Bodegas Hidalgo – La Gitana and the Carreras de Caballos
Every year, the second and fourth weekends in August see the famous Carreras de Caballos held on the beaches of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, so what better excuse to arrange a press trip to Bodegas Hidalgo.
When we arrived on the first day, we met Fermín Hidalgo who took us on a tour of the Doñana National Park, the biggest wetland in Europe. The humidity from the marshlands combines with the cooling sea breeze to create a unique micro-climate to Sanlúcar which ensures the flor in the Bodegas can survive all year round, which is essential to Manzanilla production.
On day two we travelled out to the El Cuadrado vineyard, the highest point in Jerez at an altitude of 110m.
Fermín explained the concept of a double terroir, the first of which starts in the vineyards with the palomino grapes grown on the white limestone Albariza soil and a cooling sea breeze from the Atlantic Ocean.
The second crucial stage in creating the wines comes down to the location and structure of the winery where they are stored and aged, the second “terroir”. When we arrived at the winery in Sanlúcar, Fermín talked to us about the solera system before we tasted the different sherries directly from the casks. Fermín uses a rod with a deep narrow cup attached to the end called a venencia, which is swiftly dipped into the barrels through the flor, before pouring into our waiting glasses without spilling a drop.
That evening we head to the Carreras de Caballos. The origins of the races are unclear, but one story is that fish buyers raced the horses along the beach as they waited for trawlers to bring in their haul to the port. What is known is that a horse racing society was established in Sanlúcar in 1845, creating a tradition that would become a part of the city’s cultural fabric.
The racing takes place along a 1.8km stretch of beach at the mouth of the Río Guadalquivir during the month of August, where racehorses thunder across the sand watched by huge crowds of spectators.