Winetourism in Jerez
Jerez, sherry tours, and wine country
Jerez de la Frontera and the "Marco de Jerez" or sherry wine region offers not only fantastic wines and wineries, but also a lot of interesting villages, towns, and gastronomy to enjoy.
Brief history of sherry
Any wine lover gets surprised when they learn that it was only in 1996 that the European Union granted the “Sherry” name the necessary protection as a quality-wine name. There have been so many wines all around the world that called their own wines “sherry” that the DO had to come up with a long name to differentiate itself. A very long name indeed! Jerez/ Xerés / Sherry y Manzanilla de SanLúcar.
Sherry wines have enjoyed lots of glory through history. They first were taken to England in 1340 but they really became on fashion when of Francis Drake captains, Martin Frobisher, set on fire the harbour of Cadiz and left with 3,000 barrels of sherry. This created a market for sherry in London and a taste was developed that lasted a long time!
The XIX century was the golden time for sherry wines. 2 things contributed to its expansion and success: sherry wines traveled well and they had great stability due to the way in which they were produced. The name sherry became a generic term used to describe quality wine. To provide a very clear example, a wine merchant described Yquen as a “finest sherry”.
During the XIX century, most sherries were amontillado in its style. This means as sherry aficionados know, fully cask-conditioned. Transportation those days to the North of Europe did not recommend the export of manzanilla style wines.
The last decades of the 20th century brought a very different reality to the sherry market. Jerez and the “Marco de Jerez” found itself in a deep crisis. The market had been overloaded with low-quality versions of sherry wine. The taste of the consumer changed and bodegas had become complacent after so many centuries of easy selling. A crisis was inevitable and many bodegas were forced to shut down or merge.
Today we can speak of a renaissance in sherry wine country. Quality is present everywhere now. Bodegas have come back to the basic style in a glorious way, while in some cases they have embarked themselves into the production of new amazing wines: olorosos or solera sweet wines. Quality is excellent and no wine in the world can compare in terms of value for money with these fascinating wines. The best way to discover this reality is by joining a sherry wine tour in Jerez de la Frontera.
Sherry wine country
The sherry wine country is also known as the golden triangle. This triangle is located in Andalusia, southern Spain, in the province of Cadiz. The triangle is made up by these three towns: San Lucar de Barrameda, Jerez de la Frontera, and El Puerto de Santa María. When the first controls were set up on sherry production, it was indicated that sherry wines could only be shipped from one of these three towns. This rule is still in place today.
Chalk is the main component of the terroir in the sherry country, though in reality there are two other types of soils besides chalk; sand and clay (the three of them are locally referred to as: albarizas, arenas and barros). Vines used to be planted in all three types of soils, though today they are only present in the albarizas or chalky soils. This white chalk is one of the secrets to the quality of sherry wines. The chalk acts as a sponge and when it rains it keeps the water underneath and this prevents the massive evaporation that otherwise would happen when the hottest months of the year arrive. Anyone visiting the area will find that vines planted on white soils that seem to have a very solid crust. This crust is the outcome of the action of the sun on the chalk´s surface. The surface stays hard, and the water can stay underneath the surface.