Seana’s Sherry Book Report

booksI’m not a wine expert, but I enjoy learning from the experts. My husband really doesn’t like sherry, but is so proud of me and how I’ve grown to understand it beyond the glass. He says I’m Portland’s expert. I don’t always agree because there’s so much more to learn!

As I prepare to go back to Jerez this spring, I’ve been reading through my stack of sherry books (almost all Christmas presents from my husband this past year). I’m fortunate to have caught the sherry-revolution fire in a time where books are more readily available.

julianjeffsNot long ago, I received the latest edition of Julian Jeffs’ Sherry from a fellow sherry lover in Scotland. Until recent years, this was one of the few, if not the only book to really dive into the ins and outs of Sherry. I’m not sure I’ll finish it before April, but I’m excited to continue my sherry education!

When I realized my love for sherry was more than just sipping a glass here and there, I wasn’t sure what resources were available. I started with Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla by Peter Liem and JesĂşs BarquĂ­n.

sherrybibleThis is what I affectionately refer to as my Sherry Bible. It’s more like a textbook for understanding the industry from past to present. It was a slower read for me simply because I’d get lost in the details and would need to reread paragraphs a couple times. What I really appreciated about this book was the contact information for bodegas, as well as, information for traveling within the Sherry Triangle.

I recently finished Talia Baiocchi’s SHERRY: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-kept Secret with Cocktails and Recipes.

SHERRYThis is the book EVERYONE should read! It’s full of humor and specifics that make sherry relatable. The beautiful pictures are a great reference when a visual is necessary. They also serve as a reminder of what I miss most about Andalucia.

Before reading this book, I thought mixing sherry in cocktails was a disservice to the wine – like taking a really fine Bordeaux and turning it into sangria. What changed my mind was Talia’s explanation to save the top-shelf sherry for the wine glass, yet allow sherry to be accessible to those who would not drink it otherwise. I loved that she also included cocktail history, pointing out that the United States had been fans of sherry in the past. My hope is this book will encourage the masses become fans once again!

I’m not sure what truly defines one as being a sherry expert, but I highly recommend these books to get one started!


One more thing…

After writing my last post about my visit to Bodegas TradiciĂłn, I learned a bit more from Peter Liem in my “sherry bible” that I wanted to share for clarification:

TradiciĂłn, Calle Cordobeses, 3 ~ This bodega is dedicated solely to old sherry. It doesn’t produce a single Fino nor does it release anything under the average age of 20 years. Being a “boutique” bodega, only 12,000-15,000 bottles are released each year – each labeled and individually numbered by hand.

The private art collection contains over 300 works of Spanish artists including Velázquez, Goya and El Greco. The Picasso tiles pictured in my blog were painted by him when he was eight years old!

For more details about Bodegas TradiciĂłn, you really should pick up a copy of Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla: A Guide to the Traditional Wines of AndalucĂ­a by Peter Liem and JesĂşs BarquĂ­n.


My First Bodega Tour

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 TradicĂ­on. 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!


My Current Sherry Favorites


Today is my birthday. I have a bottle of my favorite Palo Cortado from Valdespino waiting to be opened. I’m still quite the novice when it comes to knowing all that’s available for consumption, but here is my current list of favorites:

Mazanilla: Valdespino Manzanilla Deliciosa, La Guita Mazanilla

Fino: Valdespino Fino Inocente (rare because it’s been aged for ten years.)

Amontillado: Lustau Los Arcos or Plaza Vieja; Grant La Garrocha

Palo Cortado: Valdespino Viejo CP; Fernando de Castilla Antique

Oloroso: Bodegas Tradicion VORS; Lustau Oloroso de Jerez Pata de Gallina

Cream: Valdespino Isabela; Lustau Deluxe Cream “Capataz Andres”

Moscatel: Cesar Florido Moscatel Pasas or Moscatel Especial

Pedro Ximenez: Fernando de Castilla Pedro Ximenez Antique

What’s your favorite? What do you recommend?