• Charlotte Kristensen

WINE & TRAVEL: 12 Hours in Jerez - Sherry Sipping and Tapas Easting

Updated: Nov 5, 2019


Breakfast

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Before a day of sherry tasting I advise: do not skip breakfast. Sherry wines are so moreish you'll loathe using a spittoon. The Spanish aren’t big breakfast eaters, however pan con tomate is always readily available. This is essentially just tomato bread – but, it’s all in the way it’s put together that elevates this dish to something so much more. The ripest, juiciest tomatoes are diced with heaps of fragrant garlic and spooned onto grilled bread, topped with a generous pour of golden olive oil and an extra-large pinch of coarse sea salt. A few slices of slices of this and a double espresso and you’ll be sherry ready.


Morning

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My first stop was a visit to the sherry house, Bodegas Diez Merito, where they produce a range of different styles of sherry and Brandy de Jerez. On arrival, our host, José, whisked me into the cellars where I tasted a number of dry sherries straight from the sherry casks. I started with a Fino – light and fresh with yeasty, almond and subtle herb notes. I then tasted an Oloroso – which had deep flavours of walnuts, truffles and spices and then I tried rare style of sherry called a Palo Cortado – packed with notes of chestnuts and oranges with buttery nuances.

Time for some sherry tasting

My highlight at Diez Merito was tasting a 30-year-old Amontillado, the “Ferrari of the sherries” according to José. He was not wrong. On the first sip, I was transported to a magical autumnal forest, where hazelnuts were being roasted in brown butter over a fire. Sublime. By 11:55am, I had already tasted the full spectrum of sherries and now it was time to taste Brandy de Jerez. On my first sip, I turned to my travel companion shaking my head, “why have I never drunk Brandy de Jerez before!?”. So smooth and warming, reminiscent of freshly baked pastries, you could barely feel the alcohol, which at 36% made it dangerously good. José had found a new customer.

The range of sherries at Bodegas Diez Mérito

Lunch

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I emerged from Diez Merito’s cellars to the roaring midday sun (27°c at the end of October!). Lunch was calling. I stumbled upon Bar Juanito in a picturesque and bustling side street in Jerez’s old town – noisy locals were crammed onto small tables ordering an assortment of tapas. For me, another portion of pan con tomato, a plate of melt-in-the-mouth ibérico ham and some tangy fresh anchovies would do the trick. As the sun warmed my face and I sipped on a glass of refreshing Fino, I pondered about how charming my experience of Jerez had been so far.

Lunch at Bar Juanito

Afternoon

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My afternoon appointment was at Bodegas Tradicion, a sherry house that specialises in sherries aged for over 20 years. I tasted a Palo Cortado and an Oloroso which were both 30 years old. “You’re drinking history” our host Eduardo nodded as I swirled my glass taking in the complex and developed aromas of the sherry. I closed my eyes and let the aromas take me into a heady daze. “Do you like PX sherry” Eduardo asked as we walked through the cellar. In honesty, I have often found this style of sherry made from sun-dried Pedro Ximinez (PX) grapes a little rich for my palate – but how often was I going to be able to taste a 20 year old PX sherry straight from the barrel!? “I’d like to try!”, I nodded back to Eduardo. And I am so pleased I did. With age, this sherry had developed layers of sweet fig and luxurious caramel notes. Alluring, smooth and silky - just like velvet. I was invited to finish sipping on my sherry in Tradicion’s private art collection of Spanish painters from the 15th - 20th centuries. What a delightful end to the afternoon.

Sipping on PX sherry in Bodegas Tradicion's private art collection

Evening

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After a quick siesta it was time to head to the Flamenco show at Tabanco El Passaje in Jerez. Flamenco originates from this region of Spain and Tabanco El Passaje has been welcoming guests for almost a hundred years. They were definitely doing something right – the performance was hauntingly good. The music, the singing, the dancing – it was filled with passion and pain, it was moving, it was dramatic, it was raw. I sipped on an Amontillado sherry as my heart thumped to the beat of the dance as my eyes were fixated on the stage.

More sherry! Flamenco show at Tabanco El Passaje

Dinner

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It was time for a late night snack and a tipple at Las Banderillas. “¿¡Hola hola cómo estas!”, I was greeted with a warm welcome at this very traditional local bar which had a particularly lively atmosphere. Perched up at the bar, I was pointed to the best dishes on the menu - calamar a la plancha and an ox tail stew. The calamari was succulent, charred with a delicious citrus herb sauce, and the ox tail stew – rich, tender and devoured within seconds! The food was washed down with Oloroso sherry - and at just over a Euro a glass - had I found my dream bar?

Late night snack and a tipple at Las Banderillas

Places

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Bodegas Diez Mérito - visits should be arranged in advance

Bodegas Tradicion - visits should be arranged in advance

Bar Juanito - book/walk-in

Tabanco El Pasaje - I recommend calling ahead to book a table

Las Banderillas - book/walk-in


Accommodation

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I stayed at Hotel YIT Casa Grande, rooms from 65€


Getting there

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Jerez (Jerez de la Frontera)

60 minute drive from Seville airport (Ryanair, easyJet, British Airways)

65 minutes train from Sevilla Santa Justa


Sherry

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For more information on Sherry and Sherry tourism visit www.sherry.wine

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