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City guide: Jerez

Simon Meads visits sherry's home in southern Spain, and discovers that Jerez is a city of fiestas devoted to its wine

Getting around

If you’re not planning to venture outside the city, stick to walking and taxis – the centre of Jerez is reasonably small and you can get around pretty easily. By car, it can seem a bit of a maze at first, with a lot of one-way streets. You may end up going round the same church a few times before you find your way. If you feel like a ride in one of the open horse-drawn carriages, set a price first or you could get stung.

Eating and drinking

Andalusia is the place to go for tapas, and Jerez is no exception. If you want the dinner party fact of where tapas originates from, just tell people that it was originally a saucer (or something similar) which covered your drink to stop the insects getting in there, until some entrepreneur decided to fill his with a few olives to draw the punters. Then bar owners started to compete with more and more elaborate tapas until they decided that they would be better off if they got people to pay for them. All the same, eating tapas-style is a cheap way to graze your way around Jerez. Generally a tapa will be a little snack – more of a meal is a ración (serving) or a couple of media-raciones. Prices will be marked up on the menu up to around 1,500 pesetas (£5) maximum per ración. If you want to really understand the true potential of the tapa, visit Bodega la Andana. Here the chef/owner Manuel Valencia Lazo has taken it to a whole new level. There is no menu, and Lazo buys what he can fresh each day and puts ingredients together in a modern tapas-fusion style. For a more traditional experience you can try out any number of the bars and restaurants dotted around the town. For somewhere humming with activity on a Saturday, try Tendido 6 where the Jerezanos go to knock back copitas and carry out a post-corrida dissection of the performances in the bull ring. The restaurant there does a nice line in bull meat, like rabo de toro (bull’s tail) – assuming the matador hasn’t walked off with it. You don’t need any clues for what’s at the top of the list to drink – it’s got to be fino. Almost everywhere you can buy house fino by the copita; otherwise half-bottles are a good bet and usually cost no more than 700–800 pesetas (£2.50–2.80). What’s on the awning in front of the bar is a good indication as to what’s to be had. One to try is Tio Mateo from Real Bodegas Tesoros, with its lightish style and nuttiness.

Bodega la Andana, Parque de la Serrana 5. Tel: +34 956 30 73 85

Tendido 6, Circo 10. Tel: +34 956 34 48 35

The Bodegas

Most bodegas offer a number of tours each day which cost between 300–400 pesetas (£1–1.40), but it is best to phone in advance to reserve. The structures themselves are impressive and hark back to the golden days of Jerez. The González Byass dome was designed by Gustav Eiffel, and Domecq is full of arches modelled on those of the Mezquita in Córdoba.

Bodegas Corral: At the heart of the Camino de Santiago

Sanlúcar de Barrameda

To get out of town a car is indispensable, as is a good street map. Once you get on the right road a trip to Sanlúcar de Barrameda takes about half an hour. There you get some nice Atlantic breezes and miles of largely deserted beach. The town is the home of manzanilla, lighter than a Jerez fino, with an almost salty taste of the sea. The place possesses that sleepy seaside feel, with lots of quiet pedestrianised streets lead from one plaza to another. There are plenty of African influences too. The town hall could pass for a Moorish palace, and is surrounded by palms. Eating there you will get pretty much the freshest seafood to be had. Plenty of little bars and restaurants like Bar Mi Tate serve whatever is in season or whatever came off the boat that day, ranging from langostinos a la plancha (langoustines done on the griddle) to puntillitas (deep-fried baby squid). While you are here, you might as well wash it down with a half-bottle of manzanilla La Gitana – it will never taste better than in these surroundings.

Bar Mi Tate, Calle Bolsa 11. Tel: +34 956 36 48 46

Getting there from uk

Direct flights are operated by buzz out of London Stansted. AirEuropa flies via Madrid, with potentially long stopovers in the capital. GB Airways flies to Seville and Gibraltar every day – these are about one hour and two hours away respectively.

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