Although the country is in “crisis” as Spaniards say, tourists are still flocking to Spain and mainly to its largest cities. Wine lovers, however, should not overlook a city in the south of Spain that has produced sherry for centuries, Jerez de la Frontera.
In Andalusia’s fifth largest city, Jerez de la Frontera, the average annual temperature is 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 54 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Jerez is located in the province of Cadiz in southwestern Spain and it is known for its sherry, a fortified white wine grown in and around the city. In fact, there are many cellars to visit in which one can sample the distinct types of sherry and learn about the production process.
One smaller cellar, Bodegas Tradicion, produces only the oldest sherries. If one books a private tour in advance, there may be only a few other people at the intimate Bodegas Tradicion, which is located in a recently refurbished 18th century building. Within these walls, a guide will lead you through cool cellars containing V.O.S. — sherry that is more than 20 years old (Very Old Sherry, or ‘vinum optimum signatum’) and V.O.R.S. — sherry that is over 30 years old (Very Old Rare Sherry, or ‘vinum optimum rare signatum.’)
You will not only learn the details of how such sherries are created and maintained in the barrel, but will also be led through the owner’s private art collection. Joaquin Rivero, a Spanish real estate magnate and the owner of the bodega, showcases more than 300 important paintings that provide the viewer with examples of different styles of Spanish painting throughout the centuries. At the end of the tour, it will be time to taste the different varieties of sherry yourself at a table surrounded by tiles painted by Picasso at the age of eight.
Larger cellars in the Jerez area include Gonzalez Byass, the producer of the well-known Tio-Pepe brand, Emilio Lustau, Garvey, and John Harvey. There are many towns to explore if one follows a prescribed “sherry route,” including Sanlucar de Barrameda, Trebujena, El Puerto de Santa Maria, and Chiclana, to name a few. While exploring the cellars, the distinct types of sherry such as “fino,” “oloroso,” and “amontillado” will become part of the taster’s vernacular.
Jerez, a city with a strong riding tradition, offers plenty of opportunities for horseback riding, and, if one prefers to watch the experts, there is the “The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art,” which has weekly shows. In the spring, typically in the first half of May, the “Feria del Caballo,” or Fair of the Horse, one of the oldest “ferias” in Spain, takes place. At the “Feria del Caballo” some of the most beautiful horses in the country are shown and parades feature horsemen in short jackets, tight trousers and broad-brimmed hats, and ladies sitting side-saddle in flamenco dresses.
Finally, in addition to sherry and horses, Jerez is home to a concentration of authentic flamenco talent. The musical and dance genre of flamenco grew out of the interplay among a variety of cultures that existed in Andalusia: the Arab, Andalusian, Sephardic and Gypsy, and locations in Jerez such as “La Taberna Flamenca” allow young local talent to present this art form to tourists in a way that is intimate and unlike any of the more touristy “tablaos” found in Seville, Madrid, or elsewhere in the country.
Additionally, the “Festival de Flamenco,” a major international event, is held each year in late February and early March. The beauty, music, art, wine, horses, and history of Jerez de la Frontera make it a destination that promises to transport the traveler away from the stresses of day-to-day life.
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