This morning we visited the Osborne Bodega in Puerto Santa Maria, where they have made sherry for over 200 years. The sherry is made from grapes grown locally as this town is one of three which make up the 'sherry triangle' which has it's own micro-climate which helps to produce the correct type of grapes. The summers are long and hot and the winters are mild. At the moment it is harvest time and the grapes are being gathered in. Harvest time involves celebration as at home but here it is more of a festival atmosphere and takes the form of sherry tastings in the towns and large street parties particularly in Jerez!
The bodegas in Puerto Santa Maria are mostly in the middle of the town and look just like enormous factories from the outside, but when you go in they are based around huge courtyards with beautifully kept gardens and there is a warm, sweet smell of sherry in the air.
Courtyard at the Bodega Osborne
After a short video presentation about the products made and distributed by Osborne, it is a large company selling lots of high quality items other than sherry and brandy all over the world, we went into the bodega itself. The company makes various sherries, from a white fino which is about 15% proof to a Pedro Ximinez dark sherry at about 20% proof. There are single grape and mixed grape sherries, about 6 in all. The white fino is aged five years but unlike wine they don't put it in barrel and age it for 5 years and then bottle it and mark it as 2010. Sherry is stored in 600 litre barrels each holding about 500 litres of sherry so it has breathing room! The barrels are stacked up to 3 high in the main bodega and there are two further levels in another building making 5 in all. Each year around harvest, 100 litres are taken from the bottom barrel and bottled, this is replaced by 100 litres from the barrel above and so on to the top. New sherry is then added to the top barrel from the harvest. This means that all the sherry is mixed and so should all taste the same year after year.
After the education bit we got to the fun bit - tasting the sherry! Now bearing in mind it was about 11.30am, we weren't expecting a lot, but this is Spain after all. We were taken into a different room where tables were set up with glasses and there were 2 bottles for us to try, one a cream, sweet sherry and the other an Olorso which was a bit drier, we also asked to try the fino. After pouring us very generous measures, we were then left with 3 bottles on the table to help ourselves to while we chatted to the other couple on the tour - very civilised indeed. When we left we were certainly in a good mood and very relaxed!!