More drunk shopping! This time it was Peter’s @SVQconcierge turn, buying his first ever sunglasses after a few too many manzanillas. Very “men in beige”. And just in time for today’s last-minute Córdoba getaway. Gotta catch a train now…
As everyone knows, Tío Pepe is the flagship brand of Bodegas González Byass, probably the biggest of the Jerez sherry houses. The annual Tío Pepe Challenge is a competition for bartenders to mix and present sherry based cocktails, and this year’s Grand Final, featuring eight bartenders from the Americas and Europe, was held on May 17th at GB’s bodega in Jerez.
The setting, in one of the cathedral-like bodegas that has been converted for events and functions, was suitably magnificent, and many of the great and the good from the world of sherry were in attendance as the eight competitors (who all seemed remarkably young) were put through their paces in front of the esteemed panel of judges. The competition started with a blind tasting test of 4 sherries, followed by a test/demonstration of their skills with the venencia, before the main event – the mixing of the sherry cocktails.
Each contestant in turn had seven minutes to mix two cocktails – an Adonis (a mix of fino, vermouth and orange bitters invented in the 1880s in honour of the first Broadway musical to pass 500 performances), and a signature cocktail of their own, during which they demonstrated that cocktail mixing is, among other things, a form of theatre. This meant lots of tasting for the judges (with some samples of various other cocktails for the audience too), but they finally arrived at their verdict.
And the winner… Joao Vicente of the Alto Bar in Berlin for his Jerez Sin Fronteras (black tea infused Tío Pepe, Nectar PX, Nomad Whisky).
I got a call from my friend Juan from Vineria San Telmo the other day asking me if I’d be interested in giving a sherry tasting to a group of 15 people from Australia and New Zealand and so of course I said YES. Though I was also a bit nervous as it would be the first time I’d be doing this with a larger group, and also as a “presentation” rather than as part of a tapas tour. My Sherry & Tapas Tours are just as much about the food pairings as they are about sherry, so this would be something quite different.
As you can see, it was very nicely set up by Juan and we also included snacks (olives, cheese, almonds, chocolate) and some printed material for the guests to take home. And they were a great group. Not total “sherry virgins” and clearly quite knowledgeable about wines, so they asked a lot of good questions.
We tried 5 different sherries, talking about each one along with the history of the region and the sherry making process. I soon forgot about being nervous and the time flew by. Hoping to do it again now!
So this was it! The day I’d been looking forward to and dreading in equal measure. Also it was the main reason for being in London for this particular London Getaway, to be one of the judges at the first World Sherry Awards. I say “dreading” because I had never judged anything at this level before, and wasn’t sure what would be expected. Happily my friend Owen @sherrymonster44 (another sherry educator and co-owner of four fabulous tapas bars in southern Wales) had also been invited as a judge, so I knew there would be at least one friendly face. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. The people running the event were super friendly and I immediately felt right at home. Or as “at home” as possible at the elegant Caledonian Club, where the tasting was being held. You will have to wait until May to find out which wine was chosen as the winner, and I hope to be invited back again next year.
After the tasting Owen had to get back to Wales and I met up again with Peter, who had spent the afternoon visiting a couple of museums. As we were near Harrod’s – and as I had never been to Harrod’s – we went to Harrod’s! In fact, we decided to do a three-posh-store circuit and after Harrod’s we also stopped off at Harvey Nichols and Fortnum & Mason. I think a few years ago I would have found these places more interesting, especially the food courts. Anyhow, we stopped for a drink in the upstairs lounge at Harvey Nicks, as we still had a couple of hours to go before meeting up with John again. Then we found out John was going to be delayed, so we went off in search of a pre-pub snack in nearby Soho.
