Have you ever gone to a place where you feel like at home? I have, and in my case this is the province of Cádiz.
The mere thought of its landscapes, festivals, wines, food brings memories rushing back… Images of friends, a glass of sherry, a fresh-caught tuna, a quiet sunset… the aromas of the orange blossom, sherry butts and fried fish… the sounds of an informal flamenco party in a tiny bar, the wind of El Puerto, horses galloping…
One of the crown jewels of the D.O. Jerez-Xérès-Sherry is the city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Renowned by its trade with the Americas between the 15th and 17th centuries, Sanlúcar is a lively city where you can stay several days without fear of getting bored (or thirsty). I use to go there every year to learn something new. Arriving by car or bus you are greeted by banners advertising traditional sherry brands like La Guita, La Gitana, San León, La Goya or Solear. The very stones of the city speak to its long history and the sky is the witness. Once you manage to park your car, your mandatory first stop should be to sit in a terrace and ask for some prawns, “ortiguillas” (snackelocks anemone, a local delicacy) and a half bottle of sherry.
Sitting at the mouth of Guadalquivir River and facing the Natural Park of Doñana, Sanlúcar has a special climate that gives its wines a particular finesse. In fact, “manzanilla” refers to a fino made exclusivily in Sanlúcar. Its name comes from the aroma that these finos share, slightly different of the ones produced in Jerez or Puerto de Santa María. But Sanlúcar produces much more than just manzanilla. Here you can find full range of sherry and you can enjoy treasures such as Quo Vadis, a wonderful amontillado.
I love just strolling in the downtown, but there is a place I return to on every visit, “Taberna der Guerrita”. This is a local bar, owned by local people, serving local tapas and wines. Very few of the costumers are tourists, despite the obvious charms of the Taberna -its walls lined with old photos, bottles of sherry and poster from a bygone time-. Few people realize that behind the bar there is a “Sacristía”, a corner store run by Armando Guerra, a passionate man devoted to promoting of sherry. One only need glance at the fully stocked shelves to realize that this small space houses an impressive collection of sherry. Perhaps, the best selection I have seen anywhere. Armando organizes regular wine tastings inviting great professionals to lead them. It is a pity Sanlúcar is so far away from Barcelona. If were not, it would be my natural destination. The last time I visited, Armando gave me a book, edited in New York last year, that I recommend to every English speaking person interested in these wines: Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla by Peter Liem and Jesús Barquín.
It was a true pleasure to stroll the streets of Sanlúcar with the book in my pocket and some sherry and sparkling water in my stomach. With such amazing wines right at hand you have to remind yourself to keep drinking water throughout the day if you don’t want to end up paying the piper!