own way, and left myself in their capable hands. Each bodega was unique and everyone I spoke to was incredibly passionate about their work. In fact, it wasn’t like a job for any of them, it was a way of life. Here are the bodegas I went to in the order we visited them (click on the images to see bigger versions)…

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