Tuesday 14 August 2012

Another day, another Alcázar

Yes, Jerez also has its Alcázar.  Though not as big or impressive as the one in Seville, it is worth a visit.  The layout of the Arab fortress is more or less intact even though the buildings are mostly ruins.  With the help of notices (in Spanish and English) you get a good idea of what daily life was like: prayers, ablutions, eating.  They even explain how the latrines worked.  But the Alcázar was not the reason for my visit to Jerez.

The town was founded by the Phoenicians who called it Xera, a name which has been adapted by the varying civilisations and tribes that have controlled it over the centuries.  The Arab rulers of Al-Andalus (whence the modern name of the region, Andalusia) called it شريش, which I'm sure you will spot is pronounced "Sherish".  Not only did this Arabic name evolve into the modern Jerez, it also gave us the name of the most famous product of the town, sherry.

Manuel María González Ángel,
founder of Gonzalez Byass, Jerez
I did a tour of the biggest sherry producer, González Byass, named after its founder Manuel María González Ángel, and his London agent Robert Blake Byass who eventually became joint owner of the company.  The produce several brands of sherry and brandy, the most famous of which are probably Tío Pepe and Croft Original.

After the tour there was a tasting.  They presented us with four different types of sherry, from pale and dry (fino) to dark and sweet (oloroso).  I never thought I'd see the day I got drunk on sherry!  Well, tipsy anyway.

Try it — you'll like it more than you think!

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