Category Archive : Culture

Sherry wines

The 10 best sherry wines in the world

The production and consumption of wine has played an important role in society since ancient times. The first instances of vine cultivation date back to 6000-5000 BC. Yet, it is not until the emergence of the Ancient Egypt and the subsequent Greek and Roman empires that wine truly acquired the status and importance it has today. Egyptian hieroglyphs show how feasts and religious acts revolved around wine, not to mention the fact that many pharaohs were buried surrounded by vessels full of wine so that they could enjoy it in their next lives. Then it came the Greeks and the Romans who even worshiped a god devoted to this fermented juice, namely Dionysos and Bacchus, respectively.

These empires were responsible for great technological developments in vine-growing and wine preservation as well as for the expansion of the wine culture throughout the mediterranean Europe. Interestingly enough, they really enjoyed experimenting with a variety of ingredients such as honey, perfumes, myrrh, thyme and even sea water, so the type of wine that was consumed at that time quite differed from the one nowadays. Such was the value given to this drink that even Roman soldiers were encouraged to drink between 2 and 3 litres of wine per day as it was believed this would give them strength. In fact, it was frequently used as a remedy for a variety of diseases including kidney stones, cholera or phlegm. However, as one might expect, alcoholism was also quite a thing at that time and it is known that big names such as Socrates, Sofocles or Alexander the Great had serious drinking problems.

Later on, with the irruption of Christianism, viticulture and viniculture passed under the control of monasteries, abbeys and castles. These, who first introduced wooden barrels for the preservation of wines, were in charge of supplying churches with this drink for the masses. Thus, it is not surprising that France, Spain and Italy, with a high concentration of religious enclaves, are the most important producers of wine since the Middle Ages. Since then, cutting-edge techniques and more than 3,000 varieties have been developed and refined. Of these, we want to focus this time on Jerez-Xérès-Sherry wines, as it is one of the oldest varieties in the world which is gaining wide recognition in recent times.

The towns of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, in Andalusia, Spain, form what is known as the Sherry Triangle. This small region in the southwest part of the Iberian Peninsula is the only one devoted to the production of the D.O.P Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, the official name given its status of protected designation of origin. The secret of its quality seems to be a combination of four key factors: the geographical location, privileged climate and rich soil of its vineyards as well as the unique aging system of these wineries. Right in the mouth of Guadalquivir river, the production of Palomino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez grapes is greatly influenced by the west winds from the Atlantic ocean, frequent showers and high temperatures.

Once the sherry has been fermented, the base wine is fortified with a grape spirit aimed at increasing its alcohol level. Then, it is aged following a singular process known as solera. Solera consists of mixing the youngest wines, preserved in the top casks of the cellars, with the oldest ones, found in the bottom casks of the same pile. The result is a very versatile, high-quality fortified wine which perfectly pairs with a wide range of flavours, dishes and, of course, tapas.

Within the sherry family, we can find 5 main styles of different levels of dryness: fino, manzanilla, oloroso, amontillado or palo cortado; as well as two sweet styles: Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel, especially popular as a dessert. As a matter of fact, it is known that Christopher Columbus brought sherry wines to the Americas and Ferdinand Magallanes was more worried about having enough supplies of sherry wine than of weapons as he prepared his voyage around the world.

At this point, sherry wine has probably piqued your interest but you might not know where to begin with. If you are a total beginner in the sherry world and you feel totally useless at choosing a good wine, then you must keep reading.

How to find a good wine

It is frequently believed that only true wine connoisseurs are able to identify a good wine. However, as it is usually said, there is no accounting for taste and anybody is able to discern the good from the bad. Indeed, there is no scientific method that makes us able to measure the quality of a wine but there are some tricks that can help us find a good bottle of wine without being an expert.

Here are some tips. 1) Use mobile phone apps that can guide you on the intimidating task of picking the perfect bottle of wine for every occasion, whether it is for a special meal or as a gift. 2) Cheap does not mean poor quality. Read the label and check whether the description given meets your taste. If still in doubt, check online reviews. 3) Avoid last-call deals. That’s a bad symptom. 4) Let yourself be advised. Ask for recommendation from trusted friends or relatives which you know are into the wine world. They will be delighted to be asked and pass on their personal favourites. 5) Keep record of those wines you like. You will soon realise which styles you like the most.

