Sherry nice indeed!

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 24 October 2018
Related property: Benavista
Sherry nice indeed!

Seville or Córdoba? Gibraltar or exotic Tangiers? The fact is, holidaymakers at Bena Vista are spoilt for choice when it comes to day trips. The site it is in a fantastic location from which to explore the whole of Andalusia. Bena Vista is almost exactly equidistant from the region’s eastern and western borders. Striking out north, or north-east, or north-west will give you a real flavour of rural southern Spain.

But for oenophiles, one destination surely takes precedence over the rest: Jerez de la Frontera, home to what must be the most famous fortified wines in the world; dry, sweet, dark brown or palely tanned, and collectively known as sherry.

Jerez is a fair few kilometres from Bena Vista (see below), but it’s an easy drive through beautiful, typically southern-Spanish countryside, passing the Straits of Gibraltar and wending through the mountainous ‘black bull’ region, where those fearsome bovines are bred and reared for the corridas. We all of us have an opinion on bull-fighting, and a trip through this area won’t change yours; but it might put it in some sort of geographical and cultural context.

Fourteen miles inland from the port of Cádiz, Jerez boasts many links to Great Britain. The production of the fortified wine predates our involvement by a millennium; but when Sir Francis Drake sacked Cádiz in 1587 in order to scupper a nascent armada, among the spoils he brought back with him were 2,900 barrels of sherry, hitherto earmarked for the Spanish warships (most of which were now languishing at the bottom of Cádiz harbour). Such was the drink’s immediate popularity in the United Kingdom that many entrepreneurial Brits subsequently set up their own bodegas, or overground cellars, either in partnership with the Spanish or by going it alone – after all, why settle for being a wine merchant when you can also control the means of production? To this day, you’ll find Harveys, founded in Bristol by merchant William Perry, Williams & Humbert, and others. Gonzalez Byass, which started as a partnership between Manuel Maria Gonzalez Angel and his British agent Robert Blake Byass, remains the largest winery in the city. Through its wrought iron gates, an enormous statue of the famous Tio Pepe trademark – a bottle, sporting a red hat and jacket, and a guitar – casts a friendly eye over visitors.

The Tio Pepe logo

Like Madeira, sherry’s popularity has seesawed over the centuries – and indeed, the heavier, darker, sweeter varieties are still in the doldrums, perceived as the tipple of choice for ageing maiden aunts at Christmas time. But fino sherry is having a moment: served chilled or over ice, it’s good on its own or as an accompaniment to tapas dishes.

Wine tourism is Jerez’s main attraction, but the city has plenty more to offer such as the 11th-Century Alcazar fortress, the oldest building in the city and a relic of Spain’s long period under Moorish occupation. Like the mighty Alhambra in Granada, Almería’s Alcazabar, and others dotted around the Iberian peninsula, the Alcazar is an apotheosis of sophistication and style, with private gardens, palm trees, imposing battlements and carefully preserved baths and olive mills.

Meanwhile Jerez’s ‘casco antiguo’, or old town, offers palm-tree lined squares, perfect for basking in the sun or enjoying the shade. A glass of fino in hand, naturally.

To get from Bena Vista to Jerez, take the Autovía del Mediterráneo to E-15/A-7/AP-7. Take the exit for E-15/A-7 from Autovía del Mediterráneo/A-7. After about 12kms, merge onto E-15/A-7/AP-7 towards Guadiaro, Algeciras and Cádiz. Then follow the AP-7, A-7 and A-381 to Ctra. Jerez Algeciras. The total journey is about 150kms, and will take just over 1½ hours.

Jonathan Broom

Jonathan Broom

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