The complete name of the oldest denomination of origin in Andalusia is DD.OO. ‘JEREZ-XERES-SHERRY AND MANZANILLA SANLUCAR DE BARRAMEDA’, and it is also known as Sherry Triangle.
Sherry wines are the result of three important characteristics:
- The environment: Due to the proximity to the delta of Guadalquivir River and to the Atlantic Ocean and to the predominance of westerly winds, there is a lot of salty influence in these wines. Also the humidity of the soil is very important for growing the grapes, and the albariza soil retains a high level of water.
- The grapes are palomino, pedro ximenez and moscatel. Manzanilla, fino, oloroso, amontillado and palo cortao are generous wines made with palomino grapes, while pedro ximenez and moscatel are sweet wines made thanks to the fermentation of the grapes with their own names. There are also mixes of wines that are called creams.
- For the aging of the wine, the American oak barrels are not completely filled up, as it is necessary to leave some air in the cask. Thus, there are two different types of aging process: oxidative and veil of flor. Moreover, it is a dynamic process of aging called “Criaderas and soleras”, for that reason, it is not possible to define the length of harvesting in sherry wines. Here, more details about production of sherry wines.
Sherry wines can be organized from bitter to sweeter or from clearer to darker. In the pic below manzanilla does not appear but it would be in the first place. This is a very general description because depending on the brand and winery the taste can be very different too, but in this link it is possible to read general descriptions for each one.
The best introduction experience to sherry wines is a visit to a winery. I have visited Tio Pepe in Jerez, Osborne in Puerto de Santa María and La Gitana in Sanlúcar. My best experience was in La Gitana as our guide was very knowledgeable and passionate. It was also a private tour while in the other wineries I was always in big groups, so the attention I received was not so close.
As Chianti wine tastes better in La Toscana, Sherry wines taste better in Cadiz, so other option is to explore the different towns in the Sherry triangle and for each wine we can also try a good tapa. I confess there is nothing I like more than a tavern or a bar, and I have been living in Puerto Real from 2008 to 2009, so in the next list I recommend some places to eat and drink, and different tapas according to the different sherry wines we can try.
Casa Bigote (Sanlucar): Manzanilla and shrimps
Manzanilla is dry, light and a little bit acid and it is the queen of the sea because it goes well with all the products from the ocean: shrimps, prawns, clams, mussels, anchovies, codfish, swordfish, etc. In Casa Bigote the fish and seafood are from the delta of the river and we will enjoy the beautiful landscape of the marshes while we eat in the bar or in the restaurant. The best thing is that they also have their own winery with all the different kinds of sherry wine, and we can also taste “manzanilla en rama” which means this manzanilla is taken directly from the barrel in the moment we are going to drink it. Manzanilla and shrimps would be perfect starters, and for the main dish try their soupy rice with seafood, typical from Sanlucar and delicious.
Tabanco El Pasaje (Jerez): Fino with iberian ham
If we are looking for the most traditional bars in Jerez we have to go to a tabanco. People can taste a very large variety of wines and sometimes there are flamenco shows. I would recommend trying Iberian ham with fino in the tabanco El Pasaje, as it is a classic combination in our gastronomy and it is an amazing appetizer. This wine is dry and light, with an extremely soft flavor of almonds, so it matches perfectly with cured meats like Iberian ham.
Casa Manteca (Cadiz): Amontillado with cured cheese
When visiting Cadiz it is obligatory to go to Casa Manteca, located in La Viña neighborhood. It is very well known among locals and it is one of the few bars that still conserve the old traditions. I do not like the bull fighting decoration at all, but they still serve the food on paper and write down the bill on the bar with chalk. Here I would recommend trying a glass of amontillado wine with cured cheese. I called amontillado wine “the liar” because in the smell is sweet but in the taste is bitter, so it is a complex wine with soft acidity, so it is good for semi cured and cured cheeses with strong flavors.
The glass on the left is manzanilla, on the right is fino. In the colour is difficult to differenciate them, but in the taste is very simple.
Taberna Cabildo (Sanlucar): Oloroso with carrillada
My idea for Sanlucar is to enjoy the beach and the views of the marshes in Casa Bigote and also the meat and the city centre in Taberna Cabildo. In Sanlucar Casa Bigote is one of the best for seafood, and Taberna Cabildo is one of the best for tapas of all kinds. My favourite one was carrillada. Carrillada is a typical tapa in Andalusia made with pork meat stuffed for long time and I chose oloroso wine with this tapa because it is a warm and little bit sweet wine with toasted notes, perfect for stuffed meat. I do not remember what brand of oloroso I drank that time I went to Taberna Cabildo but it was served from the barrel and it has some chestnuts flavor in my mouth. Delicious.
Arsenio Manila (Cadiz): Palo cortao and chicharrones of tuna
I have never been in Arsenio Manila, but I included it in the list because recently they have won the first place in this competition. The original chicharrones are slices of pork meat previously salted and marinated. In this case, the chicharrones are made with tuna. I tried them before in Chiclana but I never realized that a good wine for this tapa could be palo cortao. This wine is like a mystery because it just happens, and the result is that this wine smell similar to amontillado but it tastes similar to oloroso. It is my favourite sherry wine, because it is strange, complex and with lot of shades, exactly like chicharrones of tuna! As they are marinated like pork meat it is curious the taste of fish at the end.
Taberna El Fillo (Puerto Real): Moscatel, pedro ximenez and mosto
During my first months in Puerto Real this tavern was my savior. It was winter when I arrived to town so there was no activity at all as it is a very small coastal city. I used to go to Taberna El Filllo in the afternoons with my flat mate to drink sweet wines: one day moscatel, other day pedro ximenez and sometimes mosto. Mosto is the first wine obtains from the grapes, and it is softer in flavor. In the sherry triangle part of the mosto is directly bottling and sold to the market and the rest is sent for ageing to produce generous liquors. Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel can be drink as desserts and they are also perfect for the winter because they are very sweet and can be served at room temperature during this season.
This tavern is not only good for wines, they have tasty and delicious tapas like their tortilla with aubergine. Apart from the gastronomy, it is also a flamenco and history association. I do not know if they still do their “Flamenco Thursdays”, but thanks to them I started to be interested in flamenco art and history.
Now that I finished writing this post I think I give the impression that I drink too much. Of course, this is not my purpose. I just think that life is too short to drink bad wine and
a glass per day is very healthy!
Are you visiting Andalusia? Maybe I can help you to organize your trip or I can be your guide. Penelope