Sherry Winery Tours
Winery tours offer an excellent way to explore the flavours of locally produced wine while enjoying a bit of tourism at the same time. The Andalucian province of Jerez is especially well known for opening the doors of its wineries to visitors.
Jerez de la Frontera
Tours of Jerez wineries are usually available on weekday mornings (except during August), although some cellars also open for weekend visits. Most wineries charge a token fee of around 5 euro.
Each bodega has it legends and its special charm. Most cellars welcome visitors, and constitute the main tourist attraction in the town of Jerez. The Gonzalez Byass winery alone has some 100,000 visitors a year.
A typical visit goes something like this: first, you watch a short film or audio-visual show. Next, a guide leads you through the rows upon rows of casks – many of them signed by illustrious visitors in the past – explaining the criadera and solera system used to blend different vintages, and the difference between the dry finos, amontillados and olorosos. The tour ends in the sacristía – the "sacristy" – with a tasting of the various wines, expertly drawn from the barrel by the venenciador, using a cup attached to a slender rod.
Visiting a wine cellar in Jerez is the ultimate interactive learning experience. Visit three, and you’re an expert. Visit six, and you come away with the feeling that there is an awful lot more to learn about Sherry.
The Gonzalez Byass and Domecq complexes resemble cities in miniature. Their citizens are the tens of thousands of old oak Sherry butts that repose in the vast cellars, each containing 500 litres. Everything is designed to keep that vital flor yeast happy. High vaulted ceilings keep summer temperatures down, the windows are oriented to the westerly winds to ensure good ventilation, the cellars are hosed down regularly. Even the lush gardens which surround the wineries owe more to a need to maintain the proper microclimate than to a bent for botany.
At González Byass, you can view such hallowed cellars as Los Apósteles and La Constancia. You might even catch a glimpse of the famous Sherry-sipping mice, which have returned after a few years’ absence following some repair work in the cellar (a glass and a miniature ladder are set out for their indulgence). You will learn how a cask from the private supply of dry Sherry kept by José de la Peña, the winery founder’s uncle, was shipped to England, giving birth to a legend: Tío Pepe, the best-selling aperitif wine in the world.
Next door, at Domecq – at 269 years the oldest winery in Jerez– they’ll tell you about how an undelivered shipment of wine spirits originally destined for Holland was left to mellow in old Sherry casks and metamorphosed into the first Jerez Brandy in 1874: Fundador. You’ll also see the touching memorial to the late José Ignacio Domecq (known to all as "The Nose"), who was armed with a formidable proboscis and an uncanny knack for using it. No one could sniff out the qualities of a wine better than he.
Visit or page on the Jerez Bodegas and winery tours in the Jerez de la Frontera section.
El Puerto de Santa Maria
Visit the Osborne Sherry Bodegas and winery tours in the El Puerto de Santa Maria section.
Visit the Barbadillo Manzanilla (Sherry) Bodegas, museum and winery tours in Sanlúcar de Barrameda