My first choice, Boca di Lupo, was already packed at 6.30 pm and we were told to come back in an hour or so to see if there was any space then. Uh… no. Then I remembered Zelman’s. This turned out to be an excellent choice. We were immediately shown to a comfy spot in front of the glass-walled “open” kitchen and our server couldn’t have been nicer. So different from the “fake-friendly” treatment elsewhere the previous day. Our snack was a massive smoked beef short rib, which we shared with a side of triple-fried chips. We honestly wished we were hungrier so we could try more dishes – Zelman is already at the top of the list for my next London visit.
By the time we met up with John I was pretty tired, so we just had a couple of drinks and a nice chat before I called an Uber to take us home.
Owen finds a secret passage behind fake bookshelf door at the Caledonian Club
cool Tudor style buildings just off Regent Street
the Egyptian escalator in Harrod’s
chillin’ and rechargin’ at Harvey Nicks
fall-off-the-bone smoked beef short rib at Zelman Meats
triple-fried chips with Holy Fuck mayo (their name, not mine)
pubbing with John and Peter
Last year I attended the first edition of Vinos de España – Una Pasión that was held in Sevilla and had a lovely time. I mean really, who can resist the prospect of being able to “visit” over 45 bodegas in one day? This time I did my best to branch out and try some new stuff, starting off with white wines (before hitting the reds), and was pleasantly surprised by wines from different regions that I wasn’t familiar with. THEN I bumped into Alex, another sherry educator, and after that we kind of gravitated to the sherry room and got stuck in there. Ah well… it was a wonderful afternoon. And as always great meeting up with sherry friends.
Bajo de Guiá – where the Guadalquivir meets the sea
Two days before leaving for Sanlúcar the weather forecast abruptly changed from lovely and sunny to RAIN for all three days of the getaway. And with thunderstorms on the last day. But aside from a bit of rain the first morning, we were spared. Okay, it wasn’t blue skies and sunny, but I was so happy it wasn’t raining, since we did a LOT of walking over those three days. Here are a few of my favourite pics.
lemon tree in the bodega garden
looking out over Sanlúcar rooftops
fabulous catavinos bar table
donkeys being prepped for the San José pilgrimage
dusk view of the square from my hotel room
So there I was – as usual – making last minute bodega visit plans via Twitter and WhatsApp the day before my trip… and mostly that worked out, except that two of the bodegas I wanted to visit weren’t available at such short notice. Really, it was probably enough seeing five bodegas in two and a half days, but I am always left wanting more. I think I might plan a longer stay in Jerez soon and make day trips to Sanlúcar and El Puerto while there, and keep it down to one bodega a day. Well, maybe two now and then… 😉
This time the bodegas were all very special in their own way, as bodegas tend to be, but there were also a couple of totally blow-me-away moments. I’ll write about this more over on my BRAND NEW Sherry Educator pages on Sevilla Tapas. But please be patient, because it may take awhile to get them set up properly. You can have a look now, but things are very much still “under construction”.
Meanwhile, a sneak peak of where I visited this time…
After a two-hour BUS RIDE FROM HELL we arrived in Sanlúcar with just time to drop off our bags and make it to the first bodega visit. Much later we returned to the hotel to find this lovely room and lovely view. So far not as rainy as I’d feared. More later…
Yep… ANOTHER Sherry Saturday! But unlike last Saturday, this time I was actually working. Back in December 2015 I spent a lovely Christmas Day afternoon with Becky, Scott and family at La Azotea. Since then Becky and I have kept in touch via social media (check her Instagram – @havepaprika) and a few months ago Scott got in touch about booking a Sherry & Tapas Tour for himself and buddy Richard, who would be celebrating his big 5-OH. And today was the day.
Although I love all my tours I have to say that the Sherry & Tapas tour is both my most challenging and possibly most gratifying. On the other hand, I’m not sure I could do them every day because I am always a bit exhausted afterwards… a LOT of talking goes on. But today was fabulous. The boys not only ate and drank very well, they also learned a lot about sherry, so they can now show off to their friends back in London. 😉
Great day guys – thank you!