When I thought about Jerez de la Frontera, motorbike races, horsemanship and Fino wines came to my mind.
But it is much more than that. We arrived from Sevilla to Jerez in the afternoon. We had booked a room in front of the Cathedral de San Salvador de Jerez, so we did not expect to reach the hotel door by car. But it was like that. There did not seem to be an avalanche of tourism despite the fact that the city is immediately pleasant and boasts an impressive heritage, as well as a truly authentic lifestyle, with a lot of character and local flavour.
Taking a look at the accommodation possibilities, the Jeys Catedral de Jérez promised unbeatable views of the temple and the photos on the booking portals were very encouraging, so we decided on this one. We have no regrets despite the fact that the building, regal and imposing on the outside, has many opportunities for improvement in terms of maintenance on the inner part. However, the possibility of spending the night in a historic building overlooking the Cathedral de San Salvador de Jerez makes up for any shortfall. The room was spacious and we wanted to rest a few minutes and take a shower. Upon entering the bathroom, we discovered that it was possible to observe the cathedral through the bathroom window in the meantime.
No need to say, that this was awesome. You opened the window, while the nice summer breeze was coming inside, having a shower, while you could admire the view of the Cathedral, that by the way was built in the 17th century, and represents a mix of Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical style. Since it was still daylight, we didn’t know yet, that this view could be even better, since during the night the Cathedral is completely illuminated.
We went out afterwards for a walk showing our best smile. The centre is not very big but it has plenty of character and heritage. You can see the walls of the old fortress, and inside, remains of the mosque and the Arab baths, nearby you can find the fantastic Plaza de la Asunción, where the Mudejar church of San Dionisio is located and the church of San Miguel, on one of the most popular corners of the city, the gypsy neighbourhood of San Miguel. And, of course, the Jerez Cathedral, a monumental baroque church whose adjacent bell tower to the main building was constructed on an old Arab minaret.
After taking a stroll we sat down in a terrace at the vivid Calle Larga to drink a sherry. While explaining to Anna the virtues of such wines of eminently local origin, but with a marked English impulse, as if they were trying to look there for the white versions of fortified wines that they did not obtain by the imports from Porto, a professionally dressed waiter appeared. He was one of those old-school bartenders who know his job. “Fino, Amontillado or Oloroso,” he asked, and seeing my puzzled face at my ignorance, he walked away to come back soon with a sample to taste the three types. We chose Oloroso and Amontillado because they are the most difficult to get outside of Jerez. The waiter smiled again and advised me to order some cheese to match with the wine.
Sherry wine overall is not my favourite, I need to confess this, but there, at the very moment, the combination of the lively street, summer late afternoon, local people, authentic Jerez sherry, and amazing cheese was kind of perfect.
Sherry wine in any of its versions is strong, vigorous, like if it wanted to imprint the city’s character as its main product. Sherry wines have been produced since ancient times and withstood the most orthodox moments of Arab rule. Back then, wines were a select product that Muslim elites allowed themselves to consume in relaxed periods and even in moments of religious extremism, Jerez local producers argued that grapes were used to make raisins that fed Muslim armies in holy wars to keep their productions. From at least the 12th century, Jerez wines were already exported to England to the point that Henry I offered an exchange trade between Jerez wine and British wool. But it was at the time of the Spanish Catholic Monarchs when Jerez began its great boom thanks to its wines trade that had been promoted by English people.
We walked a little more, we ate some garlic prawns and patatas bravas with Fino wine for dinner and we prepared ourselves for the last drink before getting back to the hotel. Going out to drink wine in Jerez means going to Tabancos, which are the typical Jerez taverns. They have their origin in the traditional Jerez wine warehouses or bodegas, where draft wine from the same barrels that decorate the place is served still currently now.
These Tabancos have their origin in the 17th century, and above all they are meeting places to drink, eat and sing flamenco. I did not count on being able to let Anna watch a real Flamenco show. I mean live and real, improvised, far from the idea of a show for tourists. But near the hotel there was a cute place, Mesón Rociero Fragua 4 and there inside a group of locals with guitars huddled sitting in wicker chairs. They agreed on which song to play next and how to sing it before starting, they had not a single person as an audience beyond the waiter who served us the wines. Soon, another local man entered and asked if he could join the group to sing and they enthusiastically admitted him while we drained the small glasses with Jerez wine. We had already decided that the next day we would visit one of the most famous wineries in Spain.
Well, this Mesón! Just imagine a place, just on the opposite side of the Cathedral, with a terrace that has the best view on the front of the temple, that was already illuminated and was kept brightening in full lights, nice warm summer evening, no crowd, an empty terrace just for us, and local people singing Flamenco songs for themselves. Not for tourists, not for others’ fun, only for their own pleasure, with full of heart, lot of emotions. It was a beautiful experience.
The next day we woke up for the amazing news from my family, that my nephew was born ❤️.
We couldn’t be happier and more excited and in this lovely mood, we decided to get out for some nice breakfast. We went back to the centre direction and on a lovely terrace we ordered out of the local breakfast menus. This is something that you shouldn’t miss out, the breakfast menus here are simple but delicious, for a reasonable price you can get tostadas (toasts) with your desired topping, tomato (pan con tomate), manchego cheese, jamón, amazing quality Andalusian olive oil, etc. accompanied with freshly squeezed local orange juice and coffee by your choice. This was the moment, when we have also decided that we would not book breakfasts anymore for our accommodations. Simply this local breakfast menu was unbeatable by a hotel continental standard offer. So, for the rest of our trip for none of the accommodations further we reserved breakfast, we went to explore better and better breakfast places all around, and it was a very fine decision.
After the breakfast we went to visit Tio Pepe! ☺️ Well, if by any chance you never heard of it, Tio Pepe (which means in Spanish, “Uncle Pepe” was named after one of the founders’ uncles) is a famous local sherry brand. It is best known for its Fino style of dry sherry made from the palomino grape. The Tio Pepe brand is owned by the González Byass Sherry house.
If you have ever visited Spain, especially Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, you most likely have seen the famous neon sign of Tio Pepe symbol. But also, might have been beyond Spain, since Tio Pepe is exporting wines to more than 115 countries around the world.
The bodegas of Tio Pepe are located right behind the Cathedral, so it was absolutely walking distance for us. We have checked upfront on their website the possible visits, and we just arrived by the opening hour. The bodegas of Tio Pepe are offering a beautiful scenery, imagine classic Andalusian courtyards, trellis-lined streets and incredible wine cellars over hundred years old, where the finest sherry wines and brandies are aged.
Jerez wine is always produced by a system called criaderas and soleras. In short, this system consists of getting older the wine in a three level battery of barrel rows filled with wines of different ages. The oldest wine is at the bottom row of barrels and the youngest at the top row. This bottom row is called Solera and contains the wine ready for consumption. In order to replace the wine that is taken out to sell, this Solera row must be filled from the second row. And same way the second by the third criadera. We call those second and third rows, primera and segunda Criadera. So in Jerez wines there is no a concrete age for the wine since all Jerez wines come from different years since they are mixed to reach the final product.
We have paid for two different types of visit, one with 4 wine tasting tickets and the other only with 2. The wine tasting tickets were accompanied by some better to forget snacks. But it was more than enough, especially for me not being a big fan of the sherry wines. I was rather more interested to visit the vineyard, the cellar and learn about the different processes how they are producing their wines and understand the history of this famous brand, and these parts of the visit were super interesting and really worth it.
It was very sunny and the Andalusian sky was clear and fully light blue. We caught our cinquecento and we open Google to look for the best route to Sevilla.