Even so you can always save time and rely on wine critics. For this reason, if you are short of time and do not want to fail on your choice but wish to get initiated on the sherry world, you can just pick one of the references listed below.

10 –  La Bota de Fino Amontillado nº85 – Equipo Navazos

Making use of one of the oldest fino soleras from Bodega Los Amigos de Pérez Barquero, Equipo Navazos has accomplished one of the most appreciated bottles of this in-between variety known as fino-amontillado. Indeed, it gathers the very best from both worlds, resulting in an balanced acidity and high finesse,  which has granted it with a 96+ in the Parker list.

9 – Pedro Ximénez Reliquia – Bodegas Barbadillo

As its very name indicates, this relic is at the reach of a very few as it is sold at the extraordinary price of 930€ each bottle. This very old and rare sherry is a very limited series with an estimate age of 150 years. If you have yet not abandoned the idea of trying this jewel  and you can afford it, then you are a very lucky person.

8 – Amontillado Tradición Vors 30 Years Sherry N.V. – Bodegas Tradición

Cured meats and cheeses, snacks and desserts are said to be the perfect pairings for this amontillado according to wine lovers and experts. With “only” 22 years of existence, Bodegas Tradición have been able to place themselves as one of the best producers of sherry wines in the world.

7 – La Bota 61 de Amontillado N.V. – Equipo Navazos

This top-quality amontillado is the result of years of work and experimentation of Equipo Navazos in the vine-growing and wine-making fields. Indeed, the prestigious Parker guide has granted it with 96/100 points making it one of the best wines in the world. The incredible long finish is probably its most remarkable trait.

6 – Palo Cortado Tradición VORS 30 Years Sherry N.V. – Bodegas Tradición

Although expensive, this palo deserves a spot on your wish-list. With more than 30 years, Palo Cortado Tradición VORS 30 Years Sherry is delicate on the nose while powerful on the palate. It is best paired with mild cheeses such as Cheddar or Gruyere, nuts and seafood.

5 – Este Pedro Ximénez N.V. – Bodegas Ximénez-Spínola

Regarded by many as the best Pedro Ximénez in the world, this superb enological jewel is always found in the top positions of wine rankings. Although wine critics recommend to enjoy it on its own, it has also proven to be the perfect pairing for dark chocolate, foie gras and blue cheeses.

4 – Sibarita Oloroso VORS – Bodega Pedro Domecq

This fragrant and powerful wine has attracted great interest among wine lovers and there is a good reason for it. They make use of solera casks which date back to 1792. Truly, one of a kind. As its name suggests it is the favourite of true hedonists or sybarites.

3 – Palo Cortado “Torre del Oro” – Waitrose & Lustau

For as little as £11.99 the bottle it is not surprising that Waitrose Palo Cortado “Torre del Oro” was the winner of “IWC Great Value Champion Fortified 2019” award. Waitrose partnered with bodega Lustau to produce this superb sherry of nutty and yeasty notes.

2 – Harveys Oloroso Medium VORS – Bodegas Fundador

According to the International Wine & Spirit Competition, Harveys Very Old Oloroso Blend Medium VORS produced by Bodegas Fundador is the best sherry wine of 2019. It is highly recognised for its character but well-balanced flavour which leaves no one indifferent.

1 – Tío Pepe Cuatro Palmas Amontillado – González-Byass

Tío Pepe Cuatro Palmas has been awarded with the “Champions of Champions Trophy 2019” recognising it as not only the best sherry but also the best wine in the world. The jury of the prestigious International Wine Challenge agreed that this 53 year-old-wine helds a perfect balance of dryness, acidity and robustness. Its producers, González-Byass, pride themselves of being the first ones to elevate a sherry to the highest world ranking of winemaking.

For more information of any of the above mentioned wines, do not hesitate to check the official webpages of its wineries. There you will find detailed informstion of these sherries, how they are produced as well as recommendations on how are they best preserved, consumed and paired.

The benefits of wine

These are just ten of the many reasons to dive into the wine and, most particularly, sherry world. In this respect, it is also interesting to note the many benefits of regular, yet moderate, consumption of wine as reported by the community of health experts and researchers. Before moving on, let’s first clarify what is understood as moderate, responsible drinking of alcoholic beverages. According to different health agencies, the consumption of wine should be limited to a maximum of one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.  Of course, this only applies to healthy adults and anyone suffering from liver and kidney diseases, drug dependency issues, taking medication or recovering from accidents or illnesses, is strongly discouraged from taking up or continuing alcohol drinking.

