jerez, part 1

May 4, 2008 at 6:15 pm 21 comments

sherry tasting
Sherry tasting at Bodega Sánchez Romate

Hola from Jerez! (Edit: this was written on the second day … and not finished or posted until now!)

We arrived yesterday (Tuesday 29th) and got straight into sherry tasting, in the Bodega Sánchez Romate. As someone who had never drunk a drop of sherry in her life, the experience was an enlightening one, and I think I’ve become a convert! The cool, dark bodegas are stacked with thousands of barrels of sherry by the solera system (where barrels are stacked in rows at least three barrels high, with the oldest blend of sherry at the bottom, the suelo, followed by the younger barrels on the upper layers, the criaderas). I won’t bore you with the details, though it certainly is interesting how the quality of the sherries are kept consistent by constantly topping up each layer with the sherry from the layer above it, each time an amount (a third) is drained from the bottom barrel.

in the bodega

It’s fascinating how the wide the spectrum of sherry varieties spans – from light, crisp and dry fino (one of the more commonly known sherry types in the UK, alongside Harvey’s Bristol Cream) to deep, dark and syrupy Pedro Ximénez. In between, manzinilla (slightly salty, and the drink of choice in the seaside location of Sanlúcar, where we went on our last day), amontillado, oloroso (the last of which was very much a favourite among the group, thanks to its smoothness and nuttiness!). Then there’s the very special, and very rare palo cortado, which has the freshness of an amontillado, but the smoothness and richness of an oloroso.

IMG_1928

IMG_2006 We were very lucky because at this time of year the region plays host to the Feria del Caballos, a week-long festival celebrating three of Jerez’s best known elements – sherry, horses, and flamenco. Held in a massive fairground a few kilometres from the town centre, the Parque Gonzalez Hontori on Avenida Alcalde Alvaro Domeque, people flock from all around Jerez (and from neighbouring regions as well, as Jerez’s feria is known to be one of the best, while there are also ferias held in Seville and El Puerto) to eat, drink and be merry. Beautiful Andalucían white horses parade throughout the streets and into the grounds, pulling elegant black carriages carrying equally regal-looking men and women (many of them in colourful Sevilla flamenco dresses). There really are no two Sevilla dresses alike in this town – the saying goes that you can know a woman from the kind of dress she wears.

caseta

Many of Jerez’s restaurants, bars and clubs set up as casetas (stands/booths or tents – some of them with proper facades!) and basically we just flitted from caseta to caseta, indulging in tapas and sherry. In the afternoon, we were lucky enough to be taken under the wing of the Romate company and we wiled away the hours eating delicious nibbles in the shade, watching the colourful people and horses of Jerez waltz by.

rebujito

We also discovered the joy of rebujitos (a popular refreshing cocktail of dry fino mixed with lemonade), which quickly became a tipple of choice under the hot Spanish sun, when even dry sherry seems too heavy. If they introduce this in the UK, perhaps sherry drinking would become more acceptable. I thought I spotted rebujito being served at Barrafina the other night, but when I asked was met by a curt “no” (on a side note, Barrafina’s service seems to be getting arsier these days).

seafood platter

The first thing to arrive on the table was a heaving platter of fresh seafood – crab legs, prawns, langoustines, crayfish, and small crab claws. Salty as the sea and juicy and fresh to boot. I honestly was in heaven.

tortilla and jamon

And what is a trip to Spain but a chance to indulge in the country’s best exports? I’m not sure if the above constitutes as a tortilla or not, since it was a bit… deconstructed, with the eggs and potatoes seemingly just scrambled together – someone needs to enlighten me on this. And of course, there was a big plate of Jamón Ibérico – my personal favourite, as a fan of all cured hams! I have to say, the nuttiness of jamón matches perfectly with dry sherry.

manchego cheese and croqueta

And of course, there was the ubiquitous manchego cheese and crunchy-outside, gooey-inside croquetas de jamón.

After a long afternoon of eating and drinking, we soon headed back to the hotel for a power nap to recharge ourselves for the night at the feria (more eating and drinking!), which brings me to the end of this entry (and when I originally started writing it)!

