Xeres. Sherish. Jerez de la Frontera. The small Andalusian city has gone by all these names, a legacy of its importance as a wine supplier in Roman time times, its status as a favorite of the English after the pillaging and subsequent exportation by Sir Francis Drake ("la pirata Dra-keh") and the city's position in the battle against the Moors. The city's chief export and claim to fame, Sherry, is the reason why I have been once again gallavanting around Spain. A full disclaimer: my trip was paid for by Extenda and the Junta de Andalucia, regional Spanish promotional boards that invest in Andalusian commerce. With thirty-five participants representing eight different countries, it is indeed a substantial investment in the region's wine industry. The trip was planned to coincide with Vinoble, a bi-annual trade show celebrating Sherry as well as other fortified and sweet wines all over the world. I'm happy to report that the trip so far has not only been great fun (hombre claro, que estamos en Jerez!), but enlightening in other ways as well.
Three main lessons thus far: 1) Sherry is alive and well in Spain; sales are up in double digits each of the past few years, and young people in particular are driving this trend; 2) Sherry bodegas are re-energized of late, diversifying their offerings of specialty products like white wine aged under flor and allowed to develop in cask without fortification, "en rama" fino and manzanilla, as well as older (and pricier) VOS and VORS wines. Even locally made vermouth (typically with a base of Oloroso bolstered by a splash of sweet PX) is enjoying a significant comeback; 3) While you need not visit Jerez to appreciate its wines it certainly gives you an incredibly historical, authentic, and life-changing perspective on these wines. Maybe I should organize annual trips to Jerez—who's in??
I will return to the actual meat and potatoes, the carne guisada y patatas if you will, which of course is the wine tasting, in the next post.