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Breaking the silence

November 14, 2018 – 8:28 am


The film is released in Spain on 16 November, and has been shown at various film festivals around Europe. The film is released in Spain on 16 November, and has been shown at various film festivals around Europe and beyond. Maria leaves flowers for her mother, killed under Franco's dictatorship. Maria leaves flowers for her mother, killed under Franco’s dictatorship.


The Seville Film Festival, which is on until 17 November, always offers a broad range of movies, from drama to documentary, shorts to animation.

The films shown in this festival, now in its 15th year, do not shy away from difficult subjects, and a good example from this year’s programme of a film which tackles sensitive territory is El Silencio de Otros.

The documentary, which has already won two awards at the Berlin Film Festival, and is nominated for an EFA (European Film Award), follows a group of brave and determined people who are seeking justice for crimes committed under General Franco’s dictatorship. It was filmed over a six-year period, and is directed by Spanish filmmaker Almudena Carracedo and her American partner Robert Bahr.

Under Spain’s 1977 Amnesty Law, which included a “Pact of Forgetting” (Pacto de Olvido), you cannot bring a prosecution in Spain for a crime committed during those 40-odd years. So the group, which starts off as a few people and finishes with over 300, takes its lawsuit to Argentina, under “universal jurisdiction”, whereby a national court may prosecute individuals for any serious crime against international law, regardless of where the alleged crime was committed, and regardless of the accused’s nationality or country of residence.

If that makes the film sound dry, it’s anything but – however it’s essential to understand the context for the fight being waged by this group of Spaniards, undertaken an Argentinian judge. The case started in 2010 and is still ongoing.

The human aspect is what carries such a powerful impact in this film. Elderly Maria, dressed in her simple black dress, leaves flowers by the road in memory of her mother, killed by Falangists in her town when she was a small girl. Faustina, Maria’s mother, is buried in a mass grave, and Maria wants to inter her properly in a Christian graveyard. Maria’s voice is a hoarse whisper, yet her force of spirit as she stares at the camera is unmistakeable; around her neck she wears a necklace with a photo of her beloved mother.

Chato Galante sits in the cell where he was imprisoned for seven years on charges of “illicit propaganda and illegal association” at the end of the dictatorship. While incarcerated, Chato was beaten and tortured by a policeman, he claims, who still lives 10 minutes away from him in Madrid, and who has never been charged.

Another woman speaks of how she was told her baby had died, after she gave birth as a single mother in Le Linea de la Concepcion. The stolen babies scandal  is thought to have affected at least 200,000 mothers from the 1940s to the 1980s (systems set up under Franco continued after his death), with some estimates as high as 300,000.

These stories are told honestly and plainly, with painfully raw emotion, yet without falling into sentimentality or mawkishness – a remarkable feat.

Each of the victims and survivors – still traumatized by events that took place decades ago, but keen to seek justice, desperate to find their relatives’ remains, or bring their aggressor to account – represents thousands more who are in the same situation, but haven’t yet started the painful and difficult process, due to not wanting to open old wounds, or to cause conflict within their own family. It is thought that 100,000 bodies still lie in unmarked mass graves around Spain.

They haven’t dared speak out until now, as the fear that accompanied life under a dictator is not easily forgotten. As the Argentinian judge, Maria Servini de Cubria, was quoted in an interview, “What you see is people’s fear and terror of giving testimony. Sometimes they want to omit names, or they won’t provide details of the circumstances in which the events took place.” So far, no prosecutions in this case with 311 plaintiffs, known as the Querella Argentina, have been brought.

This is a film with a clear agenda, an aim – to “break the silence”: crimes were committed on a astonishingly widespread scale, with total impunity. Few people outside of Spain are aware of the depth and extent of Spain’s murky past, until now ignored or forgotten, yet still a source of terrible suffering for so many.

Since the film was made, the enquiry has been broadened to include further offences committed during the Franco era, such as sexual assault and forced abortion. Another recent development is that Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist party is now in government, and it is thought that under the Historical Memory law – introduced in 2007 by Sanchez’s fellow socialist Zapatero in order to help locate missing bodies among other processes, but ignored by the subsequent Rajoy administration – the group may have more success, especially in tracing the remains of victims.

