Premier Sherry Cocktail Bar

A new and welcome addition to the world of sherry in Sevilla, the Premier Sherry & Cocktail Bar had its official opening on October 19th, with a special master class tasting to showcase some of its brands. The sherry cocktail bar is the sixth establishment in the Premium chain, which was founded in 2010 by brothers Martín and Enrique Maíllo, and has until now specialised in spirits – rum, gin, whisky and vodka, together with a range of tonic waters. The sherry bar is therefore something of a new departure, but aims to maintain the high standards of the group in events, service and quality of product.

In most respects the ambiance is what you might expect of a cocktail bar, with concealed blue light at the junction of walls and ceiling shining through the glassware and serried ranks of interestingly coloured bottles lining the shelves. It’s relatively small size and hints of exposed brickwork give it a subtle sense of intimacy that is quite appropriate to the nature of sherry. The unique element of the decoration, though, are the diagrams along the side wall, designed by José Peñascal, detailing the various grape and sherry production processes, and how they result in the different styles of sherry.

Aside from offering great wines and cocktails, the Premier Sherry Cocktail Bar also gives private tastings, in both Spanish and English, by appointment only. The space can also be booked for private events.

The opening day tasting was interesting and lots of fun, with as good an attendance as the venue really allowed, and was headed by sherry ambassador Pepe Ferrer. An excellent range of sherries from the Consejo Regulador was accompanied by delicious snack pairings.

Many thanks to Cristina Botija and Desirée Ramos of Premium for organising the event, which I hope will be the first of many.

sherry ambassador Pepe Ferrer

pouring palo cortado

the sherry production wall

Pepe Ferrer, Enrique Maillo, Martín Maillo, José Peñascal

Premier Sherry Cocktail Bar
Jaen 1
Tel +34 955 133 032
3.00 pm – 2.00 am (4 am weekends)

Pando Cheese Tasting

Pando Restaurant @PandoSevilla in San Eloy Street has been running a series of excellent “Gastronomic Schools” – educational tastings – of which the latest was this week’s cheese tasting, hosted by Diego Ruiz de Terry of Pando (Grupo San Eloy) and presented by Antonio Rodriguez Vacas of cheese distributors TGT group.

We tasted three very different cheeses, one goats’ cheese, one sheeps’ cheese, and one dairy cheese, accompanied by different wines.

Queso Ibores is a surprisingly mild and creamy goats cheese from the Extramadura region, with none of the harsher overtones of some goat cheeses. We had the natural version, but it also comes flavoured with pimentón, which gives the cheese a deeper yellow-orange colour. Delicious served with a light white wine.

Queso Roncal is a typical strong mature (minimum of 4 months ageing) sheeps cheese from the Navarra region of northeast Spain that has been produced in the traditional way for hundreds of years, and was the first cheese to have a Denomination of Origin (1981). Serve with quince jam and grapes and an earthy red wine to bring out the full flavour.

Queso Mahón is a dairy cheese (a relative rarity in Spain) from the island of Menorca, named after the port which was its point of export. The version we had was an aged variety (it also comes fresh or semi-cured), hard and flaky in texture, with a yellow-orange colour and a strong, rather salty, flavour. Excellent with a nice red wine.

Thanks to Pando and TGT group for putting on an enjoyable event.

Riding the C5 in Sevilla

For years I’ve seen this cute microbus all around town – and I mean ALL around – but not in a way that made any sense. I’d wonder how the C5 bus stop could be in so many seemingly random spots and where it could possibly be going. Then one day my friends Julie & Steve informed me that “riding the C5” was one of their favourite pastimes when they visited Sevilla, so I put it on my To Do list, and today I decided to take the plunge.

There are three of these Mercedes Sprinter diesel microbuses used on the route, measuring 7.7 metres long and 1.9 metres wide, with a capacity of 27 passengers (13 seated, 14 standing), and equipped with an electric ramp for people with limited mobility.

[click on image to enlarge]

Calling the C5 a circular route is a serious simplification. We started at the “start/finish” stop just behind the Alfonso XIII Hotel and from there it was like being on a Magical Mystery tour. We had no idea where the bus was going to go next as it trundled down one narrow street to another. Just when I thought I knew where we were headed it would abruptly turn, even occasionally backtracking down a parallel street to end up almost where it had just been. Whoever designed the route must have been either mad or a genius. Or drunk. We noticed that sometimes even locals getting on the bus had no idea where it was going, and would get right off again after checking with the driver. But it clearly serves a purpose, as long as you’re not in a hurry, connecting parts of the “casco antiguo” (old centre) that larger buses can’t access.

AND…it was fun. Plus it could also serve as a totally wonky “off the beaten path” tourist ride for visitors, though it’s a bit of a bumpy ride at times, and the driver doesn’t stop anywhere for long, so taking photos is tricky (as you can see above). But I’ll certainly be doing it again. 🙂


Repost from Casa Azahar

Viña Galvana by Delgado Zuleta


This week I was invited to a cata for this year’s edition of Bodegas Delgado Zuleta’s D.O Cádiz white wine Viña Galvana. Delgado Zuleta is of course best known for its sherries (it’s said to be the oldest bodega in the marco de Jerez), especially Manzanilla La Goya, but also produces local white wines.

The 2017 Viña Galvana (85% Palomino Fino and 15% Moscatel) is a fresh, light wine with a bright pale gold colour and a touch of fruitiness, and pairs well with fish and seafood. Really a perfect summer wine. The label pays tribute to one of Sanlucar’s most popular events, the annual horse races on the beach which take place every August. The cata was presented by Jorge Pascual, the Director-General of Delgado Zuleta and enologist José Antonio Sánchez Pazo, with promotion by @ProbandoGastro.

