If you've ever been to Jerez - the city, the train station, or even just the airport - you can't have failed to notice that everywhere you go, there are neatly-stacked piles of barrels.
These are a reference to one of Jerez's most famous exports - along with horses and flamenco, sherry is a drink which is only made in three towns of Cadiz province, the so-called Sherry Triangle, where the chalky albariza soil produces such a distinctive taste in the grapes, largely palomino, and the solera blending system produces flavours unlike any other in the world. You can visit many sherry bodegas, and of course taste their wonderful wines, which range from the dry fino, to the rich oloroso, and the sweet Pedro Ximenez, very popular also as a gourmet vinegar.
Last December, the idea emerged to have a World Sherry Day - the aim being to introduce the delights of this under-appreciated, though increasingly popular, Spanish wine to as many people in as many countries as possible, especially the younger generation - stylish, cultured, well-travelled 30-somethings. World Sherry Day was the brainchild of German whisky distiller Wolfgang Hess, who is based in Sweden, and had been inspired by World Whisky Day, created last year by an Aberdeen University student.
Wolfgang mentioned the idea to Annie Manson, who runs Annie B's Spanish Kitchen in Vejer de la Frontera, offering gastronomic experiences in the beautiful Moorish hilltown. Annie is one of 60-odd qualified Sherry Educators in the world, as recognised by the Consejo Regulador (Regulatory Council) of the Denominacion de Origen de Jerez-Xerex-Sherry.
Annie had recently met a new arrival in town - half-Spanish, half-Australian marketing and digital whizz Chelsea Anthon Penas, who seemed like the ideal person to set the event in motion - to "realise the dream". It was Annie who first introduced Chelsea to sherry, convincing her to try a glass of chilled fino back in December. Chelsea was soon bitten by the sherry bug and decided to help publicise the event. "Sherry is deeply rooted in Spanish culture, but it has become diluted," she explains.
In the end, individual World Sherry Week events were registered in 28 countries - parties, special menus and tastings, from Warsaw to the Faroe Islands- during last week, culminating in World Sherry Day itself - Sunday 26 May. Participating restaurants introduced sherry using maridaje - in other words, by pairing it with their own local foods - for example, sushi in Japan, which goes perfectly with fino.
You can see Annie, Chelsea and Wolfgang in the barrel-signing photo of the montage (top of post). Bodegas Gonzalez Byass invited Chelsea to sign a barrel - a huge honour, afforded to the like of Picasso and Churchill - and she insisted her compañeros should come too.
I was in Jerez on Sunday to join in the celebrations, although due to typically "relaxed" Spanish timing messing up plans, I didn't get to try out as many tabancos (traditional Jerezano inns) as I'd have liked - but I did get to meet Annie Manson.
World Sherry Day was deemed a huge success overall, especially in Spain, as you'd expect, with 156 events - 83 were in the Sherry Triangle: 57 in Jerez, 9 in Sanlucar and 17 in El Puerto; the UK had 25, Russia 24, Japan 23 and the US 21. In total, 301 events in 28 countries.
I was surprised that there weren't more in the UK, where the so-called "Sherry Revolution" is going strong in bars and restaurants. But considering that this whole celebration was put together with no budget, using only a winning combination of Chelsea's personal contact with the tabanco owners plus Social Media - Twitter and Facebook - rather than (or as well as) conventional PR and marketing, the response and participation were phenomenal. Next year World Sherry Day promises to be even bigger and better. Watch this space!