Gonzalez Byass, Jerez

We’d put off visiting Gonzalez Byass bodega, the home of Tio Pepe — although it’s the closest winery to our place here in Jerez, it’s also the most touristy. But when our friend came to visit and only had time to visit one bodega, we bit the bullet and headed over to do the tour.

Of all the wineries, Gonzalez Byass offers the most tours in the most languages — so we did the tour at 2pm, when most shops and activities in Jerez are closed for siesta. After paying at a ticket office, we were sent into a waiting room, where another twenty or so people were milling around. I thought our group was going to be a large one, but it turned out they divided us by language, and we ended up being a group of three — that’s one benefit of going in the off season!

The pours were generous but you only get two tastes.

The pours were generous but you only get two tastes.

Our guide Alicia walked us over to one of the cellars, which had an largish cinema off to one side. There, we were joined by a large private group, and we all watched an introductory video together. Although a little cheesy (I think all the wine videos are cheesy), it explained the history and part of the process of Sherry making — I enjoyed seeing how the wine is moved from one barrel down to the next one in the stack, which we hadn’t seen in any of the other bodegas we’d visited.

After the video, our guide piled us in to a golf cart, to take us around the complex. If we’d been a bigger group we’d have been in a tourist train — I hate those things, so I was glad to be in a group of three. Among other stops, we visited a cellar designed by Gustave Eiffel, a cellar with two sets of Apostles (some very old barrels and some relatively new ones), and the private cellar of Tio Pepe himself, the uncle of the winery’s founder.

The workshop of the winery's founder.

The workshop of the winery’s founder.

After an hour or so of driving around and exploring, Alicia took us to a vast tasting room, which looked more like a modern restaurant than anything else. We sat at one of a hundred or so tables and were given generous pours of the two wines that are included in the price of the tour — if we’d wanted more, it would have cost €4 extra for two more pours.

Price: €12.50
Duration: 75 minutes
Hours: English tours Monday-Saturday 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 5pm. Sundays 12pm, 1pm, 2pm
Address: Calle Manuel María Gonzalez, 12
More info: bodegastiopepe.com

Sadly, though, although the Tio Pepe was great, the second wine (Croft) was not nice at all — oversweet and bland.

The tour ended and we were sent through the gigantic gift shop to the exit, with a bit of a bad taste in our mouths — and not just from the wine. Alicia had been a professional, friendly guide, but the tour just wasn’t my thing. It was too touristy, too plastic, and the different types of Sherry weren’t explained at all — quite an important point, I think. Plus, with a price tag of €12.50 (above average for bodega tours), I’d expect a few more tastes of the wine produced there. The video was worth watching and the complex was certainly impressive, but if you only have time for one bodega while you’re in Jerez, choose a different one.

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