Sevilla Blog

Finos Palmas 2016

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The Cuatro Palmas (four palms) is an annual selection of a small number of the very best casks of Tio Pepe Fino sherries from Bodega González Byass in Jerez, which are publicly presented to the sherry and hospitality trades and selected press at an invitation only event in November.

palmas-2016-5Pedro Rebuelta, Cayetano Martínez de Irujo, Antonio Flores

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the presentation, which was held at the spectacular Palacio de las Dueñas, the seat of the Duke Of Alba, in Sevilla. Only opened to the public in May, this 15th century Gothic-Renaissance-Mudejar style palace, with is long halls and garden courtyards, was a perfect venue for the presentations and tastings.

This year’s selections were made in September by Antonio Flores, Gonzalez Byass’ master winemaker, and renowned sommelier Gérard Bassett, and bottled, as always, “en rama”, without filtration or clarification. Not an easy task, but eventually wines were selected for each of the four palmas.

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  • One Palm is a 6 year old Fino selected from three casks, out of a total of 142, that exemplifies the evolution of the style.
  • Two palms is an 8 year old Fino selected from just two casks out of 150, reflecting the elegance of a well aged wine.
  • Three Palms is a 10 year old Fino selected from a single cask at the limit of the biological ageing process.
  • Four palms is a Fino that has passed to being an amontillado, and was selected from one of just six casks that have been ageing in González Byass for 51 years. It reflects the ability of Tío Pepe to evolve over time.

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The presentation took the form of a palace tour, stopping at a different garden courtyard to sample each wine, while “winemaker poet” Antonio Flores not only regaled us with the unique characteristics of each Palma, but also (aptly) read from the works of Antonio Machado, born in the palace in 1897. This was followed by a sumptuous buffet lunch, with all the Palmas flowing freely. Not surprisingly all the 2016  Finos Palmas stock has been sold already, but you can still find it in select wine shops in Sevilla, such as the Corte Inglés Gourmet Experience.

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foto de familia

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Hospital de los Venerables by Candlelight

This year summer in Sevilla looks like being notable for its night visits to various monuments and cultural establishments. On Tuesday July 26 I was invited to participate in one of a series of night visits to El Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes organised by the Focus-Abengoa Foundation and Engranajes Culturales. This included some parts of the building that are not normally open to the public, and was be partly conducted by candlelight (okay, battery powered candles, not real ones), to give a sense of how the building would have looked in its early days in the late 17th century.

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Our guide for the evening was Sergio Raya, and as the shadows lengthened we collected our candles and set off. The hospital consists essentially of a number of rooms and buildings arranged on two floors around the famous sunken central courtyard, which we would come back to later, but first stop was the Hospital Church.

Although of modest size the iconography of its decoration is considered to be among the most complete and complex in Spain, with a theme revolving around the centrality of the priesthood and the respect owing them. Among the artists whose work is represented here are Lucas Valdés and Juan de Oviedo. Unfortunately the main altar is not the 17th century original, which was destroyed, but dates to 1889. Also modern is the splendid organ, designed and built in the 1990s with decorative finishes faithful to the earlier age.

venerablesthe hospital church and organ

From the church we went on through the sacristy, most notable for a “trompe l’oeil” ceiling designed to make it appear much higher than it really is, and into the patio of the sacristy. This is the oldest part of the building, and was where the first patients were housed prior to the completion of the hospital dormitories. The back entrance to the hospital, giving onto Calle Consuelo, is here too. Just beyond is another patio with an intriguing history. This was the location of the Corral de Comedias de Doña Elvira, an institution that could be thought of as the Sevilla equivalent of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and roughly contemporary with it (1578-1632). It was so named because it was in the gardens of the Palace of Doña Elvira de Ayala (born 1377), which was in the nearby Plaza of that name.

venerables (2)central patio

From there we went back to the central patio, which is one of the best in Sevilla. Unusually, the central square is below the level of the surrounding colonnade, and the fountain is set into a stepped circular well. The overall effect is visually pleasing, though apparently the motivation for the design was the rather mundane matter of drainage.

Our next stop was the hospital room on the lower floor (there is another on the upper floor; these were used at different times of year), not normally open to the public. A high-ceilinged room with an arcade of pillars down the centre, it reminded me somewhat of a sherry bodega. A painting in the upper gallery shows it with the patients in rows of beds down either side, and this was the model for the layout of other hospitals in the city. We experience it by the light of our candles, a rather gloomy place, and after a while stifling in the summer heat.

venerables (3)view of the church through the upper gallery

On then to the upper gallery, by way of the main stairway, which has a fine cupola with representations of the papal tiara and Saint Peter’s keys, maintaining the theme of the importance of the Church and clergy. On the side of the upper gallery alongside the church a doorway to a screened balcony allows you to look down into the church without being seen.

Next stop was the Library. This was created in 1981 as an HQ and book depository for Focus Abengoa, in what was originally the Hospital refectory. Beyond, a narrow stairway leads up to the Altana, or Torre Mirador, an open platform with a mudejar style ceiling from where you can look out over the Santa Cruz neighbourhood. As always, things look different from the rooftops than they do at ground level, and I found it quite hard to get my bearings.

venerables (4)warning! 

