Chiclana de la Frontera for wine lovers

Aaron Taboada opens our eyes to an unsung corner of sherry country in Andalucia. See this guide to all the entries in our travel writing competition that have been published so far.

Chiclana de la Frontera is a town on Spain’s Atlantic coast near Cádiz and Jerez de la Frontera, the capital of sherry production. Chiclana is best known for its spectacular beaches, luxury resorts, and historic buildings such as the Sancti Petri Castle. Gastronomically, it has attracted the attention of Michelin three-star Aponiente’s Ángel León and the team from Elkano in Getaria in Basque Country. Alevante is Chef Ángel León’s one Michelin star Chiclana outpost and Cataria is Elkano’s branch nearby. However, Chiclana is also a forgotten part of the past and present of sherry winemaking.

Historically, sherry was made throughout Cádiz province, and even in neighbouring Sevilla and Huelva. Today sherry wines labelled Jerez (from the DO Jerez) have to be aged in Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María, or Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the so-called ‘sherry triangle’. Wine can be made in the zona de producción, which includes Chiclana, among other towns in the area, but Chiclana wines cannot be called sherry unless they are aged in one of the three towns of the sherry triangle. Chiclana’s top-quality wineries were forgotten by many, and their wines were sold to Jerez de la Frontera wineries to be aged and sold under Jerez brands. Today the wines of Chiclana are being rediscovered by curious wine enthusiasts, and the future is looking bright in a market hungry for new products and great value.

In my work developing wine tours for Epicurean Ways, a wine tour operator in Spain and Portugal, I’ve visited these wineries and restaurants, as well as wineries throughout the sherry triangle.

Wineries

Primitivo Collantes
If any winery represents the new generation of sherry wine in Chiclana, it is Primitivo Collantes. The winery is headed by Primitivo, or Primi as he is known, the fourth generation of his family to make wine in Chiclana. Primi has been making waves in the sherry world with fresh and intriguing wines in the last few years. Collantes owns 39 hectares of vineyards, a massive amount by sherry standards, let alone in Chiclana. This gives him the ability to make terroir-focused wines from specific sections of the vineyards, pushing the boundaries in an area historically focused on quantity and consistency over quality and expressiveness.

His Matalián Blanco is a young white wine made from Palomino Fino from his Matalían vineyard. It showcases the new style of unaged Palomino that several Cádiz province wineries are bringing to market. Socaire is a Palomino Fino wine aged for two years in barrels previously used to age fino, yielding a complexity that doesn’t suppress freshness. Socaire Oxidativo, a longer-aged and slightly oxidized version, is bottled in tiny quantities and should be bought on sight.

Primitivo Collantes makes three wonderful finos, but the star is the Arroyuelo En Rama. This golden fino comes from a selection of barrels from the Arroyuelo solera and is bottled without any filtration or fining. Amontillado Fino Fossi, aged for a lengthy five years as a fino followed by about ten years of oxidative aging, is one of the freshest and liveliest amontillados in the whole sherry area. Amontillado Fossi 1/3 Solera NO is sold exclusively in magnums bottled on demand from three barrels in the Fossi solera set aside to age for an additional four years of static aging. This rare amontillado is beloved by top Spanish chefs due to its amazing food pairings, but I would recommend it regardless of menu.

Visits to Primitivo Collantes are available in Spanish and English and must be booked in advance through the winery’s website or over the phone. The winery, in the centre of Chiclana, sells their wines in bulk (2-litre minimum) or in bottle. Visits to the Primitivo Collantes vineyards will be available from early 2020.

Bodegas Manuel Aragón
Bodegas Manuel Aragón has been owned and operated by the Aragón family for over 200 years. Today Chano Aragón is in charge of the winery, and he is making some very interesting wines. A few years ago, the legendary Equipo Navazos bottled under their brand an oloroso and a palo cortado from Manuel Aragón. Both wines received extremely high scores from some wine critics. Now Chano Aragón bottles small quantities of both the oloroso and the palo cortado from the same soleras that Equipo Navazos had access to, along with an amontillado and a Pedro Ximenez, in half litre bottles. Beyond these rarities, Aragón’s Fino Granero is available both as an unfiltered barrel selection (Granero En Rama) in half-litre bottles and as a standard filtered fino. A recently released wine from the bodega is Retallo, a white wine aged under flor made from Pedro Ximénez grapes grown in Chiclana. Chano also produces what I think is one of the best sherry vermouths made from oloroso and a small amount of Pedro Ximénez.

Bodegas Manuel Aragón has a bar in the bodega where some of the wines are aged in the centre of Chiclana. You can buy the wines (bottles or bag-in-box only), taste the Aragón wines by the glass (except for the very old wines), and enjoy some cheese and charcuterie in their beautiful historic Bodega Sanatorio. They have another bodega a short distance outside the town where winery visits take place and parking is a little easier. Visits have to be arranged beforehand by contacting the winery.

Chiclana Co-operative
Located slightly out of central Chiclana, in the warehouse district, the co-operative (officially the Unión de Viticultores Chiclaneros) is the largest wine producer in Chiclana. They make a full range of styles, from unaged mosto and young finos to oloroso and moscatel wines. The cooperative offers visits and has a bar next to the winery that offers tapas and the ability to try and buy their wines.

Restaurants

La Embajada restaurant in Chiclana, Andalucia

La Embajada
La Embajada opened recently in what was Primitivo Collantes’ sherry vinegar bodega in the historic center of Chiclana. This airy tapas bar has everything you need: wines from all of Chiclana’s major wineries by the glass, top quality charcuterie, a variety of well-prepared tapas and dishes based on local ingredients, and a gourmet store offering Chiclana wines and regional products to take home with you. If you are staying the night, there are occasional flamenco shows, especially in the summer.

Restaurante Popeye
Despite its name and accompanying logo, Popeye is a Chiclana institution that takes its mission of providing excellent seafood and meat with impeccable service very seriously. There is a tapas bar with a menu of smaller plates for those looking for a speedier but enjoyable experience, and a number of riverside dining rooms (see below) for those looking to make their meal a multi-hour feast. The wine list is lighter on Chiclana wines than La Embajada but the experience is superb.

Popeye riverside restaurant in Chiclana, Andalucia

 

Bodega Manuel Aragon in Chiclana, Andalucia