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21 Comments Add your own

  • 1. foodieguide  |  May 6, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Oooh, look at that seafood platter! But I noticed your remark about Barrafina’s service. That’s not good, considering it’s one of my favourite places…

    Looking forward to reading about Jerez Part 2!

    Reply
  • 2. Charmaine  |  May 6, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Helen – I wonder if it had to do with the fact that it was a Friday night. They were just really abrupt and a bit snippy. The food was bloody amazing though (our quail was especially good that night… mmm).

    I’m getting there… sort of! I should have done all my posts during the bank holiday but spent all my time in the sunshine!

    Reply
  • 3. Niamh  |  May 12, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Oh YUM! That’s the perfect weekend for me. And I obssessed with croquetas. They sell them in Camino in King’s Cross now and they’re pretty authentic. I keep arranging drinks there so that I can have them, although now everyone sees through my plan ;-)

    Lovely photos! Looks like you had a great time.

    Reply
  • 4. Charmaine  |  May 13, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Niamh – Ooh, thanks for the tip-off. The people I went with are already planning a visit to Camino to relive those sunny Spanish days ;)

    Reply
  • 5. Hau  |  May 16, 2008 at 9:05 am

    Ahh! This entry makes me freakin’ HUNGRY! Rebujitos sound so good — I want to make some now … I don’t even know if there would be any restaurants around here that would serve it (but at least it sounds simple enough to make at home). Time to look around for some Spanish white wine :D

    Reply
  • 6. Charmaine  |  May 17, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Hau – They’re marvellous! Use dry fino sherry, not white wine! ;)

    Reply
  • 7. Jordi  |  May 27, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Just small comment FYI, the slightly deconstructed tortilla is really named “huevos estrellados”, usually you will find a bed of fried potatoes (sliced or even diced), some small chunks of ham over them, and placed on the top fried eggs, which when the dish arrives at your table should be cut in small pieces and mixed all the ingredients alltogether using the yaolk as aglutinant. It’s quite common in all Spain, and a very very very succulent dish when ingredients are top quality…

    Reply
  • 8. Charmaine  |  May 27, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Jordi – Thanks so much for solving that mystery for me! I’m quite sad because I haven’t had anything quite like it since. Not as easy as it looks…

    Reply
  • 9. Ian Henderson  |  July 16, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Hi, just read the comments on your visit to Sanchez Romate in Jerez. We are off to Adalucia in a couple of days and my local inde wine merchant advised me not to do the ‘Tio Pepe’ tour but to arrange a visit to Sanchez Romate because, she said, that it is in a stunning medieval / type setting ( apart from the fact that the sherry is great! ) and we would get a real insight and feeling into the history of the trade over the last many hundreds of years?

    Just wondered if you would agree with that? Definitely worth a visit?

    many thanks, Ian Henderson

    Reply
  • 10. Charmaine  |  July 20, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Hi Ian, I agree – Tio Pepe is the top dog of the sherry industry and I thought their bodega was interesting but not as interesting as the other ones I went to. Sanchez Romate is worth a visit but I’m not sure they do public tours – you should also pay Williams Humbert a visit – it’s the largest bodega in the region, I think, and the architecture is positively stunning (a bit more modern). Bodegas Tradicion is a very small independent bodega that also has a spectacular private collection of Spanish art (as well as some early Picasso scribbles on tiles!). I hope this message reaches you in time before your trip…!

    Reply
  • 11. Ian Henderson  |  August 27, 2008 at 12:54 am

    Thanks for your kind reply. In fact we were very lucky because we ended up at Colosia Gutierrez in El Puerto de Santa Maria and we lucky enough to be given a very personal tour and tasting by a member of the family. Great Sherry! One of the highlights of our holiday.

    Reply
  • 12. Flamenco dancer  |  February 5, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Next time you are in San Lucar de Barrameda, stop by at the tablao ” A contratiempo” for pure flamenco art and excellent manzanilla. Thanks

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A freelance journalist and full-time gourmand, eating her way mostly through London and Hong Kong.

Current location: London


    supercharz

Charmaine currently digs: the smell of coffee; adding ponzu to everything; bill granger; still eating natto with every meal; caressing her Nikon FM2n.

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