Wine, seafood, horses, and the ever-present ocean, in the town of Sanlucar de Barrameda on the Cadiz coast
The story goes that Queen Isabella of Spain glimpsed the ocean for the first time from the castle in Sanlucar de Barrameda (Cadiz).
Her majesty couldnt have chosen a better spot. Shining like a gleaming white jewel, Sanlucar stands at the western tip of the magical Sherry triangle, home to the worlds most famous aperitif wine. It is strategically located at the mouth of the Guadalquivir river, across from the marshes of the Doņana National Park. Thanks to its unique microclimate Sanlucar produces a special type of sherry, Manzanilla. With the humidity provided by the prevailing sea breeze, the protective layer of flor yeast that forms on the surface of the wine as it ages in the large oak butts is thicker and longer-lived than elsewhere in the sherry district, which accounts for Manzanillas exceptional dryness.
In fact, as you will learn if you visit one of the traditional wine cellars in the town, there are two types of Manzanilla. First, there is the clear, crisp Manzanilla sold all over Spain. But drinkers in Sanlucar prefer Manzanilla Pasada, which ages longer and is slightly darker in color, and whose flavor has a detectable salty tang. The best place to compare the different wines is in the very cellars where they age. For instance, the oldest winery in Sanlucar, Delgado Zuleta, whose origins can be traced back to 1719, today has 14 cellars scattered around the town. In the dark confines of the cellars, time seems to have stood still as the wine slowly ages in the stacks of butts, to be blended followed the time-tested method of the solera, in which different vintages are combined to produce a consistently superior product. Served chilled, Manzanilla is the perfect companion for the fresh seafood for which Sanlucar is justifiably famous, in particular the jumbo prawns caught off its coast. Every afternoon, fishing boats unload their glistening catch in the port of Bonanza, just north of Sanlucar, to be served in the restaurants that line its seaside quarter, Bajo de Guia. Here, too, you can learn about the wildlife of the Doņana national park at the Fabrica de Hielo visitor center, and hop aboard a river boat for a trip to the park on the further shore of the Guadalquivir. No sherry town is without its horses, and Sanlucar is famous for the spectacular annual horse races which take place at low tide on its wide beach during August. This unique event, which attracts some 40,000 spectators, has been held since 1845 and top jockeys from all over Europe take part.
Once the excitement is over and the thunder of hooves on damp sand has died down, Sanlucar becomes its old self, a peaceful, friendly town where the bracing breath of the ocean is always present. Even in its wines!
Oficina de Turismo de Sanlucar de Barrameda (Tourist Information Office) - Calzada del Ejercito, 11540 Sanlucar de Barremeda (Cadiz) Spain. Tel. 34 956 366 110
Nearest airport: Seville (75 miles, 120 km)
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Copyright Š 2000 An Andalusian Experience. Text by Mark Little. Photography by J. D. Dallet - A Freelance Spain production
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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet