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Andalucia’s celluloid gold: Sherry and the Mystery of the Palo Cortado

January 29, 2015 – 10:28 pm

We read a lot about budget cuts to cultural events and activities as part of the government’s austerity measures these days, so it’s good to see that celluloid culture in Andalucia continues to hold its own, despite these challenging times.

Cinema is already having a good year – three movies made in the region have been nominated for an impressive amount of Goyas (the Spanish Oscars) – 28 nominations between them. El Niño and La Isla Minima are both police thrillers, set in the Campo de Gibraltar and the marshlands of the Guadalquivir in Seville province respectively, while Ocho Apellidos Vascos is a comedy set in Seville and the Basque Country. The ceremony will take place on 8 February, so we’re rooting for locally-made films to scoop plenty of awards.

Sherry & the Mystery of Palo Cortado is showing at the Berlin Film Festival.

Sherry & the Mystery of Palo Cortado is showing at the Berlin Film Festival.

And now a very different Andalucian film is taking part in the Berlin Film Festival’s Culinary Cinema section: Sherry y el Misterio de Palo Cortado (Sherry and The Mystery of Palo Cortado). This film is about the world of sherry wines, which is still unknown, and indeed unfathomable, to many. Sherry wines are only made in the “Sherry Triangle” of Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda, and are aged and blended using a system called solera.

The movie is produced by Antonio Saura, whose father Carlos is a renowned film director; his works include documentaries about dance such as Flamenco Flamenco, as well as a screen version of one of the most famous operas of all time, set in Seville: Carmen. The director, Jose Luis Lopez Linares, has won two Goyas, as cinematographer on Carlos Saura’s dance film Iberia, and for best documentary for Una instante en la vida ajena which he directed.

Palo Cortado is one of the least well-known wines, and indeed is a rare type of sherry which used to be considered unsuitable for commercial use. Recently it was “rediscovered” and is now highly prized. Technically palo cortado is a fino or amontillado which has lost its layer of flor (yeast) and is now more similar to an oloroso, with the same alcohol content – 17-22%. The name (literally “cut stick”) refers to a mark made on the barrel to denote this type of sherry, which comes about accidentally.

Sherry & the Mystery of Palo Cortado is showing at the Berlin Film Festival.

The traditional way to pour sherry, as shown by a venenciador in the film.

The 90-minute film was shot partly at Bodegas Tradicion in Jerez, and tells the story of sherry’s history, starting in the 16th century: sherry is one of the oldest wines in Europe – it has been popular in England since Shakespeare’s day, who arrived in London “at a time when the taverns are full of this sherry brought by Frances Drake”. You can see such culinary luminaries as Josep Roca, co-owner and sommelier of the legendary El Celler de San Roca in Girona, voted the world’s best restaurant, and five-Michelin-starred chef Paco Perez.

Sherry y El Misterio de Palo Cortado will be shown at the Berlinale (Berlin Film Festival) on 11 February, as part of the Culinary Cinema programme, which features 20 productions from around the world. At the showing a menu will be cooked by Paco Perez, whose restaurant 5-Cinco is in Berlin: palo cortado will play a leading role.

You can see the trailer here.

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Semana Santa, Podemos, and an unfortunate gaffe

January 15, 2015 – 1:09 pm seville, semana santa Semana Santa in Seville – the city’s most beloved festival. Mess with it at your peril, politicians.

Earlier this week a news story took Social Media in Seville by storm. But it wasn’t about anything that had actually happened. Instead, it was the perfect example of Social Media picking up on a frighteningly misjudged, quote-worthy comment which was destined to become a bete noir for the speaker. This asunto encompassed politics, tradition, religion, and local pride and passion – a combustible combination.

Begoña Gutierrez, the Provincial Secretary of Podemos Seville, was speaking to El Mundo newspaper in an interview published on Monday. In describing how Podemos’ remit was to devolve more decision-making power to the people, the hapless civil servant-turned-politician suggested that, “If it came to a vote (on whether Semana Santa should be banned), the people would decide.” Semana Santa banned? Gasp! Horror! Outrage!

“Pregunta: Dígame por último si es verdad eso de que si Podemos gobierna prohibirá la Semana Santa.

Respuesta: En Podemos todo lo decidimos los ciudadanos y los ciudadanas. Si se llegara a plantear esa cuestión, serían ellos quienes lo decidirían.”

(Question El Mundo): Lastly, tell me if it’s true that if Podemos was elected, you would ban Semana Santa.

(Answer Begoña Gutierrez, Podemos Sevilla): In Podemos, all the citizens make the decisions. If it came to a vote, it would be they who would decide.

