Saturday, 18 June 2016

Sherry’s Influence on Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s Influence on Sherry

In the latest in Williams & Humbert’s Ciclo de Conferencias held at the bodega, and on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, local academic and all round Jerezano, José Luis Jiménez gave an account of “Sherry in Shakespeare’s Day”, introduced by bodega director, Jesús Medina.

Sherry makes the mind wise, lively and inventive, and the heart daring. These are, among others, the effects a good jug of Sherry had on Shakespeare who, with good reason is considered to be the wine’s first publicist. He praised its goodness as much in his works –mentioning it more than once in no fewer than eight of them – as in his revelries when he drank it with his friends in the taverns of London. The Boar’s Head or the Mermaid bore witness to the lively get-togethers of the writer with his contemporaries like Christopher Marlowe and Ben Johnson who also extolled the virtues of Sherry.

Jose Luis Jimenez (R) and Jesus Medina

There can be no doubting Shakespeare’s contribution to the promotion of the wine of Jerez, and the city has dedicated a street name to him and a monument, at which every year there is homage paid to the man who did more to promote Sherry than anyone.

The desire to analyse the influence of Sherry on English society since the end of the Middle-Ages is what brought José Luis Jiménez to the subject in hand and he availed the audience of his research, bringing documents conserved in the Municipal Library of Jerez. Among legal protocols from the XV and XVI centuries are commercial transactions for the export of Sherry to places like Plymouth and Bristol in England or Galway in Ireland, showing that there were already British intermediaries based in Jerez. Then there was Sir Francis Drake’s raid on Cádiz by which he supplied the English taverns with 2,900 butts of stolen Sherry.

It is apt for the lecture to take place at Williams & Humbert, a firm founded in 1877 by two Englishmen and with two excellent brands of Sherry which pay homage to Shakespeare: “A Winter’s Tale” and “As You Like It”. The bodega was keen to pay this homage in a year which saw the 400th anniversary of the death of not only Shakespeare but also of Spain’s greatest writer, Miguel de Cervantes, author of the wonderful “Don Quijote”. As Jesús Medina pointed out, the English influence is firmly rooted in the way of life in Jerez.

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