This being said, research suggests that this millenary beverage may be a good ally when it comes to protecting against certain cancers, strengthening heart health, boosting the immune system, improving mental health and living longer. Indeed, wine is full of antioxidants which have proven to be effective in reducing the risk of suffering diseases such as Alzheimer, Parkinson or prostate, colon and breast cancers. Also associated with the high concentration of different antioxidants is the prevention against high blood pressure and high cholesterol. What is more, some emerging evidence indicates that wine may help in promoting healthy gut bacteria, which in turn contributes to better digestions and weight control. Along with these, recent studies suggest that an occasional cup of wine can reduce the chances of suffering from dementia or depression. Interestingly enough, these positive effects of this millenary beverage are mostly attributed to red wine.

Last but not least, we should also be aware of the potential risks of wine abuse. Excessive drinking can turn the above mentioned benefits into the opposite effects. Needless to say, this is not a general rule to everybody and some people should not drink alcohol at all. It is highly important that any changes in your diet are be carefully supervised and approved by a doctor.

If you liked this article, please do not forget to share it and leave some comments below.  This author will be more than glad to read your contributions and recommendations as far as wine and sherry wines are concerned. This is a great opportunity to expand our knowledge of viniculture and gain some new insights of this fascinating beverage.

Translation

Words lost in translation

It is often said that languages are a true reflection of its speakers, and more specifically, of their culture and the way the perceive the world and interact with it. This is the reason why languages are unique with each other and bear words that can be untranslatable to other native tongues. Here are a few examples of curious foreign terms with singular meanings that you may have never heard of and might be interested to include in your repertoire.

Sobremesa, for instance, literally translated as ‘over the table’, is used by Spanish people to describe the time they spend chatting at the table after the meal even when the food is gone. A truly Spanish habit which can last for hours portraying the talkative personality of these people. Another interesting term found in this Romance language is friolero, referring to those people who are especially sensitive to cold temperatures. Something which is not rare among Spaniards considering the long summer days and mild winters of their lands.

Unlike Spain, Norwegians cannot enjoy the same amount of sunshine, and as such, they really appreciate the act of utepils or the joy of sitting outside while having a beer on a hot summer day. Interestingly enough, they also have a word for anything that can be put into a sandwich such as ham, cheese, ketchup, mustard, jam, peanut butter, chocolate spread… or simply pålegg.

The German language is also rich of fun, curious vocabulary. The word kummerspeck, for example, literally translated as ‘grief bacon’, refers to the weight gained after undergoing some kind emotional distress. A more evil one, however, is schadenfreude describing the enjoyment that some people feel when hearing or knowing about other people’s problems. Yet, it seems this is not exclusive to Germans.

Japanese people, on the other hand, are known to have a special sensitivity to anything surrounding them and a good reflection of this are the many words they use packed with subtlety. The concept wabi-sabi, for example, is used by Japanese to describe the beauty which can be found in imperfections. Not as beautiful but equally delicate is the concept of komorebi, which refers to the effect of the sun rays as they filter through the trees and leaves.

Sometimes, however, we need to look into less known languages to find just the right word. It seems that Inuits – but not only Inuits – are tired of waiting their latecomer countrymen as they have even coined the term iktsuarpok to refer to this frustrating feeling. Many readers will also identify with the Pascuense word of tingo which stands for all those items your neighbour borrowed from you but never returned. Do you still remember that expensive and beautiful lawnmower?

These are just a few examples which show how hard the task of a translator is. It is not just a matter of changing the words but of capturing the essence of an idea in the most precise way. Most often than not, meaning is, inevitably, lost in translation.

Travelling for free is possible

You are a true ‘travelholic’ but you feel you are always short of money? There is no need to panic. As long as time flexibility and destinations are not a problem for you, there are a bunch of options to find accommodation and transportation for free, or almost for free. These are some of travel experts’ best kept secrets.

