751 years to the day have passed since the Battle of Jerez and its re-capture from the Moors by King Alfonso X “El Sabio” (the wise) and his knights from Castilla. They built the Church of San Marcos to celebrate. The Moors had been in possession of the city since 711 when Tariq Ibn Ziyad and 7,000 men took much of Spain from the Vandals. The word Andalucía derives from the Arabic “Al Andalus” meaning the kingdom of the Vandals. The Moorish defeat in the battle left them with the Caliphate of Granada as their only remaining possession, which was lost to El Cid’s forces backed by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492.
|Alfonso kitted out for battle (foto:drinksbusiness)|
Alfonso was grateful to his knights granting forty of the bravest six “aranzadas” (@3 hectares) of land on which they planted vines. One of them was Fernán Yañez Palomino who would give his name to the Sherry grape, another was Alonso Valdespino. During the Moorish occupation wine had not been encouraged as it is forbidden in the Koran, but vineyards survived for the Arab love of pasas (raisins), and certainly some Emirs looked the other way. At this time distillation was introduced but more for the purposes of alchemy in search of cures and perfumes. We all owe a large debt to Alfonso for liberating Jerez and encouraging its vineyards. He certainly was wise.