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Posts tagged ‘Jerez’

Jerez – Xèréz – Sherry (and Horses)

This week we’re going to take a look at what’s going on in and around Jerez, which can be easily reached from Seville by train or by car, and makes a great destination for a day out. As we all know, Jerez de la Frontera (to give it its full name) is the centre of the Sherry region, and is also world-famous for its horses. Not surprisingly, both of these figure prominently in the Jerez Spring Fair, La Feria del Caballo, which this year is between May 11 and May 18, immediately following the Seville Fair.

feriaFeria del Caballo in Jerez de la Frontera

The Jerez fair is probably the oldest of Andalucia’s horse fairs, with roots going back to the 13th century, and it’s also my favourite. For a start it’s held in a pretty public park, Parque González Hontoria, rather than a glorified parking lot like many other fairs. There’s more space, the great majority of the casetas, including those of the big sherry houses, are open to the public, and the whole thing has a more relaxed, almost genteel, feel to it. The horse and carriage parades are fabulous, even for non-horsy people like me, and for the aficionado there is a commercial horse show and market, Equisur, alongside the main fair. And if you do want a bit more noise and excitement there’s always the nearby Calle del Infierno (Hell Street) with all the familiar fairground attractions.

After Jerez, it’s the turn of the second of the sherry towns, El Puerto de Santa María, where the Feria de Primavera and Vino Fino runs from May 21 to May 26. As well as the fair, try and fit in a visit to one of the old bodegas, which are fascinating places.

sanlucar bartapas bar with sherry casks in Sanlucar de Barrameda

It’s immediately followed by the last of the sherry towns, Sanlucar de Barrameda, whose Feria de Manzanilla kicks off at midnight on May 27 and lasts until June 1. Apart from the usual “fun-of-the-fair”, including horses, bullfights and manzanilla sherry, Sanlucar is also a seaside town with a nice beach, a traditional central square with lots of restaurants, and a small but historically important old town, the Barrio Alto.

To while away the time in between you might like to pay a visit to the Vinoble International Exhibition of Noble Wines,  a biennial event in Jerez for fortified, dessert and sweet wines, this year running from May 25-27. This coincides with Jerez being named the European Wine City for 2014 and is the premier international event of its kind, and apart from local producers also attracts exhibitors from around the world. Have fun and find out about some unusual and excellent wines at the same time. To make it a real win-win, the venue is the  Alcazar de Jerez, a stunning combination of Moorish fortress, mosque, palace and gardens.

vinoble 2014

Last, but not least, if all this has whetted your appetite for all things sherry, June 2 to 8 is International Sherry Week, with sherry events both locally and in 20 countries around the world. There are over a hundred events in Spain alone so have a look at the website for those taking place in and around Seville.

Seville | The Sherry Triangle

Deep in the southwest of the magical kingdom of Spain lies a mysterious region known to its intrepid explorers as the Sherry Triangle. Unlike its Bermudan namesake, however, it is not most famous for things that disappear (though people venturing in have been known to never emerge again), but for what comes out of it.

Different layers of barrels are used for blending older and younger wines

Different layers of barrels are used for blending older and younger wines

Now, right now you may be thinking – Sherry? That’s that dark, overly sweet stuff that Grandma serves up on Christmas day, isn’t it? Well, yes… and then again, no. Sherry is actually any wine made in the Sherry region (officially the area regulated by the commission that oversees the production and quality control of wines labelled Jerez-Xeres-Sherry), a roughly triangular area between the towns of Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa Maria, that produces some of the world’s most complex and unique wines.

Wine has been produced here at least since Roman times, and has seen many ups and downs in its quality and popularity since then, but it’s currently having something of a renaissance, not only in Spain, but also in other European markets. The English, in particular, have had a long love affair with sherry that dates back to Elizabethan times, when it was known as sack (probably from the Spanish verb sacar, meaning “to take out”) and was referred to by Shakespeare in several of his plays.

Almost all sherries are made from the palomino variety of grape, which is particularly well suited to the triangle’s light chalky soil, the albariza, though sweet dessert sherries may be made wholly or partly from Pedro Ximenez or Muscatel. After fermentation, the wine is fortified, and then may be aged under a layer of yeasts, called flor (making fino or manzanilla sherries), or exposed to the air (oloroso sherry), or both (amontillado and palo cortado sherries), in a system of barrels known as a solera, in which wines of different ages are blended together.

Different types of sherry from dry (left) to sweet (right)

Different types of sherry from dry (left) to sweet (right)

Most sherries are exceptionally dry, and are an excellent accompaniment to the famous Spanish hams and cheeses (and almost anything else!), and there is no gastronomic experience more quintessentially Spanish than sitting in a traditional style bar somewhere in southern Spain, eating jamon with a manzanillo or fino sherry. If you haven’t tried it yet, put it on your to-do list immediately.

If you’re already an aficionado, or just interested in wines, you might like to take a day trip to Jerez, and tour one of sherry bodegas, where you can learn more about how it’s made and some of the traditions that have grown up around it. You can find a list of bodegas that give tours through the Jerez Tourism board.

Seville | Other Spring Fairs

Seville’s famous Feria de Abril has come and gone for another year but in case you missed it here are three more upcoming fairs that you can visit from Seville.

jerez feria

Puerto de Santa Maria
Puerto de Santa Maria’s Spring Fair and Festival of Fine Wine got under way yesterday (24 April) and finishes on Monday.  This cosy coastal town is at one corner of Andalucia’s “Sherry Triangle”, and although this is a relatively small and local fair, it incorporates  a festival to celebrate the first fruits of the new year, as well as the usual horses and carriages, casetas and a funfair.

Jerez
The Jerez Horse Fair (Feria del Caballo) takes place in the Parque González Hontoria between 6 May and 12 May 2013. Of all the fairs, Jerez has maintained most closely the atmosphere of a “horse fair”, so if you’re really into horses this is the one for you. It’s also a very open fair – almost all the casetas are public, rather than private as they are in Seville, and because it’s in a park, rather than a “fairground”, it’s also surprisingly pretty. There’s a short bullfighting festival from the 9th to 11th, horse shows, a funfair for the kids, and as you would expect, plenty of sherry for the grown-ups.

cordoba feriaCórdoba
The Feria de Córdoba runs from May 25 to June 1 on the municipal fairground, near the river to the east of the Mezquita. There is all the usual things to do, with horses and carriages by day, a funfair and impromptu Sevillanas. Although most of the casetas are privately owned the public are allowed in, so it’s less cliquey and exclusive than the Seville fair, and so more fun for visitors. And the larger casetas even have air-conditioning!

 

All three fairs are easy and comfortable to get to as a day trip by train, but if you want to watch the opening and closing firework displays, or sample the night life into the wee hours of the morning, you’ll need an overnight stay.