Monday, 23 April 2012

Sherry and tapas in Jerez

It's afternoon, I'm in the Sherry hotel and I've been drinking sherry for 48 hours straight. Hard core eh? However this is not a mumsnet Sherry bender version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, for I've been invited by Tio Pepe to Jerez, the Andalucian Spanish town which is home to Sherry.
Sherry, as every self-respecting food and drink hipster knows, has moved on from granny Christmas tipple: sherry bars such as Pepito in Kings Cross hum to orders of 'Fino' and 'Make that a PX'. There is a range of sherries; from dry, citrusy and light 'Fino' to heavy, syrupy, raisin-hued 'Christmas in a glass' Pedro Ximenez or 'PX'. 
In between those two extremes, we start with the 100% Palomino grape sherries: Vina AB, Alfonso, Leonor then Del Delque (aged 30 years) then moving towards more sweetness we add different amounts of PX grape: Apostoles (13% PX), Matusalem and Solera 1847 (25% PX), and lastly Noe and Nectar (100% PX). The last is basically pudding rather than a drink.
I learnt about the Solero method of blending Sherries: I've had it explained before but somehow my brain couldn't understand it until I was physically standing in front of a "leg" of barrels in a darkened cellar in Spain. By the way, the swelling odour of Sherry cellars is remarkable: vanilla, chalk, figs and dirty sex.
The Solero method: the oldest barrel is at the bottom, the youngest at the top. Three times a year , a third is emptied from the barrels and replaced with the sherry in the barrel above. By the time the bottom barrel has matured it contains several vintages.
Spanish brandy has a dodgy reputation: but you can also get very good quality Sherry brandy. This area, black with essential mould, is where it's made.

Sherry has two main markets: the Spanish and the British.

The earth in the Jerez region is chalky and infertile; it gets the best from the vines.

Eiffel designed this building.

The tap for the Queen's barrel

In one room the barrels are marked with the names of the apostles.

Celebrities sign the barrels: film director Orson Welles.

Barrel signed by Picasso. The stipend for the poet laureate for Queen Elizabeth II is paid with a barrel of sherry or 'sack', they get to sign it.

The windows in the cellars are covered with rush matting to control the tempature.
Antonio was conceived and born above the Tio Pepe cellars.

I often feel Sherry matches better with food than wine; the virtually savoury, almost salty, flavour brings out the best in Spanish food.
I did two tapas tours: one in El Puerto, near Jerez, which primarily serves seafood and another in Seville, hosted by a lady I met through Twitter: @sevillatapas. Go and find out more about tapas at her site here.  She took me to places I could never have discovered on my own. The food was incredible. I also visited a Seville supper club hosted by @lebanicious which I'll write about in another post.
 My favourite sherry cocktail: rebujitos, fino sherry, ice and 7up. Very refreshing.

Spaniards have an incredible array of seafood. Prawns aren't just prawns, the Spanish know each type and want to know where it's from. Click on the collage to see more.

Personally I found these pretty horrifying; goose barnacles. People risk their lives climbing down cliffs to get at them, so they are very expensive in this country.
Here is a close up of the inside. Gross.
Tapas and dishes I had in Jerez
Jerez cathedral, surrounded by blossoming orange trees. 

 The market in Jerez: well worth a visit.

 At the market, the heads are pulled wide to display the  red gills; a sign of freshness

Snails, jerez de la frontera, Spain
Wild asparagus, jerez de la frontera, Spain.
MARKET TRADER,  jerez de la frontera, Spain.
MARKET,  jerez de la frontera, Spain.
Large man on a little stool
PANADERIA,  jerez de la frontera, Spain.

Churros maker; they were salty then had sugar sprinkled on them.

The churros maker
Dried pepper seller
The bullfighter on the left with the eyepatch is Juan Jose Padilla, whose picture went around the world when his eye was gouged out by a bull. Padilla is from Jerez. He returns to fight, less than a year after his accident, in the Jerez feria in May. The top bullfighter makes money; it's one of the few ways out of poverty. In Southern Spain, the recession has hit hard, almost nobody under 25 has a job. 
Spanish embroidered shoesHair combs, flamenco style

Spanish haberdashery: I bought this ribbon for my shelves

Flamenco shoes for children, espadrilles


  1. Nothing gives me the travel bug like your photos do. Truly glorious.

  2. Brilliant, Kerstin.

    I'm loving your travelogues - atmospheric, sense of culture, and an ability to pick out the most interesting, quirky details. I always learn a lot and I'm always entertained.

  3. Thanks so much Deptford Dame and Catherine. It means alot to me to have your feedback and enjoyment.

  4. Personally I prefer Spanish brandy to French, the sherry casks used in the maturation process give it a better flavour. Sherry cask whisky is pretty good too.

  5. I don't think I like the look of the goose barnacles either. Although, I do love Spain. Brilliant pics. :-)

  6. I know I've already said this to you on Twitter, but the photos and writing in this blog post really is fantastic. I've had to come back again for another look! Maybe you'll come and visit Edinburgh again soon? Aoife x

  7. Thanks everybody.
    Shipscook: I've yet to open the Spanish sherry brandy!
    Lovefoodcookfood: I'm too much of a food wimp to try them.
    Jelly & Gin: thanks so much. I hope to visit you again

  8. One place I've never been to and really should being a wine blogger an all!

    Seems like you had a great holiday.. did you just turn up at the wineries or did you pre-book?

  9. Andrew, it's well worth going. I went with tio pepe but I know people do tours. Not sure if you have to pre book or not.

  10. Hola! I just realised while linking to this post on FB that I hadn't left a comment yet (could've sworn I had...)

    Nice article, and fab photos, as usual. And thank you for the mention and the linkage. It was a fun weekend and great meeting you.


I would love to hear what you think of this post! I try to reply to every comment (if there is a delay, I am probably away from an internet connection or abroad)