Drinking Brandy in ANTEQUERA
Here, in Antequera, we can boast the best Brandy producing neighbour in Spain.
Jerez de la Frontera, in Andalusia, is a pleasant two and a half hour drive away. It is well worth a visit, to tour one or two of the fabulous historic bodegas, famed for brandy, and of course, sherry, production. (See the previous Sherries in Antequera section).
You may recall the famous Michael Caine (actor) precursor: ‘did you know….(ending in)…and not a lot of people know that’. This could not be more aptly applied, than to the origin of brandy.
Origin of Brandy: Andalusia
In the 8th century, the Moors brought stills (alquitaras) to Andalusia to turn Jerez wine into high proof alcohol. It was not for drinking of course, as their religion forbade that. It was used for perfumes, and medicinal purposes.
Centuries later, after the Moors had been driven out, the alcohol was used in sherry production. Holland became a major importer of the alcohol, which they used to make liqueurs and spirits.
One day, a Dutch customer, who had ordered a large consignment of wine alcohol from Jerez, cancelled his order. So, what to do with it? After deliberation, it was poured into old barrels in which sherry had been previously stored. Years went by, and the rejected stock almost forgotten. Then, one day it was sampled. It was discovered that the maturing process in the sherry barrels had rendered the alcohol very aromatic, smooth, and velvety in texture.
Brandy had been invented.
(‘And not a lot of people know that’).
Brandy of Jerez
What was produced by chance, in the cellars of a member of the ‘Golden Triangle’, is now matured to an exquisite range of flavours. It is exported worldwide, under the protected trademark of Brandy de Jerez.
This unwittingly discovered production process has not really changed.
In order to carry the designate Brandy de Jerez, maturation must be in used sherry barrels, in order to develop the colour (pale golden to deep mahogany), bouquet, and taste.
Alcohol contents are from 36 to 45 degrees.
Grades of Maturity – Brandy
Solera – brandy that has matured in the barrel for at least six months. Relatively pale, light and winey.
Solera Reserva – barrel ageing of at least 12 months. Darker in colour, with a more intense aromatic flavour.
Solera Gran Reserva – the highest grade. Barrel-aged for a minimum of 36 months.
These legal ageing times are often exceeded. A Solera Gran Reserva brandy may be matured for 10 to 15 years longer. The result is a brandy with enormously concentrated flavour and ‘nose’. Rich in colour.
In Antequera, both supermarkets and restaurants will have a decent range of brandies. It is very popular. Some of the solera brandies are quite cheap on the supermarket shelves.
Brands of Brandy in ANTEQUERA
Conde de Osborne. This is from the famous Osborne bodega in Jerez de la Frontera. The black Osborne bull ‘statue’ is still a landmark on hills in Spain. It is accepted as a work of art.
Gran Capitan. It comes from Bobadilla. A good gran reserva, and more affordable lesser grades are also available.
Gran Duque de Alba. A slightly ostentatiously wax sealed gran reserva, from Williams & Humbert. The rustic bottle certainly looks the part!
Carlos 1. A solera gran reserva (there are lesser grades), from Pedro Domeq. You will find this in supermarkets.
Lepanto. A solera gran rserva from Gonzalez Byass. This is often matured in the barrel in excess of 10 years. It might come in an expensive, decorative bottle. Great brandy, and a bottle to hold onto.
A bulbous glass, a generous portion, and a vigorous swirl to lift the aroma, is the timeless ritual of brandy consumption in Antequera.