Jerez de la Frontera, in western Andalusia, is home to the world’s finest sherry producers – this is the only location on Earth where the drink can be made, from the white palomino grapes that thrive in the region’s loose, chalky soil. A guided tour of one of the city’s bodegas (literally ‘cellars’, but the Spanish word also also means ‘wineries’) is a great way to find out more. Here’s our pick of the best.
Lustau was founded in 1896 by José Berdejo, a local court clerk. When he wasn’t busy with his day job, Berdejo worked the vines on his land, slowly building a sucessful local sherry company. In the 1940s, he was joined by his son-in-law Emilio Lustau, who started a process of expansion that would continue for the next half-decade or so. Lustau is now one of the world’s finest sherry brands, easily recognisable by its black, smooth-shouldered bottles. Tours of the beautiful 19th century bodegas run several times a week, in English and Spanish.
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Gónzalez Byass’s journey began in 1835, when local entrepreneur Manuel González Angel started a sherry-making business under the tutelage of his uncle, José Ángel. Ángel was known locally as Uncle Joe – Tio Pepe – and gave his nickname to González Byass’ most famous fino (dry white sherry). Now run by the fifth generation of the González family (the Blakes, an English family who joined González in the 1840s, pulled out in 1988), the brand produces red, white and rosé wines as well as sherries. The bodegas are located opposite the Alcazar.
Tio Pepe takes its name from the local maestro whose nephew founded the Gonzalez Byass brand (which owns Tio Pepe). ‘Uncle Joe’ was a local legend in the 1830s and 1840s, when he could often be found experimenting with sherries and wines on the cathedral steps. Soak up this essential aspect of Jerezano history and culture by booking yourself on a tour of the magnificent 19th century bodegas: run three times a day in English, Spanish and German, they include tastings and tapas. Special tours include trips out to the vineyards.
Although only founded in 1998, Bodegas Tradición possesses impeccable Jerezano credentials: its founder, Joaquin Rivero, is a descendant of the owners of a local 17th-century sherry house. Rivero launched the company to revive his family tradition as well as traditional methods of manufacture; accordingly, all the wines here are bottled in their purest state, without any filtering. The stunning bodegas also house one of Spain’s most important private art collections, containing works by Zubarán, Goya and Velázquez. Tours of both can be booked here.
The Luis Pérez bodegas are relative newcomers to the Jerez winemaking scene, having launched in 2002 in a lovingly-restored mid-19th century building. Initially, this family-run business had the aim of trying to convince aficionados that “quality red wines could be made in Cádiz [province]”, but in 2013 they began to make sherry, too. The company is rapidly establishing its prowess, and earlier this year its still-young Oloroso Barajuela (a dark sherry) won Best Wine of The Year from El Mundo Vino magazine. Tours run Monday to Friday mornings.
Since their founding in 1765, the Dios Baco sherry bodegas have passed through the hands of several holding companies, eventually being purchased by the current owner in 1992. The principal building dates from 1848 and looks like a church from outside; indeed, the storage rooms of bodegas are called ‘cathedrals of wine’ in Spanish, as their high ceilings are crucial to the maturation process. Twice daily tours (in English and Spanish) are intimate, friendly affairs, often run by the owner’s daughter, and include the tasting of five sherries.
Fundador Pedro Domecq
Founded in 1730, this grand sherry and brandy producer is the oldest in Jerez. Located just a few streets down from Bodegas Tradición, Bodegas Fundador also boasts some of the most breathtaking structures in the city – especially the El Castillo cellar, which is attached to one of Jerez’s former defensive towers. Informative and engaging tours are run throughout the week – in English and Spanish – and acquaint visitors with the building’s rich history as well as with the centuries-old secrets of sherry production in this beautiful city.
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