Toma Tours have been showing visitors the insider secrets of our favourite Sherry bodegas for a while, so in celebration of World Sherry Day we would like to share some of these secrets with our readers too.
The so called “Sherry Triangle” is formed at three points by the towns of el Puerto de Santa María, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and of course, Jerez de la Frontera.
This triangle forms between the sea and two rivers, and has a very particular climate and soil that has allowed since Phoenician times, the production of a unique variety of wines called sherries.
Toma Tours has been exploring these three cities in preparation for our brand new 3 day Sherry Triangle Tour. So today we are sharing our first photo blog, and our love for El Puerto de Santa Maria…
The Sherry Triangle towns (I). El Puerto de Santa María
Halfway along the bay of Cádiz in South West Andalucia, lies the town of El Puerto de Santa María which is also known as “El Puerto” by its nearly ninety thousand inhabitants.
The town didn’t originally develop right next to the sea, which is only two kilometers away from the historical centre, but on the banks of the mouth of the Guadalete river.
This specific location has influenced the town’s architecture, economy, character and daily life throughout the years.
Phoenicians and Romans were the first to settle in el Puerto, starting an old salt industry which today is still active.
During Moorish times, the town was called Alcanatif (port of salt) and it keeps some remains of an old Mosque that was converted into a fortified church after the reconquest and later into a castle.
Some more important religious constructions followed like the priory church which first opened for public worship in 1493.
El Puerto started to live its most glorious period in the 18th century after the trade with the Americas was monopolized in the neighbour city of Cádiz. Many merchants built their palaces in El Puerto providing the city with a colonial identity that still remains in the façades and patios of many buildings.
Then, by the beginning of the 19th century, came the development of the Sherry Wine industry. Very many wineries started their activity and built dozens of bodegas outside the historical centre and along the river towards the sea expanding the town limits notoriously.
Since dry Sherries (or Finos) age in contact with the air, the location of the bodegas, right next to a tidal river, gives Finos from el Puerto a very distinctive and slightly salty taste. This variety of dry Sherry from el Puerto de Santa María is called Puerto Fino and is unique from this part of the world.
The town’s bullring which is the third biggest in Spain, also dates from the 19th century and is known to be one of the nicest bullrings where to see a bullfight in Spain. According to what the famous bullfighter Joselito el Gallo said in 1916 “Who hasn’t seen a bullfight in El Puerto doesn’t know what a bullfight afternoon is”.
From the end of the 19th century and up to the last decades of the 20th century El Puerto was mainly a fishing town with a large fleet of fishing boats that would maintain a healthy economy. Small quarters for fishermen developed in the outskirts of the town beyond the bodegas during this period.
Since the nineteen eighties tourism has been the main economic activity of El Puerto due to its coastal location, sandy beaches and privileged climate with mild winters and cool summers.
Nowadays, El Puerto is a lovely sleepy coastal town from September till June which is proud of its glorious past and traditions.
The local market is a lively area in the morning where the locals go to buy fresh food stopping beforehand for breakfast in the genuine bars around. Some of them have hardly changed since the nineteen twenties.
A few local wineries are still family owned and sell Sherry and vinegar by the litre straight from the casks and people go there with empty bottles to get them refilled.
Also small shops outside the market are an absolute delight for foodies with their wide selection of wines, cheeses, hams and sweets. The owners know the name of their customers who often stay for a wee chat and a glass of Sherry before heading off to the next shop.
The town becomes really quiet during siesta time to recover its slow pace again later in the day. At around 6pm the shops reopen and the locals come out of their houses for a stroll, to buy their groceries, or for to enjoy a café con leche and a pastry in one of the cafes of the main town squares. The squares are full of architectural gems that allow us to recreate what El Puerto was like hundreds of years ago.
Toma Tours also run a popular day to Jerez where we experience the magnificent Andalucian Equestrian art at its home, and learn some very special secrets at one of our favourite bogegas. Learn more about our Spirit of Jerez Tour.
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