In southern Spain festivals celebrating the beginning of the wine crush take place in the heat of the Andalucían autumn. Many villages have these vendimia, or vintage festivals.
The Vendimia de Jerez is a mixture of wine festival, horse exhibition, bull fights, and flamenco celebration. It takes place in September in Jerez de la Frontera in southwestern Spain. Jerez is famous for its sherry, horses, and bulería.
The streets are filled with celebration in the evening and late into the night. During the heat of the day this old city also provides quiet shady plazas where you can pass the afternoon, after siesta. But even while sitting in the shade having some tapas and water you may be treated to an impromptu street flamenco ballad by someone from one of the nearby flamenco schools for dancers, guitarists, and singers. The street musicians are very polished and skillful. After each performance they pass through the outdoor cafe and collect Euros on the back of their outstretched guitar.
Jerez is the home of the bulería style of flamenco. Bulería is distinctive for its fast pace and syncopated clapping percussion. And the bulería performance in the Plaza de Toros (bullring) is a highlight of the Vendimia de Jerez.
Jerez has many sherry tasting rooms, or bodegas, and the sherries produced near Jerez are internationally famous. One of the most famous sherry houses is Pedro Domecq. It was begun by an Irishman in 1725 and passed to the French Domecq family in 1730. Many of the sherry producers were owned or influenced by investors from the United Kingdom where this fortified wine is still very popular.
Fino is a dry sherry. The Pedro Domecq La Ina is a very prominent fino sherry from Jerez and it is celebrated with this sign on the top of a building in downtown Jerez (photograph).
At the street level of this building we found our favorite tapas bar. In most places we weren’t too sure what we were ordering from the menu as each restaurant had its own creative names for their tapas. But here the tapas were on display in a curved glass case at a walk-up counter. The case followed the curve of the building. If we weren’t sure what something was we asked the person behind the counter. It was easy to pick out two or three tapas and have a great light meal. Also the tapas here were the best that we had in Spain. It was a great place to sit outside and enjoy people-watching as the streets came back to life after siesta. In most restaurants the menu items could be ordered as tapas or as a full entrée. We learned that in the heat of autumn the tapas size was best.
The Vendimia de Jerez is packed with Andalucían culture. People are in a fiesta mood and are friendly. Jerez de la Frontera is a beautiful old city and a great place to spend a few days in autumn.