When travelling through the area many guests visit Jerez (de la Frontera). The city itself has a good atmosphere but is not very special. No, most of the tourists that go there are the to visit one the numerous Sherry Bodegas and/or The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. The latter one I will address in another post. Let’s stick to the sherry this time.
In 711 AD the Moorish occupation of Spain began, opening a period of history which in the case of Jerez was to last more than five centuries. During this time, Jerez remained a large wine-producing centre in spite of the Koran’s prohibition. The production of raisins and the distilling of alcohol for medical purposes for which even the Moors drank Sherry….. A map of the region dating from 1150 shows the Arab name, Seris (pronounced Sherish). This name then is the origin of the English word Sherry and the Spanish Xerez.
British families have lived in Jerez since the 1700s and the founding of its great sherry houses). Nowadays the only English spoken in Jerez is by the guides at the sherry houses – at impassioned but exhausting length, too, as you will discover if you visit Gonzalez-Byass, Harvey’s or any of the other 20-odd producers still operating in sprawling green grounds in the heart of the city.
No other wine has the infinity of aromatic nuances that Sherry has. From hints of salinity, yeast, camomile and green almonds in the Finos, to roasted hazelnuts and aldehydes in Amontillados and Olorosos, to raisins, figs and coffee in the Pedro Ximenez, these aromas last and last, offering an incredible and unbeatable complexity.
All these – and many more – are to be found naturally in the wines anyway, and then there are the extra layers of extended ageing and blending which add further complexity. With such an enormous range of flavours and aromas, the Sherry wines inevitably marry well with just about any type of food. Imagine the pleasure, for example, of enjoying freshly cooked fish in a Spanish Chiringuito (beach restaurant) with a perfectly chilled Fino or Manzanilla. Or a fine old Oloroso accompanying an equally fine old Manchego cheese. Of course Sherry also makes the perfect aperitif. All you need to achieve aperitif perfection is a glass of chilled Fino or Manzanilla and some lightly salted toasted almonds, and/or some thinly sliced Chorizo, Salchichon, Lomo or that most heavenly of meats, Jamon Iberico.
It refreshes you in summer, stimulates the appetite and revives you in winter, and all at a more than reasonable price. Although our consumption isn’t by far the bottle a week, as it was in the 90’s it still is one of our favourite drinks, be it the dry Fino or the sweet PX.
And remember: “Quien sabe beber sabe vivir!” (you better look that up)