September 15th, 2010
In southwestern Spain within the Cadiz province lays the city of Jerez de la Frontera. A charming place to visit with more things to see than some would have imagined. One might not be aware of it, but a couple of things that many relate to Spain originally come from Jerez de la Frontera; the fortified wine that we call “sherry”, the world famous dancing horses, and the passionate Flamenco music.
The name of the city comes from the famous fortified wine made from the Palamino grapes grown in the area. Before the Muslim occupation the city was called Asta Regia however during the times of the Moors it became known as Xerez or Xeres coming from the Arabic world for fortified wine, Sherish. The second part of the name Frontera comes from the Spanish language which means frontier. Due to the city being located right on the border of the Muslim and Christian regions during those times it was referred to as Frontera, hence the name Jerez de la Frontera.
The soil in Jerez makes it the perfect place to grow the Palamino grapes used to make the sherry that it is famous for. The soil is known as “Albariza” and is a white, light soil often described as chalky.
With so much focus on the sherry business in Jerez de la Frontera it comes as no surprise that this is the best place to taste the fortified wine with some tapas in one of the many bodegas (wineries). The largest bodega in the city was designed by the architect of the Paris Eiffel Tower and is called Gonzalez Byass. Other bodegas are: Tio Pepe, Romate, Domercq, Williams and Humbert, Harveys, Sandeman.
The Dancing Horses
Jerez is internationally known for the magnificent dancing horses that one can see at the Royal Andalucian School of Equestrian Art. The school is an institution that is devoted to conserving the ancestral abilities of the Andalusian horse, which work to protect horse breeding and increase awareness of the culture of the horse as a part of the Andalusian identity, such as the Spanish baroque horsemanship. The institution organizes a unique show called “How the Andalucian Horses Dance”, an equestrian ballet which combines an elegant choreography with classical flamenco music. During the show the riders wear traditional costumes dating back to the 18th century.
Jerez is universally acknowledged for being the city where the art of Flamenco music and dancing began. There are a few arguments to where the word Flamenco actually comes from. Some argue that it comes from the word flemenc which means “gypsy”, which might have some reason to it considering that Jerez has a large gypsy settlement. While others believe that it comes from the Arabic word fellahmengu which means “expelled peasant” dating back to the end of the Moorish reign in the region. Whatever the truth, the fact is that Flamenco is a gypsy-Andalusian art which dates back to the start of the 18th century and has an immense importance to the town of Jerez. Many of the of the most famous Flamenco artist were/are originally from Jerez, a prime example is the legendary Lola Flores, Spain’s most important singer, dancer and actress of all times!
When visiting the city you must see a Flamenco performance or visit one of the many “Tabernas” that show live Flamenco acts. One of the world´s most important Flamenco festivals takes place in the city every year around February/March. It is an explosion of music and dance which gives one a real insight to the strong traditional culture of the south.