Friday, 27 July 2018

The Oldest Bodega in Jerez

This ancient bodega is thought to have been constructed between 1480 and 1490, before the Moors were definitively expelled from Spain and before Columbus sailed to the Americas. It is located in the parish of San Mateo, the oldest in Jerez, from where the population grew and began to spread, towards the old mosque which is now the site of the Cathedral.

The "tablao" or dance floor for Flamenco in the old bodega.

The history of the bodega is linked to that of the magnificent Palacio del Campo Real in the Plaza Benavente which it adjoins. The palace was built in 1545 on the site of an old Islamic building by Pedro de Benavente y Cabeza de Vaca, a knight and governor of Jerez. He was a man with great political and military power who owned profitable sugar refineries in the Canary Islands among other enterprises. The 5,000 m2 palace, which is rectangular in plan, is built round an arcaded patio with a central fountain and a beautiful garden through which access is gained to the bodega.

The patio of the Palacio del Campo Real. The earthquake and tsunami of 1755 left one or two of the pillars slightly squint.

Being well over 500 years old, the bodega is naturally small by today’s standards, and was probably used for the storage of Don Pedro’s personal wines; certainly no commercial history has been found. There is an ancient buttress, which leads architectural experts to believe it could be even older, but nobody can be sure. Inside, it has a vaulted ceiling and, even more unusually in Jerez, has an upper floor which would have been used as a granary and which is reached by a steep stone stair. The floor is albero, the yellow coloured sandy grit which one sees in all bodegas. Today it contains just a few butts which are for the personal consumption of the owners and their guests, along with a handful of ancient ones which are empty but are there for effect.

Don Manuel and Dona Carmen

Although the palace and its bodega have been in the family for centuries it is only since the 1980s that they have belonged outright to Manuel Domecq Zurita, Viscount of Almocadén and long-time ambassador for Sherry in general and Domecq in particular, and his wife Carmen Cristina López de Solé Martín who have proudly restored it to its former magnificence at great personal cost, and without any financial assistance. While they won an award for conservation of heritage, they lament the current state of the historic centre of Jerez, but understand that the protection of its heritage costs money which is simply not there.  The use of the palace and bodega on various occasions as a film location, and their possible future use as a venue for fiestas as well, will hopefully provide the funds to keep this architectural, historical, cultural and viticultural treasure going.

This article by Jorge Miro appeared a couple of years ago in La Voz del Sur.

No comments:

Post a Comment