A blog and review on all things Sherry. It is about tasting, enjoyment and learning more about the World’s Finest Wine. "Sherry is a thoroughbred" as Javier Hidalgo rightly puts it. Included are the amazing local Brandies and the remarkably good table wines also produced in the province of Cádiz.
the Feria season under way in Spain, and lots of Sherry being consumed, here’s a look at one in London. Like the Feria in Jerez (est. 1264), that of
London had its origins in the middle-ages, beginning in 1133 as trade with
Europe began to take off. The fair was sited in the shadow of the church
hospital of Saint Bartholomew in Smithfield, established in 1123, which still
operates as a hospital today. King Henry I granted the right to hold a three
day fair to the guilds of shirtmakers, tanners and butchers to begin on the eve
of Saint Bartholomew’s day, 24th August.
A beautiful 1808 watercolour of St. Bartholomew's Fair by Sir Thomas Rowlandson
reached its apogee in the XVII century, being considered the most important,
and attracted artists and writers such as Rowlandson, Haydon, Johnson and Heemskeerk
among others. According to Peter Ackroyd, “London’s biographer”, social
differences were forgotten at the fair, apprentices and their masters could
enjoy the spectacle together and bet on the same tables. One custom was for the
Lord Mayor, who inaugurated the fair, to visit Newgate prison where he was
entertained by the mayor with a glass of Sack, followed, without doubt by a few more
at the fair.
dramatist and poet laureate Ben Johnson who wrote the comedy Bartholomew Fayre in 1614 was
quoted as saying “My God! Free me! Help me! Sustain me! The fair is here!” One
of the interesting things to emerge from this wonderful period study is the copious
quantities consumed of Sack, as Sherry was known then, though the name was
changing as Ben Johnson quotes a conversation thus:
Cokes: Sack you said, but e’en now it should be
Puppet Jonas: Why so it is; Sherry, Sherry, Sherry!
Cokes: Sherry, Sherry, Sherry, by my troth it makes
years went by, the middle classes began to desert the fair saying it was full
of criminals and the last one took place in 1855.
With many thanks to Jose Luis Jimenez for such great research.