I really love Catavino – it’s such an informative and innovative source of information on Spanish & Portuguese wines. The food of the region is key, but it’s just as vital to know about the great wines available too. This is the place to find out!
Jose Pizzaro http://www.josepizarro.com

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Spanish Bullfighting: The Romance, the Drama and the Traditional Recipes

Recently, the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia (or Catalunya) voted to ban bullfighting; which consequently, provoked me to write an article. Since moving to Spain in 2005, I have attempted to understand the “corrida de toros” – the bullfight. I have tried to learn as much as possible, both the pro and con; and yes, I confess I have attended quite a few corridas. Portugal has its own bullfighting traditions, as does France and Latin America. There is even a type of bullfight on the Zanzibari island of Pemba, off the east coast of Africa – a relic of Portuguese colonialism. However, I’m only familiar with the way it is done in Spain. (Photo by Ferminius) In the part of […]

Palo Cortado, a Different Kind of Sherry

The WSET Diploma fortified wine exam was nailed down earlier this year. The next exam is sparkling wines so I have been sticking to the bubbly stuff since then. Not much else has made it through my front door, so just for a change, I thought I’d have a copa of sherry tonight. Something slightly unusual, a Palo Cortado. You might be wondering what a Palo Cortado is: Sherries are aged in one of two ways, oxidatively or biologically (read Catavino’s Sherry 101 to find out more about the different ageing methods). Some sherries start off ageing biologically and are then deliberately changed, by futher fortification, to oxidative ageing. These wines are generally called Amontillados. Exactly the same thing happens […]

Fiestas de la Vendimia: Tasting Sherry During the Harvest Festival in Jerez

The Jerez “Fiestas de la Vendimia” or harvest festival, which first happened in 1948, is in full swing at the moment. This is one harvest festival which is worth a visit, especially if you are keen on Sherry. This year the festival started on the 5th of September and ends on the 20th, so three weeks packed full of activities. As Spain is a Catholic country, seeking a bit of divine intervention goes without saying. You know, to make sure the grapes come in OK, fermentation does not get stuck and everyone has fun at the festival. So, accordingly, last Sunday, following long-standing tradition, an old-school press was set up in the Cathedral square and group of traditionally dressed men […]

Studying for the WSET with Fortified Spanish and Portuguese Wines

About 3 years after bagging the certificate – I have no idea how the time flew by so fast – I finally signed up to the WSET diploma late in 2008. My first two exams were in March 2009. One about viticulture and vinification in what my father likes to call the “multiple-guess” format. The other was a case-study with a batch of questions needing essay-style answers. The old grey cells are not what they used to be and I am notoriously bad at writing essays under pressure, so I was very suprised (and pleased) to pass both exams, especially the second. I’m still half-convinced the “I’m sorry, we sent you the wrong results letter” will appear at any moment. […]

Sherry at the London International Wine Fair (LIWF)

The first place to start a sherry tour at the London International Wine Fair is at the official stand. This year, the Sherry Institute had set up a long bar-style stand. Lined up along this bar were about 50 bottles, possibly more, of all styles and from many producers. I thought this made for a very fine sight! I wish there was a shop somewhere, where a range of sherries similar to this could be had… The Sherry Institute now has Graham Hines back at the helm. Graham used to run the Institute until its work was outsourced to a PR agency for a number of years. This switch back to Graham is fairly recent so he was not in a […]

What Happened to His Sherry Butt?

The British have a unique national constitution: It’s unwritten. One result of this is a Monarchy, without power, but with some fairly weird and wonderful plug-ins and add-ons. Some people say this is all a complete waste of time and tax-payers’ money, and should be done away with ASAP. Others think this system holds the country together and prevents the excesses which happen from time to time in Republics, with their codified laws. Although there is no longer a court Jester, the Royal Household still includes many interesting beasts, including a Master of the Queen’s Music(k), a Piper (read glorified alarm clock), Purse Bearer, various Lords and Ladies of Bedchambers, Stewards and Chamberlains, there is even a Grand Carver – and […]

Vinoble 2010: Budget cut and out to tender

This has been going around the rumour mill for some time, but it’s now official. Vinoble, the biennial fair specialising in sweet and fortified wine, has been put out to tender by the Jerez town hall. This is the first time the contract for running this wine fair has been offered. Opus Wine, headed up by Spanish writer and wine critic, Carlos Delgado, has produced the fair every time since the first Vinoble in 1998. Link to the story in Spanish here and more here. What’s more, the budget for the fair has been almost halved to €157,000. This is a massive cut, but the 2008 Vinoble suffered from something similar, and the budget for earlier editions was as much as €2m. […]

The Pointy Hat Brigade: Holy Week in Southern Spain

When I first saw the pointy hats, it was slightly unnerving. For most people, the associations are obvious. Thankfully pointy hat wearing in Jerez started way before the Klan was formed, so nothing to do with each other apart from the style of hat. The pointy hat brigade, as my collegue likes to call them, comes out during Holy Week (called Semana Santa in Spanish). The Holy Week procession is a tradition which seems to have developed in southern Spain, Seville, Malaga and Jerez in particular, but has spread to other parts of the Hispanic world. I’m told Holy Week trumps Christmas in the holiness stakes. Not being a Roman Catholic, my understanding of all the meaning and significance is […]

Gibraltar: An Iberian Melting Pot

Last week I made the hour-long trip from my home in Jerez to Gibraltar to meet friends at the airport there. I am always up for a trip to this interesting and some might say anachronistic place. The Spanish certainly view Gibraltar as an anachronism. For me, Gibraltar is a fascinating place, full of history (especially military): Perfect for a museum anorak. Gibraltar is a tiny British Overseas Territory jutting out from southern Iberia and pointing across the straits at Morocco and the Spanish city of Ceuta on the North African coast. Covering just over two and half square miles – less than a tenth of Manhattan Island – most of Gibraltar is steep-sided rock, so there’s no guessing why it’s […]

Bodegas Tradicion: Keeping the Best Traditions Alive

Editors Note: Our Correspondent Justin Roberts had the chance to do something both Gabriella and I wish we could have. Living in Jerez, he made a quick trip over to Bodegas Tradicion to give you a bit more background on this intersting winery that we talked about a couple of weeks ago. Enjoy. You don’t usually find an art gallery inside a sherry bodega, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Bodegas Tradicion. In 1998 this small bodega was set up by a Spanish property magnate and in a special gallery alongside the sherry he likes to rotate part of his large collection of paintings. On the day I visited these included the striking oil on copper called “Bandolero Torero” […]