Barry Brown was awarded Spain’s Cross of the Order of Civil Merit for his work promoting Spanish wines.
Toronto-based Barry Brown is likely North America’s foremost authority on the wines of Spain. He has visited the country’s wine regions dozens of times and has founded long-lasting relationships with producers old and new on his knowledge, charm and wit. I once walked with him down a large thoroughfare in Jerez de la Frontera while locals shouted “Eh, Barry” from both sides of the street. He’s more at home there than in his home town of Kitchener Ontario.
Barry has just announced the details of his 2017 trips to Seville and Jerez. Like his previous tours, this one will feature exclusive visits, tastings and meals with producers, and artistic and cultural events. The accommodations are painstakingly selected and arranged. I’ve pasted his “pitch” letter below. If you’ve got the time and the tastes, contact Barry for more information. He’s got a few places left.
THE SOUL OF ANDALUCIA: SEVILLA AND SHERRY
Wine, Cuisine, Art, and Architecture
As I had shared so many months ago—in light of the overwhelming responses to our tours, in 2017 I am taking four groups to Andalusia in southern Spain—and finally—I have the dates! The tours will commence in Sevilla for three glorious nights in the Hotel Alfonso XIII (Grand Deluxe rooms!), after which we travel to Jerez de la Frontera for eight nights in the always so charming and welcoming, Hotel Sherry Park.
Group I – May 17 arrive Sevilla – May 28 depart Jerez de la Frontera
Group II – May 30 arrive Sevilla – June 10 depart Jerez de la Frontera
Group III – August 29 arrive Sevilla – September 9 depart Jerez de la Frontera
Group IV – September 10 arrive Sevilla–September 21 depart Jerez de la Frontera.
Andalusia – the vast south of Spain is bordered by the Mediterranean on the south, Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha on the north, the Atlantic on the west, and the Mediterranean the east. Here you can experience the historic and monumental cities of Granada, Cordoba and–Sevilla.
While the lands north of Andalusia create excellent reds, whites , rosados, and cava—here, in the south-west corner of Andalusia, an hour south of Sevilla – in the Sherry Triangle comprised of the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa Maria, and Sanlucar de Barrameda, is crafted the world’s most undiscovered elixir—“Sherry”—an incomparable white wine.
As I have shared in the past—I of course enjoy the various styles of red wine—and as well, I very much appreciate the range of white wines, as I value dry, crisp rosados. But Sherry, the waiting to be discovered jewel – I treasure!
Our adventure will commence in magnificent Sevilla. This corner of Spain was inhabited by a strong Iberian culture by the Iron Age in 800 BC. Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians followed—and in 206 BC the Romans arrived on the peninsula, ruling for 700 years, until replaced by the Visigoths from the north. The Moors from North Africa then invaded dominating much of Spain for almost 700 years—leaving a legacy of astonishing science, agriculture, architecture, and cuisine.
In 1492 with the fall of Granada to Isabella and Fernando—the reunification of Spain under the Catholic monarchs was complete—with Spain entering an era of imperial expansion and prosperity, which included the discovery of the New World. With ships sailing from and returning to Sevilla—the city became one of the most affluent in Europe. Building upon the foundation created by the Moors, outstanding palaces, churches, and public buildings were built. Artistic life flourished with new vigour.
There is the serene Parque Maria Luisa which originally formed the grounds of the Baroque Palacio de San Telmo dating from 1682. Many of the exquisite buildings now in this park were erected for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929—one of which is the magnificent five-star Hotel Alfonso XIII our opulent, if not breath-taking home for three nights. The architecture is Neo-Moorish with an abundance of beautiful “azulejo” tile work—glazed ceramic tiles, first introduced by the Moors, esteemed in the south of Spain, with wrought iron and ornate brickwork. The Alfonso XIII is a magnificent work of art in itself.
We will experience Sevilla’s rich history, art, and architecture on our guided walking tours, including the spectacular Cathedral of Sevilla and the Real Alcazar—the royal residences. Velasquez was born in Sevilla—his art hangs in the 16th century Ayuntamiento (City Hall), while Zubaran, Murillo and Valdes Leal adorn many buildings—which we will also see.