This was a fitting last stop on our tour, which showed us more, and with a deeper level of explanation, than you get from a standard visit, so a big thank you to Engranajes Culturales and Focus Abengoa for a fascinating experience, and to our guide Sergio who kept things going despite almost 40º temps and who was both entertaining and informative.

venerables (5)view from the Torre Mirador

For more summertime cultural experiences, including night visits to Las Dueñas, El Salvador Church and Las Teresas Convent, have a look at Engranajes Activities Page.

Pando Food Photography Workshop

pando foto workshopLast week I was invited to attend a food photography workshop for food bloggers and journalists, hosted by Pando Restaurantes and Gourmedia. It had been awhile since I’d been to the Pando central location in calle San Eloy and I was impressed by the changes to the premises, which were modern without being modernist, and comprising an indoor “terrace” at the front, a large bar area, an interior patio, and a dining room. The photography workshop was held in the bar area, and our tutor for the evening was professional food photographer, and my old friend, Manolo Manosalbas.

pando foto workshop manoloManolo Manosalbas in action

During the course of a fun and informative evening we got to practice our photographic skills on (and later eat) five dishes from Pando’s new menu created by chef Manolo Mediavilla, selected to present a variety of challenges to the budding photographer. Manolo gave us some tips and hints on how to add a variety of perspectives and points of view to our photos, to maintain awareness of lighting and background and give greater depth to photographs, and kept watch over our efforts.

At the end a copy of the book Macuro Tapas, with fabulous food photography by Manolo, was given away as the prize in a raffle, for the further encouragement and education of the lucky winner (who happened to be my pal Peter from @SVQconcierge).

pando photo workshop peterYou can see the results of the participants’ photographic endeavours on Twitter and Instagram by using the hashtag #gastrofotopando. Here are my best shots from the evening…

pando foto workshop ensaladillaEnsaladilla de gambas con mayonesa de manzanilla

pando foto workshop mejillonesMejillones con coco y curry

pando foto workshop sopaSopa de cigales con lomo de salmonete

pando foto workshop presaPresa Ibérica de Bellota, soufflé de calabaza, crema de boletus

pando foto workshop biscochoBiscocho de remolacha con crema de payoyo

Sherry On Top

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Last night (July 6th) I had the good fortune and privilege to be invited to the first of a new season of music & wine events in Sevilla with the title Sherry on Top. Organised by the Consejo Regulador de los Vinos de Jerez, in conjunction with the Asociación de Hoteles de Sevilla y Provincia‘s #summerHOTELtime initiative, it aims to attract people to some of Sevilla’s best hotel rooftop terraces with a programme of live music, sherry tastings, and exclusive sherry cocktails designed by the hotels’ bartenders.

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Last night’s event was held at the Hotel Inglaterra in Plaza Nueva, one of Seville’s most popular rooftops. Comfortable and elegant, with fabulous views of the Town Hall, El Salvador Church and the Cathedral, it was a pleasant place to spend a balmy evening out of doors, and many of the great and good from the worlds of sherry and hospitality were there, including the newly re-elected head of the Consejo Regulador, Don Beltrán Domecq. As always at such events it was also a good opportunity to renew acquaintance with old friends and make a few new ones.

The tasting was hosted by Carmen Aumesquet and Pepe Ferrer, and featured a Fino, an Oloroso and a sherry Cream cocktail. Live music was provided by Los Quiero, who turned out to be rather good, playing music from the 50s-60s-70s, including some forgotten favourites.

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Altogether a very nice evening, and I hope to attend a few more of these events over the summer, on from now until the end of September. Check the links below for the upcoming venues and performers and be sure to reserve your spot as space is limited. Salud!

Sherry On Top Webiste
Sherry Wines Facebook

Viña Sevilla – Fiesta del Vino

vina sevilla (1)The Third Fiesta del Vinos, organised by Viña Sevilla, is a great opportunity to discover and learn about the wonderful world of Spanish wines. This edition will be held in creative-space Rompemoldes and will be a bit like a big street party where you can sample a wide selection of wines from different areas of Spain and also meet the winemakers. There will be various wine tastings, interactive workshops, along with homemade tapas and plenty of good music. Entrance is free but if you’d like to sign up for any of the workshops get in touch with Viña Sevilla as space for these events is limited.
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Viña Sevilla – Fiesta del Vinos
Centro Rompemoldes
San Luís 70
Friday May 20th  7.00 pm – midnight
Saturday May 21st  12.00 pm – midnight

Vinos de España – Una Pasión

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Tomorrow Sevilla will host the third edition of “Wines of Spain. A Passion”, a gathering of wineries organised this year by Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo, presenting the enormous diversity and richness of Spanish wines to fans, professionals, and wine lovers alike.

The event will be held in in the heart of Seville at Casa Bucarelli, an idyllic environment that combines beauty and history of the city. 42 Spanish wineries will be featured with a selection of over 200 fine wines. There will be a diverse representation of producing areas, designations of origin and wines: Rias Baixas, Bierzo, Somontano, Cádiz, Priorato, Jerez, Toro, Rioja, Mallorca, Extremadura, Navarra, Txakoli, Wheel, Cava, Ronda, Ribeiro, Valencia, Arianza, Ribera del Duero, Madrid, among others.

