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.
Manzanilla 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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A 2-star hotel with reasonable prices, the Hotel Barrameda is clean, modern and well-appointed. It’s in a perfect location on the central square, Plaza del Cabildo, which is chock full of tapas bars (including the famous Casa Balbino) and cafés, is close to most of the sights, and about a 10-15 minute walk from the beach. The market is just around the corner as well, with the adjoining streets full of all kinds of colourful stalls, selling everything from hats to live camarones (tiny prawns).
The hotel has a pleasant reception area with a breakfast room (though we opted to breakfast out) and a large attractive patio filled with plants, marble tables and wicker chairs. There’s also a solarium on the roof, though we forgot to go up to see it (oops).
The rooms are quite spacious, with comfortable beds and AMAZING pillows, flat-screen TV, a big desk, air conditioning and free Wi-Fi. The bathrooms are roomy with a walk in shower. Unpretentious, with everything you need for a short stay. If possible, opt for one of the rooms in the newer section. The staff was very helpful, moving us from the first interior standard double room in the older area to a more modern style room which I personally found brighter and more cheerful. It had a balcony facing a side street full of vendors from which we could also see the main square. Next time I will definitely splash out on one of the superior rooms, which balconies looking out over the plaza.
Sanlúcar de Barrameda
956 385 878
The Sanlúcar: manzanilla sherry, lime juice, olive oil, sugar, egg white, shaken over ice, with hierbabuena & angostura bitters to finish. Pretty much the perfect summer cocktail. And especially perfect when enjoyed at Café Azul on the Bajo de Guia in Sanlúcar de Barrameda at sunset. Cheers!
I have ALWAYS wanted to do this. And now I have. For years I’ve heard about the wonderful sounding horse races on the beach in Sanlúcar de Barrameda and every August I have somehow never managed to make it. In part I blame the very shoddy public transport between Sevilla and Sanlúcar… nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is going to get me to sit on a bus for over two hours for a journey that normally takes just over an hour by car. But I digress. Because yesterday I did have the chance to go by car with my friends Markus, who runs Veoapartment, and Peter Seville Concierge.
We set off in time to catch the first race (the times announced were vague, we got there for the 6.30 pm race to discover that it didn’t start until 7.00, más o menos.). Eventually we managed to find a spot in the front row and waited for things to get going. I had my camera ready to take some photos but other than a few pics of the horses making their way to the starting gate I got nothing because they ended up whizzing by again in about three seconds flat. So I decided to try Vine for the next one. Six seconds.
In between races we went over to one of the beach restaurants in Bajo de Guia to enjoy a cold beer and the sea breeze. But after the second race we decided that was enough and headed back into town for a bite to eat before heading back home. The obvious choice was Casa Balbino, home of The Very Best tortillitas de camarones, well, anywhere. As usual it was jam-packed but we found a little corner spot in front of the bar and started off with – what else? – a chilled glass of made-in-Sanlúcar manzanilla and some plump and juicy locally caught langoustines. Then the super-crispy tortillitas, some seafood croquetas and gambas pil-pil.
On the large flatscreen above our heads we watched recaps of the races which were quite a bit different from our blink-and-miss-it experiences, as cameramen in cars and at various strategic points along the beach caught the entire races. But I was still glad I went and experienced it for myself, and a day trip to Sanlúcar is always enjoyable. All in all, it was a lovely Sunday.
There will be one more weekend of races 16, 17 and 18 of August.