If you’re coming to Jerez de la Frontera, you’re probably coming for one main reason: visiting the bodegas. The bodegas here are quite different from what you might think of in NYC (as I have been explained by commentators on my Twitter posts). In fact, a bodega in Jerez de la Frontera is simply a place where they store barrels and barrels of wine as they turn it into delicious sherry!
Before I get to the list of the 5 bodegas you should visit in Jerez de la Frontera, let me explain a little bit about sherry wine and the history of manufacture in this region. To skip the history and jump straight to the list, click here.
Sherry actually gets its name from the city of Jerez. In fact, Jerez is quite a modern name. It used to be called Xérès and when the town was under Moorish rule it was known as Sherish. Therefore it can be said that Sherish bore the names Jerez and Sherry. But what makes sherry wine different from a regular bottle of boxed red you might get at your local market?
1. All sherry wine comes from white grapes. In fact, there are only three grapes used to make all the different sherrys: Palomino Fino, Pedro Ximenez, and Moscatel. From these grapes there are 8 different sherry wines (and a few more subcategories).
2. All sherry is fortified. The minimum alcohol level of sherry wine is 15% and the generally accepted maximum is 22%
3. Sherry can only come from the area known as the Sherry Triangle. An area between the three cities of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa Maria. This is a protected classification just like how Champagne has to come from the Champagne region of France, or cheese named Feta can only come from Greece.
4. Sherry does not have a vintage year. Unlike a delicious bottle of 1973 Chateau du Pape, you will not see a vintage year on a bottle of sherry. This is because all sherry is technically a blend of wines as they move through what is called the solera system…but more on that later.
Fino is the most delicate sherry, as well as being the dryest. It is made with 100% Palomino Fino grapes and when it is in the barrel it is always protected by a layer of yeast. This keeps the sherry very light in color. It is always served chilled.
Manzanilla is very similar to Fino in that people often assume they are the same. However there are slight differences. Manzanilla only comes from Sanluca de Barrameda. Being stored so close to the sea, the sherry almost has a bit of a salty taste and I even taste hints of wildflowers.
This is personally my favorite sherry.
Made famous by Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Cask Of Amontillado’ this is my second favorite sherry. Amontillado is the sherry in between Fino and Oloroso. It is traditionally around 17% abv and still considered a dry sherry. An amontillado starts out as a fino, but during the aging process more alcohol is added which kills the yeast and allows the wine to oxidize in the barrel.
Palo Cortado is a sherry with a bit of unique history. In fact, it was created entirely by accident. Originally the barrel was to become
an Amontillado, but when it came time to add more alcohol to kill the flor, it was discovered that the flor was dead and the wine in the barrel naturally made more alcohol. In fact, some Palo Cortado sherry can actually get as high as 22% abv, although it is more common around 17-19%.
Traditional Jerez bodegas still don’t know how much Palo Cortado they will produce a year, since it all depends on which barrels allow the “mistake”
Oloroso is a rich, dark sherry that at no point has living yeast in the barrel. From the start the extra fortification is added so it is aged in the oxidizing state for longer than both Fino and Amontillado. This is also the strongest dry sherry and is usually made between 18-22% abv.
Cream sherry is not actually a specific classification, rather it means that what is in the bottle is a blend of the previously described dry sherry with some percentage of sweet sherry like Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel. In fact, one of the cream sherries mentioned later in the list is the favorite sherry of Queen Elizabeth II
Pedro Ximenez is one of the two sweet sherries and is made first by collecting the liquid, or must, from raisins. In fact, the Pedro Ximenez
grapes are let out to dry for 4-5 days in the sun so they lose some of their water and concentrate their sugars. The final resulting product is a very sweet, almost syrupy sherry.
Moscatel is made in the same way as Pedro Ximenez, just using Moscatel grapes. Both are classified as sweet sherries and are easily substitutable.
What many locals consider the most popular sherry bodega, Tio Pepe is located right next to the Alcazar of Jerez. I’ll say right now that the tour at Tio Pepe was extremely well done and I learned so much. The guide was informative and kept the tour going at a reasonably brisk pace so we never got bored.
We easily booked our tour by calling ahead (they speak English) and scheduling a time.
While all the tours are the same, there are a few different types of tastings. We opted for the Fusion tasting which costs 24 euro per person. It includes four sherries, two young and two 12 year, along with a selection of tapas. I do think the value for money was okay here, but there are a few others on this list which had better value in my opinion. As you leave, stop by the shop as the sherries there are priced very well.
Diez Merito is a bodega that we chose to go to because it was located right next to our hotel. And I’m happy to say we did. The bodega is absolutely charming and beautifully laid out.
The huge cathedrals (where they store the barrels) were just gorgeous and our tour guide was very informative. She helpfully answered all of our questions and even taught us some new stuff we did not learn at Tio Pepe the day before. I do think the tour was paced a bit slowly so I think it could have been improved with a faster or more streamlined pace.
The tasting took place in the oldest cathedral, where we all stood around the bar and were poured the 5 different sherries. Unfortunately we used the same glass for each pour, so we had to finish our sherry or pour it out when it was time for the next. I much prefer sitting down and having all the glasses poured at once (since only Fino needs to be served cold, and it’s the one you drink).
The price of this tour was 12 euro so I would say it is a very good value for those on a budget.
I have to say this one surprised me. I went into the tour with no expectations (haven’t seen it on a lot of recommended lists, and it’s nearby the train station) but I am so happy I visited Bodegas Lustau.
I easily scheduled a tour with a quick phone call, and was pleasantly surprised to find out we were the only ones on the tour. Basically an entire private tour just for us.
A cool thing about this tour is you do your tasting as you walk through the bodega. As you reach different spots and different points in your sherry education, you are able to try different sherrys; of course you start with Fino and progress to Pedro Ximenex.
Our tour guide was excellent and she even surprised us at the end with a tasting of Lustau’s own Spanish Vermut/Vermouth. My only critique of the tasting was how we had to use the same glass for every sherry instead of a new one each time.
We didn’t pre-plan on going to Bodega Sandeman during our trip to Jerez, however after seeing the horse dancing show and noticing the bodega was right next door, we figured why not.
I really loved this tour, and just like Tio Pepe it was very well planned/organized. I’ll admit at times it felt a bit corporate, but the benefit was a good paced and structured tour.
I have to say the best thing about Sandeman was the tasting however. They have a tasting option that includes 10 glasses; four basic young sherries, four quality older sherries, and 2 rare brandies at 20 and 30 years old a piece.
The tapas that came with the tasting were also delicious – some very tasty jamon and delicious manchego cheese. Bodega Sandeman has a varying price structure for the tour/tasting.
Fundador was the first recommendation from the receptionist at our hostel and they seemed to have plenty of marketing work done. I will say now that if you only have time to go to one bodega tour in Jerez, do NOT go to Fundador.
This was easily my least favorite bodega for both the tour and the tasting. What is funny is that Fundador and Sandeman are both owned by the same parent company, yet the tour and the sherry could not be more different.
Our tour guide seemed like it was her first tour (yet she said she had been doing tours for three years) and couldn’t even answer simple questions from guests that I was easily able to just from attending a few other bodega tours.
Not to mention the fact that the structure of this tour just made the entire thing seem like it dragged on and on and on. I will admit that the “cathedral” where they keep the majority of their barrels is gorgeous and a great place for picture taking, but that’s the only positive of this tour.
As for the tasting, the sherry at Bodegas Fundador was my least favorite and not something I would ever pay for – except their sherry cream. It was the only one that was drinkable.
Phone number: +34956151500