The choice fell on Southern Spain, having already "done" the Port wine region in Portugal, this one was really missing from our experiences. Funny enough, we're were not particularly fond of either (even though a good port or sherry would never be denied) but these wines are so particular and important to the history of wine that a trip really really merits. And after visiting, you really do gain a different appreciation.
And I couldn't imagine a better time to visit than in the middle of winter. Temperatures are incredibly mild and, well coming from a nordic country, almost summer-like!
We started with 3 full days in Seville to, well, simply be tourists and discover the city on foot. The good thing about walking miles every day is that you get to celebrate your workout with lots of good food :)
Seville is an incredibly beautiful town. Tapas were born there & so was Flamenco. The Cathedral is breathtaking (one of the World's largest) and the orange trees decorate the streets wherever you go & monuments & squares are simply enchanting. Santa Cruz is one of the oldest in charming areas, very central and perfect to stay in as a tourist.
On the evening of the Epiphany we had the thrill of watching the parade of the 3 Kings with decorative carts and lots of children in costumes, throwing candies at the crowds!
Then we took the train 1 hour south to Jerez de la Frontera and had 1 full day in town to discover Sherry. You don't need a car as all the Sherry houses are placed in a circle around the city at convenient 5-10 walking distance one from another. You could probably check them all out in one day - we got a little tired after the first 6-7 and decided to take a nap at the hotel.
Next day we took the train from Jerez to El Puerto de Santa Maria (10 minutes) to visit a Sherry house on the harbour. From there we took a boat to Cadiz (30 mins) which was nice to walk around in for a few hours. And that rounded up our short trip.
Places we ate (& drank):
- Vineria San Telmo (Seville) - mentioned first, because it was our favorite. Varied menu of tapas and plates, excellent quality at good prices. Excellent list of wines, also by the glass. Waiters and owner very nice, environment simple, but pleasant.
- Mamarracha (Seville) - We ate here the first night and enjoyed what a late Spanish dinner means, getting to eat only around 11 pm because the place was crowded. But worth the wait with some very nice contemporary tapas and a very good bottle of Toro.
- La Brunilda (Seville) - This was an enormously popular tapas bar, so we got there half an hour before opening time and actually waited in line to get in. We were a bit taken away by the crowd of tourists. However, the food was very good...but I don't understand the hype...
- Casa Morales (Seville) - This is a century old wine bar where wines were stored in the past. Now you can have a glass of wine (or two!) and enjoy some delicious cheeses or ham. Gets busy in the evening, but the atmosphere is local and it's worth elbow-rubbing for a space at the bar.
- Dos De Mayo (Seville) - a more traditional tapas restaurant. Best part was that we sat on the terrace and enjoyed the winter sun. The food was ok, but not specifically noteworthy.
- Abantal (Seville) - I was really looking forward to the tasting menu at the city's only Michelin starred restaurant, and even though the food wasn't bad, it just wasn't outstanding. My high expectations were met by a few original and interesting dishes, but some were just pure bland or boring. In my opinion the dishes lacked a thread of consistency. The wine pairing was quite decent and well priced.
- Las Banderillas (Jerez) - this is a typical sherry "tabanco" (traditional wine bar typically linked with one of the sherry wineries, selling wine from the barrel - quite cheaply, might I add). This one was very traditional with bulls pictures and otherwise bare facilities. Food was traditional, ok, not fantastic. Prices were extremely reasonable.
- Tabanco El Pasaje (Jerez) - simple wine bar with a lot of local regulars. You can order cheese and cold cuts (and lots of sherry) and other simple tasting dishes. Best thing of all is that there's a Flamenco show every evening from 9 pm to 10 pm. Absolutely loved that!
- Albores (Jerez) - locally quite a popular restaurant with an ample menu. Food was very good but somehow I didn't find it to be very memorable. Just good.
- La Bodeguilla del Bar Jamón (El Puerto de Santa Maria) - very nice wine bar / tapas restaurant with lots of wines by the glass and excellent hams...
- Casa Manteca (Cadiz) - a bar with lots of local charm. And apparently a must-go in Cadiz, we were told. Menu is mainly cured/pickled fish, but of course excellent. Especially the pickled sardines!
Wineries we visited:
- Tradicion (Jerez) - tour & tasting 20 euro per person (great tour & tasting by Ulrike)
- Lustau (Jerez) - tour & tasting 15 euro per person.
- Gutierrez Colosia (El Puerto de Santa Maria) - tour & tasting 10 euro per person (tours run by passionate Betrand and start at 11.15 am)
Small piece of advice:
If you are headed to Seville & you're a serious foodie, you should get into contact with Shawn who works with a few like-minded people in Seville. She has an extensive website on places to eat and organises small group tapas tours through her website.
MERCADO DI TRIANA
WAITING FOR THE 3 KINGS PARADE...
VINERIA SAN TELMO
DOS DE MAYO
PEOPLE MOMENTS IN SEVILLE
JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA
TABANCO EL PESAJE