Anyone who understands Sherry, whether a Sommelier, producer, or native Jerezano, will tell you that you can’t possibly understand the wine without first understanding the food. In other words, it’s all about the food, and the wine is very much a condiment. This is why their international wine competition Copa Jerez is focused on food and wine pairings. The US brought home the 6th international Copa Jerez championship in 2015 for the first time ever, led by Ian J. Adams & Michele Matthews of San Francisco based 15 Romolo, fanning the flames of hope of American sommeliers that Sherry may finally be making it’s way onto our dinner tables. Of course, it always tastes better when you are sampling right from the barrels!
But don’t worry, sampling from the barrels isn’t just for Sommeliers and those in the industry. Even if you’re new to Sherry, you too can enjoy the magic of this wine and region as a whole. All you have to do is travel to Jerez. Here is your perfect itinerary:
Day One: Get Your Sherry On
Start your day in downtown Jerez in the square near the covered market with a coffee and freshly fried churros. Be sure to take a stroll through the market to see the impressive seafood spreads featuring hundred pound tunas and tiny shrimp, still alive and jumping. The quality and freshness here rival the best markets in Japan. This is also the place to score marcona almonds and spices.
From there it’s about a 10 minute stroll through the winding streets of downtown to the beautiful new Lustau headquarters. Their sprawling bodega is the perfect place to get acquainted with the unmistakable yeasty smell of sherry cellars. After the tour you can visit their modern tasting room and have the opportunity to buy some bottles.
Enjoy a light lunch at one of the many outdoor cafes downtown before heading back to your hotel for a siesta by the pool.
Spaniards eat dinner on the later side, typically starting around 9pm, at which time reservations are highly recommended at one of the best Michelin recommended restaurants in town, La Carbona. Everything here is great, but the 5-course tasting menu including sherry pairings for 35 euro is the way to go. If you are lucky enough to be there during artichoke season, the pairing with Amontillado will likely be one of the best you’ll ever taste.
Day Two: Ancient Adventures
Jerez is situated at the southern tip of Spain, just across the Straits of Gibraltar. The Moorish influence is very much still visible in the architecture and culture. One of the most indulgent traditions that came over with the Moors is the Hamam, or bathhouse. There’s one located in Jerez, Hamam Andalusi where you can enjoy saunas, steam rooms and the best scrub down of your life, located next to Bodegas Gonzales Byass.
Afterward head to Bodegas Gonzales Byass to taste the iconic Tio Pepe Fino. Their impressive bodega includes an arena of barrels decorated with international flags, the untouched room of Tio Pepe himself still strewn with ancient bottles, and the infamous glass of sweet Pedro Ximenez with a tiny ladder for the cellar mice to indulge.
In the afternoon head to Cadiz, a 30-45 minute ride from Jerez proper and easily accessible by train, bus or taxi (around 40 euro). Cadiz is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and one of the most ancient in all of Europe. Head to old town within the old city walls, and down to the beach where you can walk out to the furthest point where many sea vessels set sail for the new world. There’s a bar on the beach that serves 1 euro cold Cruzcampo beer on draft which pairs perfectly with the sunset.
Stroll through the narrow winding alleys and watch as seemingly residential streets turn into restaurant row, at once opening their shutters to reveal menus featuring cheap glasses of sherry and the daily selection of small bites. Find your way to El Faro, an old school restaurant still serving the best versions of the city’s specialties. Ask them what’s freshest but be sure not to miss the anchovy toasts, baby shrimp fritters and fresh, barely cooked langostine.
Day Three: Tapas Until Dawn
If you can manage to get up early enough it’s worth it to visit the Williams & Humbert Bodega. Vastly different from the other bodegas, Williams & Humbert is the first ‘green’ bodega and houses the most wine under one roof in the world. Their unique construction features a conical roof that catches the rain and stores it for use all year long. They also use underground temperature controlled tanks to transport their wine. The juxtaposition of modern technology alongside ancient winemaking and aging is astounding.
By mid afternoon head to Sevilla by train, which takes about an hour. It’s in this castle ridden city that the wine and the food come to life in a convivial late night tradition that always seems to be celebrating something. Ride city bikes around the parks and plazas to admire the architecture and watch the city glow as the sun sets. The tapas bars start getting busy around 9pm and while you will be tempted to post up, it’s best to try just a few bites and move on to the next one. The three must visits are El Rinconcillo founded in 1670 (eggs with asparagus and chickpeas with spinach), Bar Las Teresas (the best jamón you will ever have, all other jamón is irrelevant), and Casa Morales (salmorejo, chorizo sandwiches, tortilla de papa, house vermouth).
Day Four: Beachy At Sanlucar
If you love Manzanilla you won’t want to miss a day at Sanlucar de Barrameda, the beachy town about 30 minutes north of Jerez and easily accessible by taxi or bus. You can laze around on the sand or beachfront bar or rent a boat and get out on the water.
Whatever you do don’t miss the opportunity to visit Bodega Hidalgo, home to La Gitana Manzanilla. The history and quality of the wines is unparalleled. You may think you are dreaming as you walk around the flour-strewn bodega that is home to unique strains of yeast not found anywhere else.
In the evening, head to restaurant El Bigote for a seafood and Manzanilla feast. Here the flavors of the terrain all come together in the wine and food. As always, ask them what’s the freshest daily special to get something incredible like shrimp crudo. Definitely don’t miss the peal and eat shrimp and fried sea anemone with aioli.
You’ll fall in love with Sherry and see Spain in a whole new way.
Where To Stay
Hotel Jerez & Spa: Situated a 20 minute walk from the city center this relaxing and spacious hotel is great for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle. The large breakfast and free access to the outdoor pool are nice touches, as is the bar with a huge range of well priced Sherry. Spa services like massage, sauna and steamroom are inexpensive and luxurious.
Casa Grande: This posh hotel is located in the city center for easy access to plazas, shopping, restaurants and other sights. Ideal for those who like to wander around and take in the local nightlife. Features include a rooftop deck, rooms with patios and free wifi.
airbnb: For those looking for a more local feel, airbnb offers great rates on a range of rooms and apartments. While you won’t get the concierge services you would at a hotel, you will likely end up saving money and enjoying a more private space. This is a great option for those looking to take advantage of the local produce and do some cooking.