While our guided walking tours will focus upon art and architecture in Sevilla—cuisine also occupies an equal and significant place within our adventure. As well as our banquet in the grand dining room of the Alfonso XIII, we will taste cultural culinary specialties during tapas sojourns and dinners redolent with local flavours.
And did I mention that Sevilla (and Jerez) is where you find the soul of flamenco —guitar, dance, and singing. We will experience a flamenco performance that will be both artistic and intense—a memorable evening is promised!
Following three glorious days and nights in Sevilla—we will depart for Jerez de la Frontera—and the jewel of the vinous world—Sherry, where we will experience the inner sanctum of this special part of the world of wine. Jerez de la Frontera is the capital of the Sherry region. While a modern town, a turn down this lane and a quick left there…and you are whisked to centuries long gone.
Sherry is an elixir that few understand and most presume is simply a sweet drink that Auntie enjoyed in the afternoon … hardly!! All Sherry is vinified bone dry from Manzanilla and Fino, to Amontillado, to Palo Cortado, to Oloroso. A sweetened Oloroso is known as Cream Sherry.
Fino and Manzanilla are pale straw-coloured, elegant and yeasty in character. Served well-chilled, they are the world’s most sophisticated aperitifs. Amontillado is golden in colour and more pungent, with a bouquet of hazelnuts and wonderful old wine. Oloroso is darker amber and richer on the nose, with a full bouquet of dried fruit. And yes… there are the delightful and exquisitely rich and sweet Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherries (over ice cream…delicious!). As the world comes to discover these fine wines, the costs will begin to soar, although today, high quality Sherry, with years—if not decades of aging in barrel, continues to be available at a fraction of their true value.
In Jerez we are invited to the grand Consejo Regulador—the Regulatory Counsel for Sherry and Brandy de Jerez—for an educational introduction to the region and the wine.
As in Sevilla, we will also be introduced to Jerez via our informative guided walking tour of the town—established by the Moors, in approximately 780 AD and claimed by
Alfonso X in 1264 as part of the retuning Spanish Catholic nation.
We will visit artisan bodegas to experience how Sherry is created in its various styles—all with much in common, while being unique.
At Gonzalez Byass, we will experience a fascinating and illuminating seminar and tasting at this venerable and architecturally notable bodega established in 1835—followed by dinner in the bodega—which will include the family’s red wines from their Bodegas Beronia in Rioja and their superb red from just outside the Sherry region, Bodegas Finca Moncloa. Lepanto Brandy de Jerez Gran Reserva after dinner—I think yes!
On a much smaller and charming scale, at Bodegas Fernando de Castilla, while we will participate in a tour and Sherry tasting—we will also experience the bodega’s range of stunning Brandy de Jerez . A hearty Andalusian lunch in the bodega will follow, during which we will also be poured the bodega’s red wine, again from just outside the Sherry region—very tasty!
And then there is Bodegas El Maestro Sierra established in 1830 where the bodega stands today, with regal 91 year old matriarch, Doña Pilar Pla at the helm of this most special place. Her Sherries remain remarkable to say the least, with great presence and persistence throughout the Sherry styles. You will experience them for yourself during our visit back into history.
The Bodegas Valdespino, established in 1264(!) is considered to create some of Jerez’s most focused if not fabled Sherries. Valdespino’s Fino Inocente’ solera (Sherry’s fractional blending system to provided assured uniformity) has ten criaderas (levels of barrels) rather than the more typical three or four. And the overall age of Inocente Fino at bottling is ten years (rather than the usual three to five years), an exceptionally long time under flor (the naturally occurring protective yeast layer) for a Fino.
Bodegas Tradicion while originally established in 1650 by the Rivero family, achieved great fame in the 19th century—and was invigorated in the 1990s by decedent, Joaquin Rivero, who with the great Jose Ignacio Domecq, established one of the most “traditional” and remarkable boutique Sherry bodegas—with casks of Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso, and Pedro Ximenez purchased from the superior houses of Valdespino and Domecq and then developed further. And the Brandy de Jerez Gran Reserva—superb! During our tour and structured tasting, we will be able to view Sr. Rivero’s art collection which includes, Zubaran, Valazquez, Hiepes, Valdes Leal, Goya and more. Our visit will be memorable. Again—access to the inner sanctum.
In that Jerez is also closely associated with Carthusian horses or “Cartujanos”, the performance at the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre, is truly a delight, you are certain to enjoy.
