Jerez de la Frontera in western Andalucia is the birthplace of sherry. So when I visited, I figured it was high-time I learned more about the fortified wine. To help me, I visited Bodegas Tradición, one of the sherry houses in Jerez for a tour and tasting session.
Bodegas Tradición: a boutique sherry experience
Relatively new on the scene, Bodegas Tradición is dedicated to making aged sherries using traditional methods. Indeed, all their sherries have been giving a VOS or VORS designation. The former meaning the sherry has been aged at least 20 years and the latter meaning the sherry is rare and has been aged at least 30 years.
They have guided tours everyday, available in a number of languages including English. And in addition to a tour of the cellars and explanation of the sherry-making process, the tour (as detailed on their website) includes four sherry tastings and a brandy tasting:
- Oloroso (VORS)
- Amontillado (VORS)
- Pedro Ximénez (VOS)
- Cream (VOS)
- Gran Reserve Brandy Gold
The tasting also includes snacks such as nuts, olives and crisps. And on the tour I went on, we got to try two of their brandys. One of the things that appealed to me about Bodegas Tradición’s tour is that it includes a look at the art collection of Joaquin Rivero, one of the founders of the sherry house. The tour is on the pricier end of the sherry tours available in Jerez at €20 per person (you can find others between €8 and €15). However, it’s only when you consider the details of the tours available that you realise the Bodegas Tradición tour is actually pretty good value for money. Here, you’ll get to try four premium sherries and a premium brandy. Plus it includes tapas. At others, you might only get to taste two standard sherries and have to pay extra for more tastings.
You can find a guide to the various sherry tours available in Jerez on our blog.
First, some art
We kicked off the tour at the gallery space reserved for the art collection. And it’s certainly an impressive collection of art by Spanish artists. The roll call of featured artists include Goya and Velazquez. Pieces are curated chronologically and date from the 14th century. What adds to this experience is that our guide seemed as knowledgeable about the art as she was about the sherry. She pointed out various quirks (like one painter’s custom of always painting the hands in a certain way) and added context, which made the art more interesting.
There’s a little more art to enjoy after the tour of the cellars. In the sherry tasting room, look out for the group of four painted tile pictures done by an 8 year old Picasso.
Above is a historical scene by Francisco Pradilla Ortiz. It portrays the surrender of the last moorish stronghold in Granada.
The sweet smell of the cellars
After some art, you’re led to the cellars. The first thing I noticed was the smell. Despite the cool and damp climate, I loved the smell of the cellars. It smelt slightly sweet and of smoked oak wood. Really lovely! Our guide talked us through the process of ageing and she talked passionately about the role of the sherry master whose job it is to blend the wines. She also took us through the traditional methods used, which was interesting and certainly makes you appreciate the love and care put into their brand of sherries.
The guide did also talk us through the variety of grapes used to make sherry. And she explained that the region’s sunny location by the sea is what makes the grapes so special and perfect for sherry. This also helps explain why the cellars for turning the wine into sherry are in towns away from the vineyards… Whilst the grapes prefer a sunny and dry climate, the ageing process requires cooler, damper conditions.
As an aside, the fact that the cellars are cool is also incredibly welcome on a hot day. Seriously, go visit a bodega just for it’s lovely coolness!
My visit was a few years ago now so the tastings on offer were a little different to the ones listed above. I tasted four sherries: a fino, amontillado and oloroso of the VORS denomination (at least 30 years old) and a Pedro Ximenez VOS sherry (at least 20 years old). We also got to try two of their brandys: a Gran Reserva Gold and a Platinum. I loved sipping on all of them in this environment and you definitely felt like you’re getting something special here. For a glass of one of these sherries anywhere else, you can expect to pay around €6 or €7.
If you’re not a sherry aficionado, you can also enjoy sherries from around €1 at various bars (and tabancos) around town.
My favourite was the amontillado. In my humble opinion, it was dry, smooth and highly quaffable! I thought I wouldn’t take to the Pedro Ximenez as I’m not a big fan of sweet wines but I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy it with some manchego cheese after dinner…
It amazed me just how much thicker and darker it was compared to the fino. And amazing that they’re both sherries! Whilst in Britain, it’s the sweeter variety that’s largely drunk, the Spanish prefer the fino.
As for the brandies, the platinum certainly had a kick to it. Brandy isn’t a tipple of choice for me but I enjoyed trying them. I guess that’s what a tasting is all about!
Visiting Bodegas Tradición
Bodegas Tradición is a short walk from the grand Cathedral of San Salvador and is very close to Plaza del Mercado and the Archaeological Museum, just off Calle Cordobeses. As you walk up Calle Cordobeses from Plaza del Mercado, you’ll see a sign on your left directing you to Bodegas Tradición. There is also car parking available at the bodega if you’re planning to drive your here.
Calle Cordobeses, 3
11408 Jerez de la Frontera
Reservations Tel: + 34 956 16 86 28
E-mail/Website: email@example.com | www.bodegastradicion.es
Tours are available in Spanish, English, German, French and Italian. You need to book tours in advance.
And here’s our guide to the various sherry tours in Jerez