Ask for a manzanilla in Jerez and you are likely to get given a cup of chamomile tea, unless, of course, you visit Bar la Manzanilla – a modest establishment bang in the centre which stands as a lone monument to the other place on the coast. In fact a few of the chaps were joking that the order de rigeur in this place would be a fino, and, what is more a “fino de Sanlucar”.
“A fino de Sanlucar? “, you ask, “Has he been on the bottle all day?”, you wonder. But no, a fella is in full possession of both faculties and indeed facts. You see while the biologically aged wines of Sanlucar are, as a rule (and possibly as a legal obligation), known as manzanillas, in origin this is due to the aromatics imprinted on them by the healthy levels of flor prevailing at the seaside. As a result, in Sanlucar itself wine from botas that don’t develop that vigorous veil of flor – that develop a veil of flor more typical of the inland cellars of Jerez, in fact – is traditionally known, legally or not, as “Fino de Sanlucar”.
So on a flying visit to Jerez last week I made a beeline for the locus in quo and confidently asked, in a rich baritone with no hint of (Spanish) accent, “Un fino de Sanlucar, por favor”. Unfortunately the barman, who clearly was not in the market for sherry geekery or similar. He patiently explained to me – in Spanish but slowly – that in Sanlucar they made “manzanilla”.
So I had a manzanilla, obviously.