For anyone with an interest in Spain’s recent past, this is a fascinating and moving account of a painstaking and tremendously difficult search for justice. However readers should be aware that the past remains a highly divisive issue in Spain, and should be approached with extreme caution when talking to Spaniards.

El Silencio de Otros is on general release in Spain from Friday 16 November.




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New guide to film and TV locations in Andalucia, including BBC 4’s The Plague

September 8, 2018 – 3:10 pm

Film Tours 1

Andalucia has long been a favoured location for TV and film productions, thanks to its wide-ranging landscapes, from mountains and beaches to desert, notably HBO’s hugely successful series Game of Thrones. Scenes from the medieval fantasy series’s seventh and final season were shot at Roman site Italica, near Seville earlier this year, and will be aired in 2019.

Film Route 2

In addition, legendary movie heroes such as James Bond and Indiana Jones were seen diving, riding or flying across Andalucian coasts and landscapes. Many spaghetti westerns were shot in the Almeria desert – The Good, the Bad and The Ugly, For a Fistful of Dollars and other classics.

A new website,, takes you around the region, with its vastly varying scenery, to visit locations of films from STar Wars prequel Attack of the Clones to 1492: Conquest of Paradise (about Columbus’s discovery of the New World).

The website is available in English, Spanish and German.

You can search using three criteria: by route (by theme, movie, TV series, or type of location such as beach), by film (over 100 of them), or by Andalucia’s eight provinces.

You can even find out which films made in Andalucia were nominated for, and won, Oscars – examples include grand-scale epics like Cleopatra, Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago.

In addition, filming anecdotes offer interesting titbits about various stars including Peter O’Toole (partying hard), 007 Pierce Brosnan (huge tortillitas de camarones fan) and GoT‘s Daenerys, Emilia Clarke (birthday party in Osuna complete with Targaryen cake).

One of the most recent TV series featured is La Peste, which was aired in Spain earlier this year.

This exciting murder-mystery drama, set in 16th-century Seville ravaged by bubonic plague, is now available to UK viewers on BBC 4 as The Plague. If you missed the first two episodes shown last week, you can now watch them on the BBC iPlayer.

Watch a trailer here (in Spanish).



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First-ever Facebook guide – to Seville!

June 18, 2018 – 11:07 pm



Written by Sevillanos, the guide covers places to eat, listen to live music, and see the city as enjoyed by locals.

Written by Sevillanos, the guide covers places to eat, listen to live music, and see the city as enjoyed by locals.


Last week, the first-ever guidebook compiled using content provided by Facebook users was launched.

The 52-page guidebook to Seville features places for tapas, dancing swing and tango, and hunting ghosts, all suggested by more than 20 Sevillano Facebook communities and pages. Interestingly, the branding is fairly discreet, with just one logo on the introduction page, as well as wide use of the corporate blue.

It is divided into six sections: Gastronomia; Musica; Libros, Poesia y Recitales; Rincones; Una Sevilla Desconocida; and Naturaleza (Gastronomy; Music; Books, Poetry and Recitals; Corners; Unknown Seville; and Nature).

The introduction says (translated from the Spanish): “With this guide, we wanted to show Seville as seen by its own people, through the communities which exist in various areas of the city. Groups created by Sevillanos who use Facebook to connect through common interests and causes, or to meet up and see each other in person… The cultural richness of Seville is reflected in the communities which have participated in this guide, bringing their vision and advice so that anyone can discover a city with many interesting traditions, but also modern and innovative, and constantly changing…”

At the launch, I spoke to one of the sources of tapas bar suggestions, Chencho Cubiles of the eponymous Facebook page De Tapas Con Chencho. His 13 picks range from simple restaurants which only open at lunch time, serving typical local dishes, to the latest fusion joints, as well as non-Spanish cuisine, including Mexican and Japanese. How did he pick them from the huge choice available? “These are the places which I love eating at – my own favourites,” he says.

The music section of the guide covers a wide range of genres, from rock and roll, with suggestions for live music venues, bars and festivals, offered by the Facebook group Rock Sevillano, to jazz, plus dance – salsa, tango and swing.