A visit to “El Palacio de Tiempo”… The Palace of Time (or The Clock Museum) is remarkable… expect significantly more than just clocks!
The second town of the Sherry Triangle is El Puerto de Santa Maria—where we will visit Bodegas Gutierrez-Colosia established in 1838 situated at the mouth of the Guadalete River, ensuring sufficient humidity and cool sea breezes—and the most unusual Bodega Obregon—seemingly more an ancient, delightful tavern than a bodega. The Sherries of Puerto, I find, have a character between the roundness of Jerez Sherries and the elegance of the wines from Sanlucar de Barrameda. We will determine for ourselves!
We will also visit the third town of the Sherry Triangle — Sanlucar de Barrameda where the elegant Manzanilla is created in this unique, more humid micro-climate at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River on the Atlantic. In Sanlucar we will visit the ancient Bodegas Barbadillo, established in 1821, to experience their superb range of Manazanilla Sherries and sips of their historic Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso, and PX from their ancient and dazzlingly expensive “Reliquia” bottlings.
From Sanlucar—we will drive the short distance to the vast and protected nature reserve of dunes and wetlands, Parque Nacional de Doñana to witness the rare vegetation, birds, and animals that find refuge there. The reserve can only be visited on “official tours” in the park’s rugged bus—and such arrangements are presently underway.
Before returning to our hotel in Jerez—for those who revel—and I mean revel in fresh, exotic, and superbly prepared seafood—that was in the sea some few hours—or minutes prior, the name “Casa Bigote” is paradise!! Dinner will be special!! Manzanilla will be served!
And in speaking of cuisine—for those who joined me on our tour of Alicante, Jumilla, Yecla, and Almansa—and our most recent Parador tour—you will assuredly remember our “way beyond the norm!” cheese and wine tastings (in Alicante and Siguenza)—quite remarkable! The cheeses of Andalusia are artisanal and delicious—we will experience a focused Sherry and cheese tasting illustrating the perfect matches created. Sherry and Queso!
And there will be more—I continue to fine tune! And there will be a wonderful surprise per group!
Cost of Tour
Air is not included. As noted, the tour commences in Sevilla on the dates associated with the respective groups. The cost includes our hotel rooms in the Alfonso XIII and the Sherry Park, our welcoming banquet at the Alfonso XIII, all breakfasts and lunch or dinner, our restaurant meals, our flamenco performance, our two guided walking tours in Sevilla, and our walking tour in Jerez, our guided tour of the Doñana nature reserve, our presentation at the Consejo Regulador of Jerez, admission fees to all historical sites and museums, admission to the Royal Equestrian performance and the Palacio del Tiempo (the clock museum), all bus and taxi transfers—and of course, all bodega tours, tastings, and dinners or lunches in the bodegas, including our wine and cheese event. And also, a wonderful surprise awaits—you will not be disappointed!
Cost per person double occupancy 3222 Euros per person
Single Supplement 290 Euros
A non-refundable deposit of 940 Euros is required to confirm your reservation
For further information, or for Reservation Forms, contact me at 416 927 9464. Do not forward your deposit without first receiving the Reservation Form
MADRID: Many of you intend to spend a night or some few days in Madrid—always a wonderful experience, prior to and/or following our adventure in Andalusia. Our hotel in Madrid, the so elegant Hotel Wellington www.hotel-wellington.com provides us with their very good group rate. If you wish to spend some nights in Madrid as I am, I will be pleased to make your reservations, under The Spanish Wine Society.
What the writers say:
“Thank you for sharing your energy and vision and for originating the most fun trip we have taken anywhere in this decade. Thank you for sharing your passion with us.”
Jim and Carol White,International Food and Wine Writers Napa California
“Perhaps no one in North America has a better grasp and understanding of the soul of Spanish wine making than Barry Brown. I have seen the itinerary. This tour will be memorable.”
Tony Aspler, Wine Educator, Writer and Author
“The Spanish Wine Society is under the direction of the quixotic Spanish wine lover Barry Brown who travels, eats and drinks Español at every opportunity. His annual Spanish wine tours are considered pivotal life experiences by those who have signed on.”
David Lawrason, Wine Educator, wine columnist for Toronto Life Magazine.