The Abacería L’Antiqua was full to overflowing and heaving with activity and just as we were pondering whether or not to stay a table became available and we made ourselves comfortable. The food looked good and the bar was doing brisk trade so we selected some items from the tapas menu and waited for our food to arrive. All around the bar there were barrels of sherry and this is something else than Andalusia is famous for.
Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the town of Jerez on the coast. In Spanish, it is called Vino de Jerez and according to Spanish law, sherry must come from the small triangular area of the province of Cádiz between Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María.
After fermentation is complete, sherry is fortified with brandy and because the fortification takes place after fermentation, most sherries are initially dry, with any sweetness being added later. In contrast, port wine is fortified halfway through its fermentation, which stops the process so that not all of the sugar is turned into alcohol. So now you know!
According to legend, the tapas tradition began when the King of Castille Alfonso the Wise (died 23rd November 1221) visited a tavern in the town of Ventorillo del Chato in the province of Cádiz, and ordered a glass of sherry.
There was a gusty wind, so the innkeeper served him his glass of sherry covered by a slice of ham to prevent the sherry from getting dirty. The King liked it, and when he asked for a second glass, he requested another tapa or ‘cover’ just like the first. This evolved into the practice of using slices of bread or meat as a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the drink. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst and because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales.
The menu was entirely in Spanish and that made it exciting, ordering items from the list with little or no idea what they might be. Thankfully we didn’t get any shocks and a couple of the dishes were so good that we ordered seconds. It was a great place and it felt as though we were eating in a traditional way and not in a place created for tourists. The bodega was a vibrant and effervescent place with people of all age groups and whole families enjoying their Sunday lunchtime gathering and we enjoyed the garrulous atmosphere and just being a part of it all.