The event was hosted by Cinta Romero and her team at La Cochera del Abuelo, who also provided a light post-cata lunch. Thanks to everyone who helped organise this very pleasant event.

Palacio de las Dueñas

The Palacio de Las Dueñas is the Seville home of the Dukes of Alba, and until her recent death, of Cayetana, the 18th Duchess of Alba. Last year the house was opened to the public, and recenly I took a rather delayed opportunity to see it for myself.

The palace was originally built in the 15th century by the Pineda family, one of the original aristocratic houses of Seville, and was named for the adjacent Monastery of Las Dueñas (finally demolished in 1868). In 1496 the house was sold to Doña Catalina de Ribera, widow of Governor Don Pedro Enriquez, according to legend in order to pay for the ransom of Don Juan de Pineda, taken prisoner by the Moors during the wars against Granada. In 1612 it passed by marriage to the family of the Dukes of Alba, where it has remained ever since. In the 19th century parts of the palace were converted for a time into a boarding house, and Antonio Machado, probably Seville’s most famous poet, was born here in 1875.

From the outside, despite a substantial entry gate with a glimpse of garden beyond, it’s only moderately impressive, and it’s full extent really only becomes apparent once you pass inside. The main palace is essentially Renaissance, and built around three sides of the central courtyard (the fourth side giving onto the gardens), with additional wings and courtyards, and surrounded by gardens and outbuildings. Despite being near the city centre it’s an oasis of peace, calm and greenery, and it’s easy to appreciate why the family loved the place so much.

The tour begins in the front garden courtyard, where our handy audio guide explains some of the history of the Palace. Ahead of us is the apeadero, a typical feature of all grand houses, where visitors would have alighted from their carriages, but our route takes us off to the right to the stables, and through to the famous garden of the lemon trees immortalised by Machado. From there we come to the central courtyard, the heart of the old palace. This is built on two floors in the Gothic-Mudejar style with the typical columns, arches and decorative plasterwork of the period. In one corner the principle staircase, adorned with tapestries and with an outstanding ornate coffered wood ceiling, leads up to the private residence of the Dukes of Alba (not open to the public).

Arranged around the courtyard on the ground floor are a number of rooms that traditionally formed the public part of a late mediaeval palace. These include the chapel and is antechamber, where the extended family and their friends would gather for religious occasions, the Flamenco room, complete with a tablao for dancing, and of course, a library. All these rooms also serve to house an important collection of art and furniture collected over the centuries.

Tucked away beyond these are the Olive Oil Patio (so named because it was once used for storing olive oil), and the quiet space of the Santa Justa garden, which has a picturesque creeper clad balcony overlooking one corner, one of my favourite places in the palace.

The Palacio de las Dueñas is almost like a bridge between times present, and times past (at least if you were wealthy), and offers one of those rare glimpses into another style of life. It’s well worth a visit.

Calle Dueñas 5
Sevilla
Tel: +34 954 214 828
Palacio de las Dueñas Website

Hospital de los Venerables – Velázquez & Murillo

This year is the 400th anniversary of the birth of Bartolome Murillo, probably Sevilla’s most famous painter, and has been officially declared the Year of Murillo. As part of the commemorations the Fundación Focus-Abengoa, in collaboration with the Prado Museum, London’s National Gallery, and others, has organised a very special exhibition comparing the work of Murillo and Sevilla’s other most famous painter, Diego Velázquez.

velazquez murilloThe two painters, born in Seville a generation apart (Velazquez in 1599 and Murillo in 1617), and having their formative influences there, nevertheless had quite different career trajectories, Velazquez leaving Seville to work at the Spanish court in Madrid in 1623, while Murillo spent his entire working life in Seville. It’s not known whether the two ever actually met in person (though they must have been aware of each others’ work), but while there is no record of a meeting, it’s not impossible as Murillo visited Madrid on several occasions, although art experts think that there was only limited reciprocal influence.

santa rufinaSanta Rufina by Murillo (left) and Velázquez (right)

However, it’s clear from the 19 paintings in the exhibition, 10 by Murillo and 9 by Velázquez, that there were common influences in the cultural world of Sevilla in the 17th century. This shows itself in both the choice (or commissioning) of subjects, especially in religious subjects pertaining to Sevilla such as the Saints Justa and Rufina and the Immaculate Conception, as well as of Saint Peter and the Adoration of the Magi, and the highly naturalistic style of the scenes of everyday life.

day to day lifeEveryday scenes by Velázquez (left) and Murillo (right)

It’s also appropriate that the exhibition is being hosted in the Venerables Hospital, a building that is of the early 17th century, and which has both a historical and current associations with the two painters. Around mid-January the exhibition, which continues until February 28th, surpassed the 50,000 visitor mark.

Velásquez | Murillo | Sevilla
Hospital de los Vernerables
Plaza de los Venerables 8
Open 10.00 – 18.00 (last entrance at 17.30)
General Admission: 8 euros
Free Admission Tuesday 14.00 – 18.00

Finos Palmas 2016

palmas-2016-1

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.

palmas-2016-3

  • 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.

las-palmas-2016

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.

palmas-2016-4

foto de familia

palmas-2016-2

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.

venerables (1)

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.

Sherry On Top

sherry on top

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.

sherryontop (1)

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.

sherryontop (2)-001

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