Cycle tour through Spain’s Sherry Triangle
Exploring Spain’s Sherry Triangle by bike is a fabulous way to immerse yourself into the real spirit of southern Spain. The Sherry Triangle – located on the western coast of the province of Andalucia – is the region between the cities of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Jerez is the biggest of the three towns, but all three offer something different and are worth a visit.
The wineries of this area (known as bodegas) have been making sherry for centuries; only wine produced within the defined areas of the Sherry Triangle can legitimately be marketed as sherry.
You can visit Jerez, El Puerto and the historic city of Cádiz on our self-guided Leisure Cycling tour ‘Ronda to Cadiz’. The route incorporates a wonderful variety of landscapes, from the mountains of Ronda to hot, dry rolling hills, to flat farmland and coastline, with a cooling Atlantic breeze. Quiet lanes and pathways throughout the region help to keep cyclists away from the busier main roads and closer to the traditional rural character. We include a day sightseeing in Cádiz and can also extend the cycling to take you up to Sanlúcar.
As you cycle through the region, you will see rows and rows of vines covering the hillsides, mainly grown on distinctive, chalky white soil. This soil, together with a climate of 300 days of intense and direct sunshine per year, are the key elements of the terroir which creates sherry’s special flavours.
Whilst we all recognise the term sherry, this is actually a generic description for a range of diverse wines with their own distinctive varieties and names. In fact, if you ask for a glass of sherry in any self-respecting Spanish hostelry, the barman will look at you blankly. But if you say fino or manzanilla or oloroso, he will know exactly the type of flavour you are looking for, and return with a glass of the relevant drink, served in a distinctive copita glass.
Jerez de la Frontera
Many of the bodegas offer excellent guided tours, where you can walk around sand-floored wine cellars and learn about the unique production methods which create sherry. We particularly recommend Gonzalez Byass in Jerez, home of the renowned Tio Pepe fino.
Here, experienced guides explain about the grape varieties which form the basis of all sherries – palomino, Pedro Ximenez and moscatel. You will see the solera system, where rows of barrels are stacked on top of each other and new wines pass through different barrels to blend with older wines to create a consistent flavour. Only wine that has passed through all the layers of barrels is fit for bottling.
You will learn about flor, the secret to fino and manzanilla sherries, where a layer of yeast cells within the barrel protects the wine from oxidisation, to create its distinctive dry and crisp flavour.
At the end of your tour, you can enjoy a tasting of various sherry types, ideally alongside the foods which pair best with each flavour profile. Or take a leisurely stroll around the streets of the town and pop into a local tabanco, bars which serve sherry direct from the barrel. Maybe even take in a flamenco show, in one of the fabulous tablao flamenco clubs.
Jerez has lots to offer the visitor, and is not just about sherry. There is also an ancient walled fortress, the Alcázar, and a large cathedral, plus many atmospheric streets, charming buildings and bustling plazas.
El Puerto de Santa Maria
From Jerez, it is less than 20km to El Puerto de Santa Maria, which is a smaller town but still has a couple of bodegas, most notably Osborne, creators of the famous Osborne bull billboards which you will see dotted around the local countryside.
It is also where Christopher Columbus set off on his first expedition to the Americas and is the gateway to the historic city of Cadiz, accessed either by ferry or over the spectacular Cadiz Bay bridge.
Cádiz is steeped in history and we include a full day’s sightseeing here within our Ronda to Cadiz Leisure Cycling Tour. The city is famous as an important maritime port, having been founded by the Phoenicians in 1100 and later becoming the main port of the Catholic Kings at the time of the discovery of America and the New World. The cathedral is hugely impressive, with twin bell-towers, a huge, yellow, Moorish-style dome and a lovely plaza in front. The Museo de Las Cortes has many interesting artefacts and includes a series of paintings showing the changing size and shape of the city over the centuries.
The botanic gardens overlooking the sea contain species brought back from travels all over the world. Soak up the atmosphere in the old town's narrow streets and dine on delicious seafood or simply go to the beach – this city has something for everyone!
Sanlúcar de Barrameda
Sanlúcar de Barrameda is the smallest of the three towns, located at the northern point of the Sherry Triangle, at the mouth of the Guadalquivir river. It has a relaxed, beachfront atmosphere and you can also take a ferry from here over to one of Spain’s most celebrated National parks, the wildlife-rich wetlands of Doñana.
Sanluúcar is the home of manzanilla sherries, made in the same way as traditional fino sherries but matured in cellars which take in the sea air, giving the wines a slightly salty tang.
The Sherry Triangle and its surrounding areas make a great destination for a leisure cycling tour. On our cycle tour from Ronda to Cádiz, the riding is varied throughout, and we keep daily distances manageable over 5 days of cycling. From the moment you arrive in Ronda until the final day, you will find peace, quiet and unspoiled landscapes. The tour takes you to striking hilltop towns, along a scenic tunnel-filled cycleway and via quaint white villages. The tour can start on any day of the week and we can add in extra cycling or sightseeing days to suit your personal timetable.
Heather Cooper, Hike + Bike the Sierras 10/8/2022