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At this time of year the sherry propagandists start to correct our misapprehensions about sherry. It’s not just a winter drink. But a summer one too.

One of these professional propagandists  and fortified wine advocacy campaigners told me  : “My Australian brother-in-law is a sheep and cattle farmer, hard as nails, and loves his sherry. Sherry is no longer the ‘bottle for the Sheilas’ as the 4X ad used to say.”

Too right.


We all have prejudices to overcome. And Edinburgh University graduate, Oxford-born, former crocodile  farmer, Tim Holt’s job is now to help us with some them. Such as sherry being not just a winter warmer or fireside drink.  But a cooling stimulant too.

Climate change is affecting sherry drinkers. Now they can drink sherry throughout the summer. Fine quality sherry is a luxury all-year-round.

“It’s not so surprising that chilled Manzanilla is the most popular of sherries in Spain and especially in

Andalucia with our long hot summers.

“There’s a very strong case for Manzanilla in a the British summer. It’s the slow food alternative to the champagne guzzlers: great with your summer picnics. Solear is available from Waitrose. Or Manzanilla Pasada ‘Pastora’. “

Authorised grape varieties are Palomino. Pedro Ximenez, Moscatel de Grano Menudo and Moscatel de Alejandria. Manzanilla is best served chilled at 7–10 °C (45–50 °F).

La Gitana Manzanilla is the gourmet sherry.


Its produced under the ‘solera’ system using American oak casks, in the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, north-west of Cadiz near the Donana National park and its Marisama de Hinojos ( Salt marshes of Fennel). Maturation occurs under a veil of yeast or ‘flor’ (a type of local yeast that forms a cap on the wine, protecting it from oxidation), ensuring a light dry taste.

Only in Sanlúcar de Barrameda does the flor grow 12 months of the year, giving Manzanilla its unique style. La Gitana is bottled exclusively by Bodegas Hidalgo-La Gitana S.A. under the original and iconic brand label ‘La Gitana’, one of Spain’s oldest wine brands and  it’s a perfect introduction into the world of sherry and is one of the most refreshing styles of sherry out there! Serve it chilled in a wine glass as an aperitif.  Great with just about everything. Not just cured hams and Med seafood.

For the last nine years, Holt has worked  with Barbadillo ( est.1821)  in Sanlucar de Barrameda. Which is famous for its hors eraces ( some of theoldets in the world ) and May-time Feria de la Manzanilla. The town has seventeen sherry cathedrals containing 3,000 large wooden butts with oak staves..

Tim talks fondly about his elderly butts and wind.


“Our Levante and Poniente bottlings are named after two winds that govern the climate in our part of southern Spain. The poniente is the cooling, humid westerly sea breeze and the west; the levante is the hot, dry east wind. Butts stored in the east or west of the bodega are affected by these winds – the poniente bathes its side of the solera in winds that promote the growth of flor, while the drier levante butts tend to have a thinner film of flor.

The Barbadillo cathedrals, next to the Guadalquivir River, facing the Atlantic Ocean,  go back to the 1870s but weren’t  built  for their views. But to make use of the sea breeze which brings humidity, keeps the air cool in the summer and is believed to give a characteristic salty tang.

Sherries marked VORS 0Vinium Optimum Rare Signatum- are thirty years old. Among Tim’s favourite “mainstream” sherries is ‘Principe’ Amontillado 12 year-old  – “ With a marked hazelnut flavour. It’s dry and well-focussed. To me, it’s the perfect aperitif.”