I’ve been daydreaming about going back to Jerez de la Frontera this year. I’ve never traveled completely on my own, but I’ve always envied women who have. As I research and plan out my way around the Sherry Triangle, I can’t stop thinking about my first, but certainly not my last, bodega tour.
It was a Saturday in May 2013. I was visiting Jerez for the first time on a flamenco tour. It was our day off, so we scheduled a tour with Bodegas Tradicíon. Our group filed into the beautiful old building. I had never seen anything like it before. The walls were covered in mildew and had a unique sour smell. The high ceilinged room was filled with black barrels stacked on each other.
Whether I didn’t hear clearly or perhaps it was information/sensory overload, I really couldn’t comprehend it all. I remember something about humidity mentioned, and a demonstration about adding to and sampling the wine. I was distracted by wanting to capture it all with my camera, even though it took terrible pictures in low lighting. At one point I got separated from my friends and nearly joined the wrong tour group. (I knew to move along when I noticed all the white hair and accents)
I found my friends in the tasting room. I expected sherry would pair well with chorizo, iberico ham and almonds, but who knew Fino is amazing with potato chips?! In contrast to my first introduction to sherry, this tasting was slow, deliberate and educational. But again, I failed to retain what each sherry was, or how it was developed or why it progressively got sweeter. I was so intrigued by the bottles they had on display that were centuries old. Overall, the experience left its seeds to learn more.
A special highlight at Bodegas Tradicíon is their art gallery. I had studied Spanish artists in college while on exchange in Sevilla. I was amazed to see in person the paintings I’ve only read about in books. I loved being so close to paintings by Picasso, Velázquez and El Greco; I could see each individual brush stroke.
At the end, we went into the office and saw great old pictures framed from the history of the bodega and traditional harvest time. Throughout my ten days in Jerez, I slowly began to have a glass of Fino or Palo Cortado at every meal. I was completely fascinated by the bodega and the traditional way to make sherry. I can’t wait to visit more bodegas both large and small to continue my hands-on learning!