In the midst of the Andalusian hills lies a triangle of land set between the three historic towns: Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria. It’s here that wine enthusiasts come from far and wide to soak up the deeply rooted wine scene of the world’s sole sherry producing region. Within these winelands, it’s Jerez that garners the most attention, and while the local culture and outstanding flamenco is undoubtedly part of the appeal, it’s the sherry in Jerez that’s the true star of the show.
From vineyards of Palomino grapes comes a diversity of sherry varieties, with a staggering spectrum of aromas, tastes, textures and colours, ranging from golden to amber and mahogany. Contrary to popular belief, not all sherries are sweet, either; while Pedro Ximenez is arguably the most famous sweet variety – treacle-like in texture and often paired with desserts or poured over ice cream – the dryness of other varieties such as Manzanilla and Fino makes them the perfect accompaniment to savoury bites like the local cheese and jamon. The region’s cavernous bodegas give visitors a window into sherry making with cellar tours and tastings to enjoy before moving on to the local tapas bars and tabancos to try these fortified wines alongside the local cuisine.
Founded in 1780, Garvey Winery is one of the region’s most famous Sherry producers, with the Jerez bodega producing a wide variety of fortified wines, from straw-coloured Fino to amber-coloured Amontillado and dark mahogany Pedro Ximenez. One-hour winery tours take visitors through the history of sherry and Garvey Winery before visiting the cellars, seeing the fortification process and onsite museum, and finishing up with a tasting.
Bodegas Lustau is another of the stalwart wineries in Jerez, dating back to 1896 and with two vineyards within the region. Tours of the bodega include eight or 12 tastings with the added option of pairings with small bites.
One of the smaller bodegas lauded by wine critics is Bodegas Tradición, owing to the winery’s focus on aged sherries of the highest quality. Here, not only do they offer guided tours with tastings, but they also host guided tours of their art collection, which includes more than 300 paintings by Spanish artists from the 15th to the 20th centuries, including works by Goya and Velázquez.
What better way to savour sherry in Jerez than with some authentic Spanish tapas? In the sherry region, these tapas bars are known as Tabancos, which is in fact the name of the old sherry stores where locals used to buy the wine fresh from the barrel. These stores then went on to combine sherry with tapas, and of course the Flamenco music this region is famous for. Local ingredients like cured meats, cheese and locally grown olives make frequent appearances at Tabancos in Jerez, often served simply on greaseproof paper and enjoyed alongside sherry drawn straight from the barrel.
Many of these Tabancos can be found dotted across the city, but one of the Old Town’s most popular is Las Cuadras. Formerly a stable, this atmospheric bar exhibits rustic décor with outdoor patio seating and nights dedicated to Flamenco. Homemade tapas and plenty of ambience can also be found at the family-run Tabanco San Pablo, which has made a strong name for itself since opening in 1934. Enjoy your sherry and tapas on the outdoor terrace or within the cosy barrel-filled bar, before continuing your exploration of sherry in Jerez.
Image credits: Cover photo © iStock / kiko_jimenez. Vineyards in the sherry region © iStock / kiko_jimenez. Sherry barrels © iStock / JackF. Sherry tasting © iStock / Creaktiva. Sherry and tapas © iStock / Olena Mykhaylova.