After a tour of the city center of Jerez, we walked to Bodegas Fundador!
Here, bodega is translated to winery (not the same as the NYC meaning!). Jerez is in a region known for its sherry and brandy production. The bodega we visited produces two brands of sherry, Harvey and Terry, and one of brandy, called Fundador.
Spanish brandy, now renowned, was an accidental discovery in 1874. A Dutch company reached out to the winery, asking for a large shipment, which led to a distillation process gone wrong after the company did not send the agreed upon payment. The result, it turns out, was both potent and delicious and thus, the first Spanish brandy was made!
During our tour of the grounds, we entered several different rooms, including one called “La Mezquita” and one called “El Molino.” In each, the barrels were stacked in layers where each layer represents a different step in the aging process of the wines. The brandy and sherry are extracted using a specialized process; because no barrels are removed or completely emptied, there are barrels at the bodega that date back to the 1730s! Solera is named due to its level on the floor (el suelo) and is the level with the oldest liquid. The two criaderas above are slightly younger (middle) and the youngest (top) in the bodega.
We also learned about the yeast and oxidation processes they use to create different drinks with a range of alcohol content. At the end of the tour, we visited the on-site museum.
Sherry production is the main industry in the city of Jerez. The soils and climate are well-suited to the specific type of grapes and export of the wines represents a major economic driver in the region. This area is also known as Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, representing the Spanish, French and English names for the drink and recalling the Arabic name for the city. As a way of protecting the local product, the name “sherry” can only be applied to wines of that type produced in this region. The D.O., or denominación de origen, is a protected status for products associated with a specific region in the country.
The Domecq family who once owned the bodega is no longer in control, due to changing finances and global market conditions. Since 2015, a Philippine company called Grupo Emperador has controlled the brandy and sherry production.
Its owner, Andrew Tan, signed one of the barrels in the “celebrity room” of the bodega with the phrase “A New Era Begins.” Here, too, we can see the layering of time in this region of Spain.