Tio Pepe, Jerez, Spain

Sherry, A life changing experience

In Drink, En-Route, Europe, Our Journeys, Sense, Spain, Trip-Types, World Travel by GaryLeave a Comment

Well for us anyway

So sherry has a reputation, and not a good one. I think in the UK there is a collective memory of a bottle dusted off at Christmas for our Grandma’s. If you sneaked a sip it was at your own peril; this sweet, musty liquid wasn’t going to get you hooked.

Tio Pepe, Jerez, Spain

So what changed?

It’s fair to say when we planned the Spanish Road Trip it was one of the inspirations to get a better understanding of the drink. After all, respected chefs lamented about this maligned nectar, and explained the broad range created in the Bodegas in the Sherry region of Jerez de la Frontera.

So at our first real stop in Toledo we set about ordering this fine tipple to start the learning process. After a tricky conversation at the bar; it turns out you can’t just order a sherry, you need to be more specific – more on that later. We received our glasses of straw coloured sherry. The condensation formed on the outside of the glass as it was still warm on that late September evening, and the fino was decidedly chilled. How was this related to that Christmas drink enjoyed by Grandmothers around the UK?

Roll forward to Granada. After an evening out, ending with an ice-cream from a delectable looking shop on Calle Gran Vía de Colón, we retire to our hotel, the AC Palacio De Santa Paula. Time for one last night cap – after the sweet ice-cream it had to be a Pedro Ximénez, the dark, almost syrup like drink sometimes referred to as Christmas in a glass. After a challenging session at the bar, my Spanish failing me again. No matter how many times I said “Pedro Ximénez”, I had to revert to pointing to the bottle, smiling before ending with a “dos vasos, por favor”.

Wow, this was intense, and sweet, but again unlike that Christmas tipple keeping Granny smiling throughout the festivities.

So despite our best efforts to discover sherry while in Spain, we needed help.

And who better than Tio Pepe

We made the decision to embark on a Sherry tour, and where better than the Bodegas Tio Pepe. It is straight forward to select a tour in your language, or one you can communicate in.

The only choice you really have to make is with or without Tapas, and how many glasses of Sherry you want to try at the end of the tour.

The Tio Pepe branding, Gonzalez Byass, Jerez, Spain

You are ushered from the reception area to the bodegas where the scent hits you, and it is fantastic.

Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass Barrels, Jerez, Spain

After a small video presentation you are taken through the process of the creation of the Sherries. The story tells of the blending of grapes from the ‘Sherry Triangle’ centred around Jerez, using the Solera process.

The sherry triangle, Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass, Jerez, Spain

This means blending fermentation from different years to create a consistent taste per style. And talking of style there are many.

From the pale finos, through the amontillados, onto oloroso, before heading to dessert territory of pedro ximénez – but that’s only a brief stroll through the list.

The selection in the distillery, Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass, Jerez, Spain
The distillery, Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass, Jerez, Spain

The tour, at times including a Dotto Train ride, (Whoa- nobody mentions a ride), takes you through the winery, past a small selection of vineyards, through the distillation section.

Vine covered lane in the Tio Pepe Bodegas tour at the Gonzalez Byass site, Jerez, Spain

You also get to see the barrels dedicated to the stars, VIPs & people of note. This list is long and distinguished.

The tour, and the Spanish Royal families barrels, Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass, Jerez, Spain
Winston Churchill's barrel, Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass, Jerez, Spain
Steven Spielberg's barrel, Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass, Jerez, Spain
Roger Moore's barrel, Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass, Jerez, Spain
The barrels dedicated to members of the British Royal Family, Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass, Jerez, Spain

Finally it’s onto tasting

It’s eye opening. Sherry is now a firm favourite. However why is this clean, sophisticated drink so different from Grandma’s favourite? It’s simple, Sherry is still a wine despite being fortified, and it needs to be consumed immediately (or remove the oxygen!), rather than being dragged out year after year. Oh and chill it – not straight out of the fridge but for the finos around 7-10°C (45-50°F), Oloroso around 12-14°C (54-58°F)

You leave the Bodega, via the shop 🙂 ,tempted, but more sampling is required.

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