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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Tapeo Extremo™

jeffrey me victorJeffrey, me and Victor in Málaga

I can’t even begin to count the ways that Twitter has changed my life, but this is yet another one. Back in late 2012 my Twitter pal Niamh Shields @eatlikeagirl got in touch with me about joining a new international foodie venture called Chowzter,. At first glance Chowzter didn’t seem like the sort of thing I’d be interested in (though I remember years ago saying the same thing about Twitter!) but I decided to give it a go as it had been recommended by Niamh and there wasn’t a lot of work required to set it up. Thus I became their Sevilla food expert.

Then about ten days ago I got to meet Chowzter founder Jeffrey Merrihue @jeffreymerrihue. He was holidaying in Marbella and came up to Sevilla for the day to do a tapas tour with me, which morphed into a tapeo extremo (a term coined by my friend and travel writer Annie Bennett @anniebennett a few years ago when we went out for tapas – I have no idea why! 😉 ). That day Jeffrey and I broke my personal record by visiting 7 tapas bars in 4 hours.

tapeo extremo sevilla 08-08-14Tapeo Extremo Sevilla 08-08-14 | 7 tapas bars in 4 hours

Chowzter began as an argument between two well-travelled food-obsessed brothers about where to get the “best this-or-that” in every city they visited. Not Michelin star fare (everybody knows where to find that), but fabulous day-to-day local food. Fast feasts. The trick was to find passionate locals who wanted to share their knowledge. Which now includes me. And now also includes Victor Garrido @welovemalaga, who runs the best tapas and walking tours in Málaga. At first Jeffrey asked Victor if he wanted to meet him in Marbella, but then mentioned that he’d never had good food in Málaga (!!!). And when he asked if I wanted to come down for the day too… well, it just had to be another Tapeo Extremo!

tapeo extremo malaga 14-08-14Tapeo Extremo Málaga 14-08-14 | 10 tapas bars in 4 hours

Jeffrey, Victor and I met in front of the Atarazanas Market in the centre of Málaga and what happened next was epic. Of course you can’t “properly” visit every excellent tapas bar in any city in just one afternoon, but the purpose of tapeo extremo (if there needs to be one) is to show someone with huge interest and little time as much as possible. Both tapeos were wonderful, though I think Málaga had the advantage of the bars being closer together, having both Victor and me as guides, and also knowing by that time that Jeffrey was a complete food maniac (had I known this in Sevilla we would have got into more taxis). But I’m sure that Jeffrey will agree that both Victor and I killed it, and we both loved showing someone around who clearly appreciated the best. In fact, Jeffrey’s enthusiasm was so contagious that I’m now helping find “chief Chowzters” for other areas in Spain and Portugal. So watch this space and also @SevillaTapas for future developments. And thanks again for a great couple of days, Jeffrey. Hasta pronto!