Podemos is Spain's youngest political party - it was founded just one year ago. Podemos, Spain’s youngest political party, is at the far left of the spectrum.

The knives have been out for Podemos for some time with mainstream media and the other political parties, notably the two main players – the PSOE and PP – desperate to sling mud at this new party which was formed just a year ago and which came from nowhere to win five seats at the European elections in May last year.

With some unconventional views, Podemos is a far-left party which promises participative democracy, financial transparency, a monthly minimum salary for all, and debt restructuring. Some unfortunate comments about ETA and terrorism have not helped its cause. It’s a grass-roots anti-establishment party which isn’t about millionaire backers and high-profile campaigns – its European election campaign last year was crowd-funded. Corruption is one of the biggest concerns of the Spanish electorate, and Podemos is all about confronting the culture of back-handers head on.

Any opportunity to make the new party look bad is grabbed with both hands by the two principal parties, as well as many media channels. Unsurprisingly, considering that the political establishment is running scared – Podemos’ leader, an economics professor from Madrid called Pablo Iglesias who famously sports a ponytail, is favoured by 44% of the electorate as Spain’s next prime minister compared to the other parties’ leaders at 32% (PSOE) and 23% (PP). The latest poll, on 11 January this year, gives Podemos an election-winning 28.2% of the vote.

The unfortunate Begoña handed her party’s multiple detractors a loaded gun and said “Go on, shoot me.” Perhaps the 39-year-old mother of two, who is herself from Seville, is inexperienced in dealing with the media. Otherwise she would have known not to even suggest, albeit as an example of citizens’ democratic participation, that Seville’s most famous event be banned.

Begoña Gutierrez, Podemos, Seville, Sevilla, Semana Santa Begoña’s tweet to calm the storm of protest provoked by her comment.

Podemos is all about a return to genuine democracy in which decisions aren’t made by out-of-touch suits who have become rich through questionable business and financial dealings and loyalties, also known as conventional politicians, but by The People. So even if she was simply trying to illustrate a very important point, she chose the wrong way to do it.

Within hours, rumours were circling around the internet saying “Podemos wants to ban Semana Santa in Seville.” Sticky. You have to feel sorry for the poor woman. Begoña responded with some clarifying/backpedalling tweets, and El Mundo charted the storm, with some glee. So it seems that banning Seville’s most popular religious festival is not in the party’s manifesto after all.

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A black-faced apology from Canal Sur

January 5, 2015 – 3:10 pm Apology video where two men are packing coal for Canal Sur - given to naughty children instead of presents by the Three Kings. Canal Sur’s apology video – two men are packing coal for the channel – given to naughty children instead of presents by the Three Kings.

As you will have read on our previous blog post by Chris Chaplow, New Year’s Eve here in Andalucia was unexpectedly eventful.

On the Canal Sur TV countdown to 2015, which is an important tradition for many Andalucian families, the 12 campanadas (chimes of midnight) were interrupted by advertisements, so that people could not eat their traditional 12 grapes, one for each chime. Instead, coffee and motorcycle racing were peddled on the screens of outraged and confused southern Spaniards. The presenters themselves were unaware of the grave error in their transmission.

This technological blip caused consternation from Ayamonte to Almeria, and trended on Twitter. The next day, it was announced that the head of the relevant department, Continuity and Emissions, had tendered his resignation. That’s how serious it was.

Yesterday, the saga had another chapter, in a typically cheeky Andalucian style.

The TV channel issued a message saying “Ya que no podemos devolverte las Campanadas al menos dejanos devolverte la sonrisa.” (Although we can’t bring the chimes back, at least let us bring your smile back.) The attached hashtag was #carbonparacanalsur, with a two-minute video.

Tomorrow is Dia de los Reyes Magos here in Spain, when the Three Kings (or Wise Men in English folklore) bring presents to children across the land if they’re been good (they come to houses at night on their camels, so appropriate snacks are left out). If they’ve been naughty, they get coal.

In the video, two men are organising the filling of sacks of coal for Canal Sur – they receive phone calls asking for 20kg of coal, then another 50kg for the Spanish TV channel. They say that they’ve had 20,000 calls from Almeria, which is where the disastrous countdown took place.

Las uvas lo que tenemos que haber hecho como Dios manda.” We should have done the grapes as God commands – in other words, in the correct fashion, without commercial breaks.

Colorada tengo yo la cara” (My face is coloured) says one of the men – as in both dirty, from the coal, and embarrassed. “Cuando uno hace las cosas malamente, hay que pedir perdon.” (When you do something badly, you need to say sorry.) Apologies, and admissions of wrong-doing, are far from common here in Andalucia, especially by regional institutions.

