A long time back, when household refrigerators were not a thing, beer just wasn’t as enticing. In fact, it was not as widely spread as it is now. In those times Spain and Europe were bathing in the robust jerez – the sherry wines unique to a particular corner in the Southern Spain called the “Sherry Triangle”.
The Sherry Triangle
I had been long wanting to go and explore the so called sherry triangle: the area between the towns of Sanlucar de Barrameda, Puerto de Santa Maria and Jerez de la Frontera.
I was always intrigued by the jerez story, and wanted to learn first hand, why this fortified wine was only possible to make in this area…
To much of my joy, my sister, who was visiting me in Valencia, agreed to take a road trip to the sherry triangle with me. So we headed to Andalusia.
After renting a car in my beloved Seville we set for Sanlucar de Barrameda – a small riverside town with a glorious history.
Sanlucar is a convenient starting point for a tour of the Doñana Park – the biggest eco system in the whole of Europe!
But first things first.
Sanlucar de Barrameda & The First Contact With Fino
Being inside of the sherry triangle calls for tasting of local wines. We could not leave Sanlucar de Barrameda without trying the local Manzanilla type of sherry – the local specialty. It’s the youngest and lightest (together with Fino) sherry wine, which goes amazingly well with seafood (and it’s my wine of choice now for when I have sushi).
Another of Sanlucar’s delights – the large local prawns langostinos de Sanlucar – was a logical choice at our late and relaxed tapas dinner, and we didn’t mind. We didn’t mind at all.
A comfortable and well needed bed in a hotel, with a beautiful tiled Andalusian-style patio, as one would expect, was calling us. The next morning we were taking a boat-&-4×4 tour of the National Park Doñana.
The meeting point to start the tour was by the mouth of Guadalquivir. Actually not far from the location from where Columbus set sail for the Americas on one of his voyages.
National Park Doñana
A small barge picked us up and took us deep into the park. We were greeted by some of the local inhabitants – water birds, small and big.
My sister and I did not have high expectations for the park, to be honest. But I must say, the landscapes we saw really blew us away.
The first part of the tour was by boat. Then we disembarked inside of the park, where a big 4×4 vehicle was waiting for us with a guide.
Sherry Tasting At An Old Winery In Puerto de Santa Maria
This once lively port town (also the departing point for one of Columbus’s voyages to America) today is a very quiet destination. So quiet, that we hardly saw any locals during the 4 hours that we spent there.
I had pre-booked a tour of the sherry wine cellar Bodega Gutierrez y Colosía. Established in 1836 this bodega is still making sherries the old way, in contrast to so many modernized production centers.
A charming French by the name of Bertrand took us along rows of worn-out wooden casks on a tour of the building.
And now forgive me for getting a little technical, but if you want to know what sherry is, keep on reading.
The wine aging system pictured above is called solera – the casks are stacked on top of each other in 3 layers. Such casks arrangement allows to easily transfer the wine from the top to the bottom at specific stages of the aging process.
Bertrand explained, that the bacterial composition of the air in the area favors a unique yeast culture formation in the grape juice (palomino fino grape varietal) inside of the casks. The layer of this yeast (called velo de flor) prevents the contact of the must with the air in the first months of wine making.
The sherry wines can be of varying strength and sweetness, depending on the amount of added alcohol and the grape varietal used in the process. From the lightest dry sherries – fino and manzanilla, to the more stiff amontillado and oloroso. From the elusive palo cortado to semi-sweet mixture of cream sherry, to the sweetest of them all – Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel.
According to our guide Bertrand, at the beginning of last century there were about 80 sherry producing wineries in the vicinity of Puerto de Santa Maria. It was a booming business. Unfortunately, now there are only 4 left.
The sherry tasting at the end of the tour was very interesting. Being able to taste them all, from the light to the sweetest ones, really did the trick. I would highly recommend going on a tour at this winery, where the sherry is still made in the old manner, with love.
After a walk in the post-apocalyptic town, we sat down for a lunch of almadraba tuna and bull tail’s croquettes with another glass of fino.
Being in the sherry triangle you cannot but try almadraba tuna.Almadraba is the most ancient fishing method (which literally means “slaughter” in Arabic), that was almost lost, but revived thanks to the Japanese and the rise of sushi popularity in the world. One day I hope to make it on one of the fishermen’s boats in Cadiz and watch the whole process.
Our Last Sherry Triangle’s Stop – Jerez de la Frontera
If you find yourself in Jerez de la Frontera, do not miss out on the Royal Equestrian Art Academy. This is one of the best schools in the world, and even if you aren’t really into horses, you might just get fascinated there. This is where the unique training method by voice and body movement was born and spread to the rest of the world!
Have you been to the sherry triangle? I would love to know about your experience!