One of the most interesting sections, for those wishing to venture off the beaten tourist path, is the one on the Macarena barrio, compiled by the Associacion de Comerciantes Macarena Facebook page. This mentions some fabulous medieval churches, flamenco peñas (clubs) and shops, in this area to the north-west of the city centre, straddling the ring road which marks where the old city walls once stood.

Another quirky, off-the-beaten-track section is Haunted Seville, by the Facebook group Sevilla Ghost; dare to enter a church crypt which hides a pantheon of famous Sevillanos, or an abandoned American military hospital.

Below is a video of the launch, featuring some of the contributors, as shown on Andalucia Directo TV programme.

You can see the online version of the guide here.





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Murillo moves to the street

May 4, 2018 – 8:12 pm Murillo, Seville The programme has theatre and music performances in Seville from May to November 2018.

After two major art exhibitions, showing both his paintings and those which were influenced by him, the celebrations for Año Murillo - the 400th anniversary of Seville’s most famous painter – are changing gear.

From this month, you can see and hear parallel events themed around Murillo and his historic period en la calle – music, theatre and literature in the street.

On weekends in May, you can see a series of performances of Tras las Muellas de Murillo which recreate “Sevilla de Ultramar” – the city which was both the port and the gateway to, the New World, at the economic and commercial centre of what was then the world’s most important empire. Audiences will hear texts of great Golden Age writers such as Cervantes and Lope de Vega.

Theatrical groups, with musical accompaniment, will recreate the atmosphere of 17th-century Seville. They will take place in outdoor locations such as Plaza del Cabildo and Plaza de la Contratacion, both close to the cathedral, as well as Casa de la Moneda close to Puerta de Jerez, and also at the Hospital de la Caridad in the Arenal area, between 11am and 2pm on Saturdays and 11.30am and 2.30pm on Sundays. These are free of charge.

In June and July (6 June to 28 July), from Wednesday to Saturday, you’ll be able to see Los Niños de Murillo a performance which combines live art, dance, lighting and video to present the other side of Murillo. Apart from his religious paintings, which show the Virgin and child, and saints, Murillo also painted street children – cheeky rascals sharing a snack or playing with dice. These images will be projected onto the Torre de Don Fadrique, a historic tower in the Convent of Santa Clara.

With a break in August and most of September, from 28 September to 9 November, you can see Romances de las Niñas de Murillo, starting in the Antiquarium. Murillo will be serenaded by girls singing old ÇSpanish romantic and folk songs, recalling Moorish stories, frontier wars and long-distance loves.

For more information, including exact timings, see here.


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Murillo from another perspective: what would he have have painted today?

March 29, 2018 – 12:21 pm


Cristianos-y-Musulmanes-based-on-Murillos-Santa-Justa-and-Santa-RufinaCristianos y Musulmanes based on Murillos Santa Justa and Santa Rufina


This year Seville celebrates the 400th anniversary of the birth of the baroque painter, Esteban Murillo.

His emotive, endearing works feature subjects such as St Joseph with a chubby-cheeked toddler Jesus in a flowing frock, ethereal Virgin Marys in pretty blue dresses, and Seville’s patron saints, Santa Justa and Lucia, the martyred potter sisters from Triana, with the Giralda. Murillo’s intimate paintings of the Virgin with Jesus – more mother and child than saviour and highly-favoured lady – such as La Virgen de la Servilleta, are held in high affection in Seville. Several exhibitions have been organised for this year, including two at the Bellas Artes Museum, the first of which finishes this Sunday and recreates the artist’s group of paintings commissioned for the altar of the Convent of the Capuchins in Seville.

Murillo was highly influential and much copied, his soft and sweet treatments of children emulated by the likes of Gainsborough, while his self-portraits have inspired not one but two entire exhibitions this year – at the Frick in New York, and the National Portrait Gallery in London. His works are in permanent collections at the Wallace in London, and the Hermitage in St Petersburg.

While Murillo is best-known for his naturalistic depictions of the Virgin and child, and beautifully draped clothes in vibrant shades, he also painted more down-to-earth, realistic subjects, such as beggars, street urchins and flower girls. This was unusual for the time, when the church, as the most powerful artistic patron, preferred canvasses filled with angelic cherubs and suffering saints to inspire awe and win over its public.


