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BY Valeska Idarraga · DESTINATIONS SECRETS · January 9, 2016

Tabancos: back to the past in Jerez de la Frontera

As a human, we are unsure of how long we are going to stay in this world. Therefore, as long there’s life, we should not miss out on the opportunity of doing every single thing regardless of how simple or challenging they are, so that we fulfill our precious lives with the most memorable experiences ever. Most of the memorable events and activities can be gotten from taking a dream vacation to some incredible destination, and even more when the destination itself stands out as a unique one.

Have you ever thought about Jerez de la Frontera in Southern West Andalusia? You should have had. Less than an hour from Seville and locally known as Jerez, the city has a rich historical past and unique culture worth exploring. Jerez is renowned for having been the largest municipality in the Spanish region of Andalusia until 1995.

Tabanco, which is unique to Jerez, refers to an old sherry store where locals can enjoy great tasting wine directly from the barrel while listening to authentic flamenco rhythms.

In fact, Cadiz – the oldest Western European city, dating back more than 3,000 years to the Phoenicians times – has been the richest Spanish port in the 18th century and the walled city of Jerez became one of the wealthiest towns after the Discovery of America. Much earlier, during the Moorish domination, the strategic city of Jerez expanded and remained as one of the most productive vineyards in the world. It’s not by chance that here you will find loads of local wineries that produce some of, if not “the”; best wines of the world.

Jerez hosts the annual Horse Festival

More than one reason to visit Jerez de la Frontera

Jerez has close proximity to Seville and is also home to the famous and noble white wine in Spain known as sherry. This beautiful town is full of several incredible wine bodegas and other lovely sights including the impressive Moorish Alcazar, the Cathedral and San Miguel’s Church. People visit this elegant city annually for three reasons – genuine flamenco, horses tradition and sherry bodegas. And in the last years, Jerez is also a place to find a large number of spectacular tabancos that were about to disappear and are now in full swing.

What is a Tabanco?

Tabanco, which is unique to Jerez, refers to an old sherry store where locals can enjoy great tasting wine directly from the barrel while listening to authentic flamenco rhythms. The ancient sherry bar combines the commercial aspect of a wine shop with the social environment of a tavern. Tabancos offer locals the chance to buy their much preferred wine in large quantities. It is also considered one of the best spots where friends and family from the local community socialize and hold meetings. One of the reasons why the tabanco is used as a spot for social gathering is because it offers an amazing atmosphere to enjoy each other’s company alongside a glass of great tasting sherry wines and affordable delicious tapas.

Tabancos, some history

A traditional tabanco in Jerez de la Frontera

The tradition of the tabancos dates back to the 17th century, a period when sherry production started booming in Jerez. Regardless of the climate changes and the influx of tourists in Jerez year after year, tabancos still maintained its old traditions. Tabancos started off as a place where items controlled by the states are sold including tobacco and alcohol. But as years went by, they became increasingly popular as a place where older men would socialize and have a drink and when the mood took them, started singing melancholic songs.

The first Tabanco was opened by Manuel Muñoz Peña in 1934, which today is known as Tabanco San Pablo located in the center of San Miguel district.

One of the most unique features of tabancos is that wines are served straight from the barrel. These fortified unique wines are also sold in bulk as well. In ancient times, these places were a great spots for men to hangout, socialize, buy sherry and listen to authentic flamenco rhythms that originate from this city.

The first Tabanco was opened by Manuel Muñoz Peña in 1934, which today is known as Tabanco San Pablo located in the center of San Miguel district. It is believed that the word “tabanco” emerged in the 17th century and originated from the fusion of two words ‘estancos’ (shops controlled by the state that sell stamps and alcohol among other things) and ‘tabaco’ (new product of this century). There used to be loads of tabancos in Jerez until early 2000’s when there was a decline in the number of tabancos. In a bid to increase their value and become a top choice among locals in this new age, tabancos now offer guitar performances alongside wine, flamenco and delectable local food. However, there has been a resurgence of this tradition as both young and old including women can come to enjoy traditionally made wine and also listen to flamenco, irrespective of their background or age.

Visiting a Tabanco in Jerez

Tabancos serve delicious tapas such as jamon iberico

Every year, Jerez welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors from different parts of the world who come to learn and taste some of the best world wines, participate in its motorcycling Grand Prix and the Horse Fair annual event whilst exploring other great attractions such as majestic sceneries by the Atlantic ocean surrounded by some of the most beautiful dunes and almost virgin beaches in Spain and the biggest Natural Park in Europe, Doñana Park, one of most important wetland reserves and a major site for migrating birds.

For a chance to have a feel of ancient Jerez de la Frontera, then you should not miss out on visiting one of the tabancos in the city. Tabancos can be likened to a typical Spanish tavern. Features that makes tabancos stand out as one of the must visit spots in Jerez include the genuine taste, the lovely aroma of wine, ancient charm, rustic interior and wood counters where chalks point account.

A genuinely autochthonous environment

A small family sherry bodega in Jerez

Jerez is home to great tabancos where visitors can experience the thrills of past centuries and enjoy excellent wines at affordable pricing. If you are looking for the best place to experience, breathe and feel the vibe of the traditional era and lose yourself to the aroma of wine, a visit to one of the tabancos in Jerez is a must.

Tabancos are a great place for discussion and cultural experience, especially for jerezanos. However, they are often small and sometimes overcrowded, so you mostly stand up at the countertop, seats are very limited. Here you can enjoy a fantastic atmosphere, people watch, enjoy free and very often spontaneous flamenco performances and have a taste of fine local wines and a variety of cold tapas including Iberian ham, local payoyo goat cheese or chicharrones with never missing picos (breadsticks).

These taverns are a place where people can have a first-hand experience of the hospitality and warmth of the locals. Most tabancos have their menus written in Spanish while just a few have an English translation, but with the help of a local host you will be able to understand how to order and experience a real great time. Tabancos don’t really have much to do with food, which makes kitchen an exception. It is a great place to have a taste of sherry wines in just one sitting and learn more about the differences between fino, amontillado and oloroso. Tabancos are a very difficult place to leave once visited.

 

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