Vinos de España Una Pasión
May 12th
11.30 am – 7.30 pm

Tío Pepe en Rama 2016

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After having to miss this year’s presentation of Tío Pepe en Rama 2016 (because of this!) I found myself having a post-shopping pre-dinner glass of wine up at Gourmet Experience and my pal Silvia stopped by. Silvia not only runs the place at GE but her father Antonio Flores (AKA the winemaker poet) is the master wine blender at Gonzalez Byass and is also the guy responsible for Tío Pepe en Rama. Turns out Silvia missed the presentation too (she was only able to stop by for a quick hello before it all got going) and she insisted I try a glass. And well, it was damn fine. Thank you Silvia!

Tío Pepe en Rama 2016 was first selected in October from 100 of the best casks from two of the oldest Tío Pepe soleras, Rebollo and Constancia, and finally bottled (16,000 in total) in April from the top 60 out of those initial 100 casks.

A wild unfiltered wine, with all its yeast and organic contribution. Yellow, pale, golden tones, cloudy (yeast in suspension). The nose is pure albariza, salinity, nuts, bakery aromas. Tasty, intense, long, salty and slightly bitter finish. Or as Antonio would say… el sol de Andalucía embotellado (bottled Andalusian sunshine).

You can order Tío Pepe en Rama 2016 from the Gonzalez Byass online store or (in Sevilla) buy it at El Corte Inglés Gourmet Experience Duque.

Sevilla Feria 2016

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Some scenes from the Feria de Abril in Sevilla. The portada this year was a “Homage to Dance” and the winning design, by Eduardo Morón Espinosa, was inspired by the Argentinian Pavilion for the 1929 Spanish American Exhibition, now the Antonio Ruiz Soler Conservatory of Professional Dance.

I was invited to have lunch one afternoon at the private (and massive) City Hall caseta, so I went along with my friend and colleague Aldara Arias de Saavedra from We Love Tapas and we were shown a fabulous time by Diego Torres, editor of Sevilla Selecta magazine, who was in charge of coordinating all the food for the event. Afterwards we took a stroll around the grounds. It was a lovely sunny afternoon but heavy rains earlier in the week had taken its toll and the thousands of colourful paper lanterns that typically cover the lights had literally been washed away. There are rumours that next year the feria may start on Saturday (instead of the traditional Monday at midnight opening) and last for ten days. We shall see…

feria sevilla 2016 (4)arriving at the feria

feria sevilla 2016 (6)flamenco in the Ayuntamiento caseta

feria sevilla 2016 (9)cold manzanilla served in a chilled metal teapot

feria sevilla 2016 (10)this year’s spring fiestas poster

feria sevilla 2016 (8)Andalusian products

feria sevilla 2016 (7)Inés Rosales for dessert

feria sevilla 2016 (22)Aldara

feria sevilla 2016 (5)Diego and Aldara

feria sevilla 2016 (19)lovely head scarf on this lovely amazona

feria sevilla 2016 (18)chatting each other up

feria sevilla 2016 (23)We Love Tapas chicas Ania and Aldara

feria sevilla 2016 (15)washed away paper lanterns

feria sevilla 2016 (24)feria shoes…

feria sevilla 2016 (29)kids playing outside a caseta

feria sevilla 2016 (17)two young girls singing sevillanas

feria sevilla 2016 (21)beautiful colours

feria sevilla 2016 (14)horse whisperer

feria sevilla 2016 (13)carriage ride

feria sevilla 2016 (12)hombres

feria sevilla 2016 (11)taking a break

feria sevilla 2016 (28)big and little

feria sevilla 2016 (27)amazona

feria sevilla 2016 (26)chicas!

feria sevilla 2016 (20)inside a public caseta

feria sevilla 2016 (16)late afternoon shadows

feria sevilla 2016 (25)the wheel – would’ve gone up but it was way too speedy

Feria de Abril Sevilla

Feria Portada 2016

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La Feria de Abril, or April Fair, is Sevilla’s annual party to welcome the spring. This year it runs from April 12 to 17 (the alumbrao, or switching on of the lights, is at midnight on April 11), and for a week the fairground will be abuzz with people, horses and carriages, and the sound of flamenco.

Entrance to the fairground is through a specially constructed gateway, called the Portada, which is rebuilt every year with a different theme. This year’s theme is “Homage to Dance” and the winning design, by Eduardo Morón Espinosa, was inspired by the Argentinian Pavilion for the 1929 Spanish American Exhibition, which is now the Antonio Ruiz Soler Conservatory of Professional Dance, and can be found in the Paseo de las Delicias.

The design also includes two commemorative plaques, one to each side of the central gateway. To the left is one for the 4th centenary of the death of Miguel Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. To the right is celebrated the 750th anniversary of the parish church of Santa Ana in Triana.

Feria de Abril 2016
April 12 – 17
Sevilla