Sherry Wine: behind the scenes

The world of sherry wine, probably the most complex wine in the world, is extensive. Although the heart of the production of this wine may not be considered a very vast region, it is indeed full of many different areas within itself. Jerez de La Frontera, Sanlúcar De Barrameda, El Puerto de Santa Maria and the land around these cities in the province of Cádiz, Andalusia, is where it all happens.

However, away from the usual (and very recommendable) visits to the many wineries and cellars, this time we went beyond all that and dived into the origins, the background. With the company of an expert in sherry casks, our first stop was Sanlúcar, and a well-known cellar in the center of town.

 

Owners welcomed us through their backstage areas, a large warehouse that resembled old churches and cathedrals and where casks line up waiting to be taken away or assembled. Here, they keep and work their oldest casks, but not only this, they also keep their best secret: their finest not-for-sale manzanilla. We had the chance to enjoy a glass of this family-owned best selection, aged into a special cask called ¨pico¨(edge) that is preserved and located on one end of the lined-up solera casks, and poured with the usual Venencia, this one made of bamboo.

Next stop took us to the following bodega in town, another institution. Its young and passionate Owner/General Manager patiently waited for us to arrive, showed us the bodega and its secrets, amongst which there was some solera casks from the family and other well-aged Amontillado and Oloroso wines that we happily tasted as we passed by very old casks in the darkest parts of the bodega, which called the attention of my companion today. Then, he drove us to the outskirts of Jerez De La Frontera, where their vineyards grow around an old warehouse with more casks and a great view of the countryside and even the sea in the distance.

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After such a good start, we headed to one of the main private factories for cask-making. A tour with the manager showed us the production, maintenance, piling and repairing of the cask leaks. A noisy place but worth the visit to understand where and how it all starts and develops.

Back to Jerez De La Frontera, our route didn´t take us to a big winery, but to a very small privately-owned one, secluded behind a small door by a church in the center of the city. Here, they have a few very old casks with Oloroso wine that ages for more than 60 years. And right next, we were invited to visit a private home, where owner walked us through the large long hall of the old house into the backyard, where he keeps about 15 family-owned old solera casks with another amazing Oloroso. These cask will not be re-filled by the soleras and criaderas method, so when they´re finished, they´re finished. So we felt lucky enough to taste a wine that is part of family generations.

Time for lunch: this is a serious thing, therefore the chosen place was one of the landmarks of sherry wine and good local gastronomy in Sanlúcar de Barrameda: Taberna der Guerrita. A place where time flows easily, and you can feel the essence of this part of the world. Special and rare sherry wines were brought to table, excellent tapas and hot dishes, and we all toasted for the great day. This bar offers amazing private tasting sessions as well as an impressive sherry wine shop with more than 200 references.

 

 

After lunch, we drove back home with the feeling of having crossed the secret doors of the cathedrals of sherry, met people that otherwise would be difficult to meet on their own, and tasted wines that are not exposed easily.

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This was a glimpse of a fabulous private daytrip to Jerez with an expert on sherry casks. For more information on how to experience this private tailor-made tour, and learn about the secrets of sherry in the company of experts, please contact us directly.

 

 

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The adventure of Tuna Fish

 

 

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Every year, around the month of March, the tunas commence an amazing journey that takes them from the cold waters of the North Atlantic all the way into the Mediterranean sea.

On their way, they all have to pass through Cadiz coastline and the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean, and this is where all the action happens. Cádiz, one of the most beautiful provinces in Spain, and part of the 8 provinces in Andalusia, has excellent beaches and lovely small coastal villages. Four of them are Barbate, Conil, Zahara de los Atunes, and Tarifa, and the Almadraba tuna fishing method is used here. This is an ancient technique with hundreds of years (Romans already used it, and it comes from the Phoenicians times). The word ¨Almadraba¨ has Arabic roots and means ¨place of killing¨. However, The Almadraba is not aggressive and is respectful of both the species and the environment.

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As the fish reach and pass the shores of these 4 villages, fishermen await on their boats by the bay with their huge nets, building a circle between all boats where tunas are selected, caught, killed and pulled in to the boats. Men also jump into the nets and help catching tunas that can be up to 600kg. Only the strongest tunas are caught, whereas the others are returned to continue the journey and help to carry on the future generation.

Watching how the fishermen catch the tuna is quite impressive, and just for a selected few, due to restrictions. The spectacle is impressive, though.

The month of May is considered the best for this, since the tunas have enough fat. And a good amount of all the fishing goes to the demanded and selective Japanese market.

Most towns hold annual tuna festivals throughout May and June, and they´re all worth visiting. Bars and restaurants prepare gourmet delicacies around tuna fish, and the best chefs of the area offer selective red tuna options in all their menus.

It is also quite interesting to learn about the ¨Ronqueo¨, the method through which the Almadraba tuna is skinned and filleted by hand, in a way that nothing is wasted. Many restaurants have experts coming to do live ¨ronqueos¨ during this season. The word ronqueo comes from ¨roncar¨, which means ¨to snore¨ in Spanish. The reason is easy: when experts are cutting the tuna, they use special knives that make a peculiar sound when touching the spine and bones of the fish with the knife as they cut it, and it resembles the sound of ¨snoring¨.

For those wanting to learn more or experience the season of the tuna fish, we can help with private access to fishing boats to see the catching live (very restricted), as well as bespoke itineraries to the finest bars and restaurants along the coast to enjoy the best recipes. Or meet and greet with local chefs and experts, see a ronqueo, or do the local ¨ruta del atún¨ (gourmet tuna routes) with a foodie expert, over the different villages celebrating it in May and June.

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