Transexual-rights-activitists-portray-the-Women-in-the-WindowTransexual rights activitists portray Mujeres en la Ventana


So it is exciting to see an exhibition which offers a new take on Murillo’s art as social commentary. In Murillo Fotógrafo at Fundacion Cajasol, subtitled, ·Que hubiera retratado en el siglio XXI?” (Murillo the Photographer: What would he have painted in the 21th century?), contemporary topics are cleverly depicted in the style of some of the artist’s most famous works. The photos are by José Antonio de Lamadrid and Laura León, and feature detailed painted backdrops. All of the people featured in the photographs have experienced these situations in real life – they’re not just photographic models.

In El Desahuicio, a re-examination of Murillo’s El Regreso del Hijo Pródigo, a son whose home was repossessed and had to go and live with his grandmother, causing rifts in the family, asks to be reconciled with his father. With the financial crisis still affecting many in Spain, this is a reminder than life is not rosy for all Andalucians.

Two transexual rights activists look coquettishly out at the viewer in Mujeres en la Ventana, while a woman who became pregnant by the modern-day scientific miracle of IVF looks serene and regal with her swollen belly and characteristic sky-blue cloak in La Inmaculada del Escorial.

Two of the most striking photographs are the pair of large tableaus, featuring groups of people: Las Bodas de Caná is a commentary on consumerism, with a structure based on the Last Supper – a couple celebrating their wedding look unconscionably glum. In La Muerte de Santa Clara, young women regard themselves with their mobile phones as the demands for female beauty are considered.

Inter-religious harmony is the theme of the Santa Justa and Rufina work, Cristianos y Musulmanes – a Catholic woman and a Muslim woman stand next to the Giralda, to show how different religions can live side by side.

This exhibition is a clever and creative way of bringing Murillo closer to our times, of making his work more relevant and engaging for today’s society – personally, call me a baroque-philistine, I can only take so many of the Virgin and saint paintings held in such high esteem around these parts. A study of contemporary life as seen through Murillo’s 17th-century eyes offers some cheeky irreverence, as well as being realistic and bringing home the social problems faced by Andalucians.

The exhibitions is on at Sala Murillo, Fundacion Cajasol, calle Francisco Bruna 1, Seville, until 22 April 2018. For more information click here.


El-Desahuicio-the-Eviction-is-a-modern-take-on-El-Retorno-del-hijo-ProdigoEl Desahuicio (the Eviction) is a modern take on El Retorno del Hijo Prodigo


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Spain now no2 tourist destination in the world

January 12, 2018 – 4:25 pm


The portada (gateway) of the Feria
Playa de Bajondillo, Torremolinos. Photo by Sophie Careful


Today it was announced that Spain has taken the number 2 spot in most-visited countries in the world.

Previously, the US was the second-most visited country, but as of 2017, Spain has knocked los Estados Unidos off the silver podium for international tourism.

France remains at number one in the top tourism countries chart. The rest of the top 10 for 2016 (the remaining entries in the list for 2017 are still to be confirmed) were: China (4),  Italy (5), UK (6), Germany (7), Mexico (8), Thailand (9) and Turkey (10).


The portada (gateway) of the Feria
Seville’s Alcazar is one of the most popular historic buildings in Spain. Photo © Michael Barbatulus


Last year, Spain had a record-breaking 82 million visitors. This is the fifth consecutive year when the number has reached a new high, increasing 8.9% on 2016, according to figures from the Ministry of Energy and Tourism.

Splashing the cash

Spending also rose, as would be expected, though more proportionately than the number of visitors. The total amount spent on visits to Spain was 87,000 million euros, up 12.4% on the previous year. Each tourist spends an average of 1,061 euros.

Brits on top

Figures by nationality of visitor are only available for January to November 2017 as of now, but these show that the British are still the largest sector of all visitors, with 18 million in total. This is 7% more than the same period in 2016.

Brits are not shy about enjoying their holidays, with 16,604 million euros going on Spanish hotels, food, drink, shopping and other expenditure during their visits – around 911 euros per person.

Germany is the second-biggest visitor nationality, with 11 million visitors, followed by France at 7 million. These figures are from the Egatur tourism spend survey, carried out by INE.

This exciting news for Spain comes hot on the heels on the announcement that Lonely Planet considered Seville the Best City to Visit in 2018.

