With the house project underway and a busy time at work, I think I picked quite possibly the worst week for a holiday, but when the name of the destination in question literally translates as ‘sherry’, nothing was going to stop me from getting on a plane to Jerez last week!
Stand aside all other tapas hotspots, this place really knows its stuff when it comes to food and, as Jerez is relatively unknown compared to neighbouring Malaga and Seville, you can enjoy a selection of amazing dishes sitting out under the stars without being within earshot of a family of burnt, rowdy Brits. On top of that, you’ll be hard pushed to spend more than 15 Euros per head in an evening spent hopping from one tapas bar to the next, imbibing along the way – which brings me to my next topic, sherry.
I honestly can’t get enough of the stuff – give me a chilled glass of savoury Fino made from the Palomino grape to sip alongside a plate of salty Iberico ham, or a syrupy Pedro Ximénez matched to an indulgent chocolate dessert – either way, I’ll be your friend for life. That said, it was no surprise to my nearest and dearest when I announced Jerez as my next holiday destination.
One third of the famous sherry triangle (completed by Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María) and home to tens of bodegas, here are my two top places to visit to sample the local speciality of Jerez.
Bodegas Gonzalez Byass
One of the biggest sherry houses in Jerez and home to the world’s best-selling Fino – Tio Pepe (named after the founder’s ‘Uncle Joe’) – this bodega is full of character despite its large size. With regular tours around the incredible cellars and a tasting thrown in at the end, this is the ideal place to learn about how this infamous white wine is produced. Bone dry and best served cold, Fino sherry is fantastic with all manner of nibbles from chorizo to salted almonds. Wander through the streets of Jerez and you’ll lose count of the number of locals sipping on Fino with their dinner. For a Spanish experience in London (weather permitting), enjoy a glass at Iberica alongside some tasty tapas. Or pick up a bottle of Tio Pepe from your local supermarket.
Not only is Jerez famous for its Fino but it is also well known for producing mouth-wateringly intense aged sherries (and brandies) – from nutty Oloroso to rare Palo Cortado – which this house specialises in. Tucked away down a side street, you may be the only person shown around by the lovely Sabrina (who will also tell you where all the best tapas bars are) as you sample the exquisite sherries while viewing the family’s private art collection which includes works by Velásquez and Goya. Sherries from here will set you back a fair bit but if you’re tempted, they are currently stocked in Fortnum & Mason.
If I haven’t yet convinced you to visit this beautiful town in the South of Spain (did I mention it was 36°c all week?), check this little lot out…