I would assume that most people in the UK only buy a bottle of Sherry at Christmas – and that’s just to keep Granny quiet in the corner for a few hours.  Have you noticed that she’ll only have a little glass but manages to quaff the entire bottle?! Hmmm.

But Sherry is becoming increasingly popular with younger people too – and so it should. Not just as a drink either.  You only have to turn on a cookery programme to see the likes of Rick Stein or José Pizzaro flinging it into a pan, to sauté kidneys or marinate fruit.  Sherry is best when drunk in Spain – naturally – and you could combine a holiday in the sunny South with a bodega trip or twenty.  Sounds good, no? – Sherry is not just for Christmas!

The cathedral, one of the many sights of Jerez

Blue rinse not required

It’s not just for Granny either! Sherry is fast becoming popular. Try this experiment the next time you are on a Spanish holiday, on a warm, balmy evening. Pop into a heaving, busy, loud  bar and jostle with  the locals, shouting above the chatter and omnipresent TV,  order up a cold Fino, accompanied by a little sliver of tasty cured Jamón,  cut in front of you – you’ll be amazed you hadn’t tried it sooner. Refreshing, an appetizer for your evening meal and simply delicious.

The Sandeman Bodega.

Where does it originate from?

Sherry comes form a little triangle of sweetness, in Andalucía, Spain.  Close your eyes and think of your favourite stereotypical Spanish things. Conjure up Flamenco, Spanish guitars, hot sun and blue skies and you have the whole picture.

The law in Spain states that if a bottle is labelled here as  ‘Sherry ‘ then it must come from that Spanish triangle, set in the province of Cádiz , and made up of  the following three locations-

  1. Jerez de la Frontera
  2. Sanlúcar de Barrameda
  3. Puerto de Santa María

The man himself – Señor Byass

What are the different types?

  • Fino – fine and dry, best served chilled. The perfect one with a little tapas as an appetizer.
  • Manzanilla – light and fruity – just right for offsetting all the rich festive food at this time of year
  • Amontillado – dark, dry and nutty in flavour – think Christmas
  • Oloroso – the name means scented, and so it is. Get your nose in! Deliciously sweet and great with dessert.

Starting from light and fruity similar to a dry white wine, Sherry is then aged in Oak barrels to develop into the darker, sweeter type that we are more familiar with – great for desserts, and a personal favourite, for making ice cream. Just add a capful or two to the mix with some sherry soaked sultanas – ice cream for the grown ups!

Once you buy Sherry you can store it for up to three years if it’s kept well in a cool dark place – but it should really be treated as wine once opened – any excuse to polish it off really!  A Fino can be re corked and kept in the fridge for a few days without losing much quality.

A stroll around the bodega

What’s the best place to try Sherry?

Really, you must come to the right places! You ĺl know that you are getting close when you see the large black metal bulls lining the sides of the road.

Jerez de la Frontera has a lovely old quarter in which you can ramble and sip away at your leisure, visit the Bodegas for a ‘try before you buy’ experience, take some home as a gift – for yourself of course. If you do choose to visit the many Bodegas then you’ll be treated to a demonstration of how Sherry is made, and the general history of Sherry in Spain. It’s said that Jerez has a million barrels of Sherry made from American Oak – if they all hold 500 litres then I guess it’s the top place where Sherry is concerned.

If you do happen to visit here in the near future, then remember to plan a visit to El Recreo de Las Cadenas – actually a palace -  where the arena is used to showcase the Real  Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre – the famous elegant dancing horses of Andalucía – they train here every morning during the week and are a sight to behold – you should be able to catch a show too.

Jerez has very strong associations with Flamenco and the fiestas here are a sight to behold - read more about Jerez de la Frontera in an earlier post here.

Sanlucar is certainly sweet as Vernon found out, you can read his post here. The soil here is a bright blinding white, owing to the high chalk content, perfect for the Palamino grapes – which are  in turn perfect for Sherry! Fishing and wine making are the predominate industries here, what could be better? A plate of good fish will be on the menu to be washed down with you bottle of Manzanilla. Columbus sailed from here on his epic voyage, although apparently he was delayed because his crew went missing for a few days – I guess they were enjoying the local Sherry a little too much!

El Puerto de Santa María is also pretty popular in these parts for it’s seafood, landed daily on the quayside – you really can’t lose!  A local custom here is to choose and purchase some fresh seafood wrapped in the local newspaper and then take it to the nearest bar and devour with a cold sherry on the side. Famous matadors of Spain hail from El Puerto de Santa María, you’ll be sure to find some great bars, the walls lined with photographs, and old posters.  Try out some of the best ones on Calle Santa Lucía, next to the Bullring.

Ladies dressed for the horse fair in Jerez

Where is the best place to stay?

Have you decided on the location you want? Then all that’s left is to choose a lovely place to stay.

19 holiday homes in Jerez de la Frontera

4 homes to rent in Sanlucar de Barrameda

12 perfect places to stay in El Puerto de Santa María

Choices, choices…why not make a round trip and choose all three?!

There’s only one rule…Make sure you choose a place with a garden or terrace where you can sit and sip your new favourite drink!

Carol Byrne
Posted by Carol Byrne
Originally from Dublin, Carol has also lived in London and Wales before settling in Spain with her husband and family in 2006. She and her family run a rural retreat high in the Alpujarras mountains of Granada, which you can find here as property number 17043. She blogs about traditional village life, sparked by a passion for the culture and history of Spain, and teaches English locally..