See our post about top international tourism country destinations from 2016.



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Seville – Best City to Visit in 2018, and Año de Murillo

December 15, 2017 – 4:53 pm



Last month, the prestigious travel guide publisher Lonely Planet named Seville as the Best City in the world to visit next year, as part of its annual Best in Travel list.

A great honour for the city, this will bring even larger numbers of visitors to the city in 2018. With new hotels and restaurants opening all the time, Seville is ready for its next wave of tapas and flamenco-lovers. The area around the Cathedral and Alcazar already gets very crowded when groups arrive to visit our UNESCO World Heritage site, so this will only become more intense – arrive early in the day to avoid the queues!

Growth in visitors is obviously desirable for any city which is a major tourist destination, but we’re hoping the city council will keep a check on incongruous chain restaurants (Taco Bell) which do not remotely fit in to their historic surroundings (the Archive of the Indies, also UNESCO-recognised).


Murillo Year - 2018 - will have exhibitions and routes about the painter.

Murillo Year – 2018 – will have exhibitions and routes about the painter.


The year of being Best in Travel coincides happily with (and was probably helped by) a major year-long cultural event – Año Murillo (Year of Murillo), which celebrates the 400th anniversary of the Sevillano painter. Best known for his religious portraits – saints, the Virgin, Christ, bishops etc – Murillo broke the mould in that, as well as saints and the Virgin, he also depicted common people – street urchins and young girls, giving us a snapshot of life in 17th-century Seville.

Año Murillo officially started last month, in November, since the painter was born in 1617. The youngest of 14 children, he was commissioned to produce numerous paintings for convents and churches around Seville, such as San Francisco (no longer exists; was located in Plaza Nueva) and the Convento de los Capuchinos at Puerta de Cordoba (also no longer existing, but gives its name to the Ronda de Capuchinos, part of the ring-road around the city´s historic centre).

His work was held in great affection, partly for its air of informality – The Holy Family with a Little Bird depicts Mary, Joseph and Jesus as a surprisingly normal family: the mother gazies adoringly at her baby son as he plays with a dog, in an unusually earthly, even domestic, setting. Any family can relate to the feeling of humanity in this painting.

Inside the cathedral, you can see 15 of Murillo’s paintings, including his San Leandro and San Isidoro in the Sacristy, while in the Chapter House his Inmaculada, the Immaculate Virgin, has pride of place on the circular wall. Another location where his work can be seen is the Hospital de la Caridad, in the Arenal.

You can visit the painter’s house in barrio Santa Cruz (calle Teresas), from where various routes will start, taking in buildings where his works are displayed.

One of the most exciting aspects of these exhibitions is that works which have been away from Seville for centuries are being brought “home” (temporarily) from museums all over the world such as the Prado, Louvre and National Gallery in London.


 Santas Justa and Rufina (with the Giralda) by Esteban Murillo.

Santas Justa and Rufina (with the Giralda) by Esteban Murillo.


Exhibitions are taking place in Espacio Santa Clara and the Museo Bellas Artes, among other locations. At the Bellas Artes you can see the series of paintings he did for the Capuchinos, reunited for the first time ever, including works brought from Hamburg, Vienna and New York. One of the most famous of these is Santas Justa y Rufina, which shows the Christian martyrs, who were potters from Triana, in their iconic pose with model of the Giralda.

You can also go to concerts, plays, and try period gastronomy, to get a taste of 17th century Seville ç the city as it was in Murillo’s time.

For more information on exhibitions and activities in the Year of Murillo, see here



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Chef del Mar wins Andalucia’s first-ever three Michelin stars

November 24, 2017 – 11:09 pm Aponiente's listing in the Michelin guide. Aponiente’s listing in the Michelin online guide, showing the pescatarian restaurant’s coveted three-star ranking.

When the Michelin stars for Spain and Portugal in 2018 were announced earlier this week, there was some exciting news for Andalucia: the region added to its tally in the most impressive and prestigious way possible.

We now have our first three-star establishment: Aponiente by Angel Leon, in El Puerto de Santa Maria (Cadiz). The ground-breaking “Chef del Mar” specialises in using high-tech, innovative techniques to create dishes from an astonishing variety of marine ingredients, including fish often overlooked by others, such as plankton sponge cake and seafood chorizo.

