Every time I read, talk or write about sherries, I am seeing one consistent theme – that they are undervalued, underappreciated, and misunderstood. This is quite sad to me, especially after visiting the town of Jerez de la Frontera and seeing how tedious and time consuming the production process is, how significant the investments are, and how committed the industry remained.

I’ve visited a few bodegas, from small family owned business to big corporations. I enjoyed the learning, the tours, the conversations and last but not least, the tastings tremendously.

First visit was to the small Bodegas Faustino González within 10 minutes walking distance from downtown Jerez (highly recommended!!) Owner / winemaker Jaime was sincere, friendly, helpful and generous. We loved it so much we went back again!

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Jaime explained the solera system to us using chalk drawings on one of his barrels.

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For €25 per person, we got to sample all of Jaime’s sherries (see Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso). While they did not have any sherries labeled VOS (Vinum Optimum Signatum / Very Old Sherry – average age 20 years or older) or VORS (Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum / Very Old Rare Sherry – 30 years or older), Jaime told us that some of his sherries were much older. However, he did not obtain such a ‘label’ from the governing body Consejo Regulalor as to do so, he had to pay hefty taxes and duties.

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The tasting fees also included olives, Spanish jamon, prosciutto, salami, Manchego cheese and little biscuits. It was more than we could finish!

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Jaime was demonstrating extracting sherries right from the barrel using a special instrument called venencia. The shape of the slim cup and his fast action ensured that the lees formed on top of the sherry (called flor) were not disturbed. This is an art that takes practice.

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Under the camera, we captured sherries during different stages of life, from a few months old to a year (biological aging) to older ones on the right (oxidative aging). 3rd glass from the left – the flor was deliberately extracted along with the fino sherry so we could taste. This was loads of fun and informative.

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Our second stop was the relatively new Bodegas Tradicion (est. in 1998) where the owner bought casks of old sherries dated back to the 1700s – 1800s. Apart from the wines, visitors also get to tour a mini art gallery, where some of the paintings were as valuable (if not more) in comparison to the old sherries. See below tiles for Picasso’s childhood ‘graffiti’.

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Angel’s share – evaporated water & alcohol became mold sticking onto the bodegas walls. Interesting to see that a solera did not look like what they taught in class, where the bottom layer is solera, one on top is 1st criadera, then 2nd criadera, and so on. These criaderas were grouped in different sections; the 3rd criaderas were in fact quite far away from the 4th criaderas.

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Their sherries line-up for tasting. I especially enjoyed the two wines at the complete opposite of the spectrum, their fino, and the VOS PX.

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The world renounced, one of the best, if not the best – Bodegas González Byass! I was told that I can buy a cask of sherry the same year as my birth year. I can even host a party in the Bodegas’ event venue while I invite guests to the tasting ceremony. What I did not ask and probably should have was ~ how much :p

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When celebrities visit, they get to autograph on the casks. I think I may still get a chance to sign my own barrel, if I marry a royalty!

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A real cellar mouse! My guide told me that this glass of sweet sherry is a treat for the mouse, for real, and staffs pour a new glass everyday!

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Voted one of the most beautiful streets in the world – this picture was taken inside the bodegas. During spring/summertime, the grapevines leaves grown on top of the trellis will become a green ceiling providing lots of cool shades for this little path.

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Ginormous and avant garde tasting dome with lots of different tasting rooms.

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Getting ready for some serious tasting!

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Would you be surprised if I said I preferred the VORS collection on the left? Visitors can buy a gift-set with the 4 VORS wines in 375ml for less than €100!!!!!!

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