Wine is produced in many areas of Spain. The hot sun and Mediterranean breezes make for some stellar Palomino grapes. But the capital of one type – sherry – has to be assigned to Jerez de la Frontera, a city in the Cadiz section of Andalucia. The very name means ‘sherry’, a derivative of the Arabic word for this sweet nectar.
The nearby beaches of white sand backed by majestic mountains get an average of 300 days of sunshine per year. That makes this area on the Spanish coast the perfect spot to have a winery and the locals take good advantage of the opportunity. Yet, unlike many wine growing regions, the wineries are actually in the center of town. That gives an idea of how revered this fine art is in Cadiz.
The Valdespino winery, for example, dates back to 1264 when the then-recently reestablished Christian king granted 30 acres of land to one of his grateful knights.
After creating sherry for centuries, their produce was discovered (or so the legend goes) by Sir Francis Drake, who carried many barrels back to England. From there the beverage’s fame spread all over the world. More than 700 years later, the Valdespino winery is still making sherry. The story is easy to believe given the number of British winemakers still active here.
Nestled near the Costa de la Luz, south of Sevilla, a trip to the bodegas (wineries) is practically a must when visiting the province. Many of them today offer a delightful mixture of multimedia presentation and personally-guided walk. That’s the best of both worlds, since visitors can share the enthusiasm of the owners first hand while getting a wider view of what’s on offer.
The González Byass is one of the highest rated wineries of Jerez, thanks to a combination of fine product, an outstanding tour and a dome designed by the creator of the Eiffel Tower. Pedro Domecq is another local favorite, featuring outstanding sherry served under arches that resemble those of Cordoba’s famed La Mezquita.
On the way there one is highly likely to pass a group of flamenco dancers in the Gypsy quarter that will entertain in much the same way their forebears have for generations. Jerez’s peña flamenca style is particularly admired as representing the peak of this Andalucian art of dance.
It’s easy to catch a show by simply stopping into any of the local tapas bars and having a fine meal and a glass of the local vino. The town itself offers wide, uncrowded streets that are shaded by large palms and populated by friendly citizens.
Along with the bodega tours one should make time to see the famed dancing horses of the Royal Andalucian School of Equestrian Art. It’s a rousing show in one of the country’s most relaxed atmospheres in an already very laid back area of Spain. Come visit and see for yourself why Jerez rightly deserves the title ‘Sherry Capital of the World’.