Leon now joins the hallowed ranks of just 11 chefs in Spain and Portugal who bear the triple crown; to put this into context, the UK only has five three-starred restaurants.

As the Michelin guide puts it:

Immerse yourself in the fantasy culinary world of Angel Leon, a gastronomic visionary.
He has taken his cooking into unchartered territory thanks to his prodigious technical ability,
boundless creativity and, above all, a constant love affair with the sea

In addition to this highest of honours, Leon’s Alevante restaurant at the nearby Melia Sancti Petri hotel, a five-star GL beach resort in Chiclana de la Frontera, earned its first estrella Michelin.

The other new Michelin star in Andalucia went to Benito Gomez’s Bardal in Ronda. This restaurant run by the Barcelonan chef resumes the Michelin tradition in the hilltop town started by two-starred Dani Garcia just over a decade ago – he earned his first star there at Tragabuches in 2000.

As a result, Malaga and Cadiz the two Andalucian provinces which boast most gastronomic gongs, with nine and four respectively. Almeria (province) and Cordoba (city) have two each, while Seville and Huelva regional capitals have one each.

For the 16 restaurants with Michelin stars in Andalucia, see this page.

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Multi-Charity Christmas Fair in Estepona

November 13, 2017 – 9:44 pm


A multi-charity Christmas fair, organised by the Anglican Church in the Costa del Sol, will be held in Estepona on 25 November.

Entrance is free, and visitors can enjoy live music and entertainment throughout the day, as well as Santa’s Grotto, face painting, magic shows, bouncy castle, classic cars from the Classic Car Club of Andalucia, and 30 stalls with great Christmas present ideas.

The five charities that the local church is supporting will be there (Collective Calling, Caritas, Aspandem, Little Sisters of the Poor and Emaus), as well as other charities aiming to raise much needed funds for their causes.

The fair, which will be at the Palacio de Congresos in Estepona, will be opened by Hannah Murray of TRE Radio.

There will also be food and drink on offer.

Visitors can enter a charity prize draw with big prizes (to be drawn at the fair).

Date: Saturday 25 November
Time: 11am – 3pm
Venue: Palacio de Congresos, Estepona

For more information:
call 952 808 605

Read interview with Rev. Adrain Low

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Sherry Week is on now: 6-12 November!

November 7, 2017 – 3:54 pm Sherry Week is from 6 - 12 November. This is the fourth annual Sherry Week, taking place in 26 countries.

Anyone who enjoys drinking Sherry, the versatile fortified wine from the town of Jerez de la Frontera (Moorish name: Xerez, pronounced Sheresh), will be delighted to hear that this week is Sherry Week!

The annual worldwide celebration of these wines, which range from bone-dry to smooth and sweet – fino, manzanilla, amontillado, oloroso, palo cortao, cream and Pedro Ximenez – has grown every year since it started in 2014. This year more than 2000 events are being held in 26 countries around the world, from now until Sunday 12 November.

Sherry Week was founded by Spanish-Australian marketer Chelsea Anthon Penas – you can read our interview with this dynamic wine-loving entrepreneur here. The Week started off as World Sherry Day, and since has grown exponentially, with countries from Australia to the US, via Ecuador, Norway and Taiwan, hosting events.

Andalucia is hosting a number of events.

In Spain alone you can go to a staggering 900 events, of which the most popular type is gastronomy-related – in other words pairing Sherry with food. This will usually consist of a tasting menu of three or more tapas, each paired with a Sherry which complements its flavours. But the dishes don’t have to be typically Spanish – any type of world cuisine can be matched to a sherry. In some restaurants, a dish or tapa paired with a Sherry with be available as a special offering throughout the week. You can also go to a tasting, where an expert will guide you through a number of Sherries, called a “flight”, explaining the subtleties of each individual wine.

Leading the charge here in Andalucia in terms of Sherry Week events is Seville, with nearly 300 tastings and pairings, followed by the Sherry Triangle – the towns of Jerez, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda – the only area where Sherry can be made – also hosting around 300 events.

To find a Sherry Week event near you, use the search on the Sherry website, while the hottest hashtag on Social Media this week is #sherryweek


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