Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain is the place to go for sherry connoisseurs

Each bodega cherishes its own particular strains of yeast that make up the "wine mother," a thick, creamy layer of life on top of the wines

IN SANLÚCAR'S BARS

IN SANLÚCAR'S BARS

SANLUCAR DE BARRAMEDA, Spain — The official colour of the seaside city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, which stands at the mouth of Andalucía’s longest river, is albero, the distinctive khaki-yellow of the town’s beaches.

Houses are often painted in this shade, and the sand itself appears between rows of palms on the lower town’s boulevards and on the floor beneath rows of stacked barrels in the old town, up on a hilltop.

Here it helps with climate control, being regularly sprayed with water to keep the humidity high, aiding the production of Spain’s signature drink — sherry.

Bodegas La Cigarrera, one of the city’s oldest sherry-making houses, founded in 1758, has a pretty courtyard also painted in the traditional sandy hue, and its almost entirely machine-free operation has been run by the same family for nine generations in what was once part of a monastery.

Around the courtyard, thick-walled storehouses with high ceilings and windows that face the Atlantic, shuttered with woven screens rather than glass, hold vast black barrels that are occasionally repaired, but never replaced.

Each bodega cherishes its own particular strains of yeast that make up the “wine mother,” a thick, creamy layer of life on top of the wines which is essential to fermentation and which affects the individual flavour of each sherry. The giant oak barrels contain a mixture of old and new wines: “Once a year we add new wine to the old ‘wine mother’,” explains a guide. “And this helps keep the flavour of our bodega’s wines consistent.”

La Cigarrea is not a big producer, making only about 40,000 litres — 4,400 cases — a year. It has a small shop that offers bottles of sherry in pretty presentation boxes, but much of its trade is with locals bringing plastic jugs and bottles for refills, and which are then sealed with sticky tape.

In the grid of the “new” town below, still centuries old, signs on high walls indicate the presence of other, larger, bodegas, such as Hidalgo, founded in 1792, and giant barrels are piled at street corners, painted to advertise their bodegas of origin.

In the bars sherry is served from vats, with olives, cheese and more than a hundred varieties of tapas. These are taken at shaded tables in the town’s many small squares, brilliant with gaudy bougainvillea.

The dimly lit bar interiors are lined with locally produced, fragrant hams suspended by their trotters, sliced on the spot for sandwiches and other dishes, followed by pastries made with nuts and honey, a remnant of Moorish cuisine.

Sherry has long been central to Sanlúcar’s economy. Early exports played their part in expanding Spain’s empire.

Magellan, who set out from Sanlúcar in 1519 to be the first to circumnavigate the world, spent more money on sherry than on ammunition. Drinking it on the long voyages helped prevent scurvy and the casks acted as ballast, being refilled with seawater when their contents had been drunk.

These days it’s visitors from the New World who take home luggage clinking with bottles of Spain’s most famous export.

Access

For more information on Bodegas La Cigarrera visit its website at www.bodegaslacigarrera.com.

For information on travel in Spain visit the Tourist Office of Spain website at www.spain.info.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dasher is back home with mom Christine Girvin thanks to some help from BC Ferries staff. Photo supplied
The cat came back, with help from Comox ferry staff

After Dasher made a dash, ferry staff found her and got her home safe

A rendering of the Denman Green plans for the Kirk Road site. Image, DHA/Ronan Design
Denman Green finds new site for housing

Facing COVID delays, the project reached expiration date on initial site

A fawn stands in a field. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
MARS hoping to build fawn complex for rehab

Their goal is to raise $20,000 in a relatively short period of time.

Aspen Park in Comox is the latest school reporting a COVID-19 exposure. Screenshot, Google Maps
Fifth Comox Valley school reports COVID-19 exposure

Exposure at Aspen Park in Comox was reported for Feb. 22

Cumberland Brewery is looking to expand its patio space temporarily for the summer. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland Brewery looks for temporary patio expansion

Move would allow business to spread customers outside in summer months

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

1957 photo shows Six Mile House-sponsored #4 1932 Ford stock car with Frank Morris (from left), Ted Mackenzie, Bill Sim and driver Gerry Sylvester. (Bud Glover/Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame)
Memories race as Western Speedway approaches its finish line

‘It was life to us:’ Vancouver Island racers, crew will never forget what the track gave them

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Most Read