Car relocation

Very few people know that car rental companies offer free one-way rental cars and campervans. But there is a good reason behind it. Car rental companies often face the problem that some of their branches run out of cars or, just the opposite, get so many that they cannot manage them owing to the simple fact that some routes are just more popular than others. To solve this unbalanced distribution of their fleet, companies offer drivers to relocate their cars at specific drop-off points for free, resulting in a win-win deal. Although this service is available all over the world, it is especially popular in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

House-sitting & Pet-sitting

Another win-win option for both owners and adventurers is that known as house-sitting or pet-sitting when it comes to accommodation. There are a number of online platforms where homeowners offer their properties for free while they are away in exchange of some little maintenance and, in some cases, taking care of their beloved pets. You will only need to register in one of the websites offering the service, complete a brief introduction of yourself and find the stay that best fits your plans in terms of dates and destination.

Couchsurfing

If you are not looking for medium to long-term stays as it is the case of most house-sitting and pet-sitting deals, then you might be more keen on a homestay. The platform and social networking site Couchsurfing brings together hosts offering their couches for free and travelers looking for a place to stay. This offers an excellent opportunity to both save money and meet people from all over the world, thus turning an ordinary trip into a much more stimulating and enriching experience.

WWOOFing

From planting seeds in Austria to making cheese in Canada to feeding sheeps in New Zealand. These are just a few examples of volunteering works you can do for accommodation and board all managed and monitored by the platform WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOF aims to promote sustainable farming through these field-based cultural and educational exchanges. Volunteers usually work from 5 to 6 hours a day and the duration of the program usually depends on the requirements of the volunteer as well as the hosting farm.

Free walking tours

As well as transportation and accommodation, it is also possible to find free guided tours in a variety of languages in almost every city around the globe. You will just have to google your target destination plus the keywords ‘free tour’ and book the time slot that best adapts your journey plan. The traveller will never be asked to pay any preset fees, but rather tour guides will be open to get any voluntary contributions after the tour.

 

World’s creepiest destinations

Not far ago, travel was a luxury limited to a fortunate few who could afford it. Fortunately, travelling – even to the most remote places – is not a luxury anymore. New technologies, cheaper flight tickets, better work conditions, and a significant rise of the global middle class have made travelling accessible to a great deal of the population. As a result, the type of traveller is increasingly more varied ranging from those looking for relaxation in holiday resorts, fine cuisine lovers, art and history enthusiasts, backpackers traveling on a budget, to those looking for the most inhospitable and freakiest places on earth that hardly anybody dares to visit. If you are one of those who wants to stand out of the crowd, any of these destinations may suit you.

Karni Mata Temple or the Temple of Rats, India

This temple was built in honour of the Hindu goddess Karni Mata in the small town of Deshnoke, in the Bikaner region of Rajasthan, India. Although there is nothing remarkable about its architecture, what attracts most people to this temple are the 25,000 rats that live there. Yep, you read that right. Thousands of pilgrims and curious alike visit this temple every year to either pay respects to these frequently despised rodents or see with their own eyes how these holy animals drink from the bowls of milk they are provided with every day. Worshipers of Karni Mata believe that these rats are the reincarnation of their ancestors, and for this same reason, visitors to this temple must be warned about the importance of respecting the animals as any kind of mistreat might be considered a major offence by the devotees.

The Darvaza gas crater or the Door to Hell, Turkmenistan

If rats are not your thing, the Door to Hell – as it is most commonly known – might be more appealing to you. This gas crater, located in the Turkmen desert of Karakum, has been in flames since 1971, when it was paradoxically set on fire to prevent a major catastrophe. However, what they did not expect was that almost 50 years after it would still be burning. The view of this enigmatic spot is specially fascinating at sunset when most visitors gather around the hole. Tours usually include overnight camping by the crater, a barbecue dinner and a trip to some nearby villages.

The Island of Dolls, Mexico

Although Julián Santana never meant it to be a tourist attraction, the truth is that the Island of Dolls in the south part of Mexico City is becoming increasingly popular among many curious travellers. Broken and severely damaged dolls can be found hanging all over the place creating a truly terrifying scenario. These were originally placed by Santana, the former owner of the island, claiming that this would guide the wandering spirit of a little girl who had drowned in its waters. Despite the fact that there are no clear reports about the veracity of the story, it became even creepier when Julián himself drowned in the same place in 2001. If you have not abandoned the idea yet, you must know that visiting the island is not an easy task and you will need to arrange the journey by yourself.