The men also talk about Canal Sur’s 26 years of dedication, and mention a big surprise which is coming on 28 February. And, of course, they slip in a plug for the TV coverage of the Cabalgata (6.15pm) – Three Kings’ Procession which takes place this afternoon. Without ads.

The video has had over 500,000 hits in the 24 hours since it was posted.






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Noche Vieja Campanada Shenanigans on Canal Sur

January 2, 2015 – 2:45 pm

Guest blog: Chris Chaplow

We hope that those of you who live in Andalucia (or indeed the rest of Spain) managed to celebrate Noche Vieja (New Year’s Eve) in the traditional way with the 12 grapes at midnight.

Just before 12pm on 31 December everyone tunes in to the national television channel, RTVE1, where two glitzy presenters are awaiting the ball drop followed by the countdown from the ‘Casa de Correos’ clock in Puerta del Sol, Madrid. All around the nation, people prepare to down their 12 grapes in perfect time with the 12 campanadas (chimes) of midnight.

Similarly in Andalucia, the regional television channel, Canal Sur, traditionally does a live transmission from the Plaza de las Tendillas in Cordoba. This year, however, it was the turn of Almeria, a city celebrating its millennium. With four million Andalucian viewers tuned in to an unfamiliar town clock, the presenters actress Ana Ruiz and celebrity chef Enrique Sanchez advised everyone “You will have to pay attention not to get mixed up”, and “Watch the screen carefully and there won’t be any problems”.

Unfortunately they spoke too soon, as the screen cut to an advert for coffee featuring scenes of Andalucia, and when it returned to Almeria the first chime had already rung. To make things worse, after the third chime the transmission switched back to another advert, this time for the Jerez Moto GP, which was abruptly cut short to return viewers to the Almeria for the 9th chime. The presenters did not realize what had happened, nor did most of Andalucia, who were still fixed to television set waiting for the chimes to ring in 2015. Viewers were left without having completed the ceremony of eating the 12 grapes – some had started but not finished, others hadn’t even had their first grape.



The 12 lucky grapes bring good luck. It is worth mentioning that failing to complete the 12 grapes within the chimes, is not a good idea.

This was not the first time there have been problems with the campanadas on TV. In 1989 presenter Marisa Naranjo (TV1) got mixed up with the cuatro cuartos (four chimes to sound the final quarter of the hour before the main twelve chimes), and confused the nation.In 1994 Carmen Sevilla welcomed everybody into 1964. Nowadays we have social media, whose immediacy and global spread offer an unforgiving combination when things go wrong, spiced up with plenty of Andalucian humour.



The hashtag #canalsur became number one trending topic on Twitter in Spain, and even reached number two in the world. “In Andalucia because of the cuts we now only have 3 grapes not 12”, “We are stuck in 2014”, “My family have been ready to eat the grapes since 00.00 and are still waiting” were a few of the tweets posted. You can see a number of amusing videos on YouTube of families who recorded their get-togethers at midnight as they awaited the chimes and then got confused – one has been watched by nearly 250,000 people. In another, a young gentleman finds a saucepan to ring in the New Year.

Canal Sur issued an apology and announced that an investigation was centered on its Emisiones y Continuidad department and clarified the error was not Almeria’s fault. Yesterday evening, New Year’s Day, it was announced that the director of this department had resigned.



Fortunately the coffee advert featured classic Andalucian scenes such as Alhambra, Cadiz pavilion, Malaga port, Jaen Cathedral, Alcazaba de Almeria and not something less complimentary, since the videos have gone viral. It may be a good year for tourism in 2015, with so many people watching YouTube videos featuring Andalucia’s highlights, as part of the farcical few first minutes of the new year of Canal Sur.

Personally, I think the only way for Canal Sur to achieve closure on this incident, is organise a rerun in August. This would not be without precedent; residents of the village of Bérchules in Granada have done this since 1995, after a power cut on New Year’s Eve 1994 cut short their celebrations. The summertime grape-taking has become a cult tourist attraction. Let’s welcome in the New Year again, but this time not in the freezing cold.

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Review of 2014’s blog posts

December 30, 2014 – 11:50 pm

This year, here on the Blog, as always, we’ve covered a wide variety of topics – from culture and gastronomy to local news – everything from International Sherry Week to the Seville Film Festival, Spain winning top place as the world’s number one wine producer, and Andalucia as Trip Advisor’s favourite region of Spain.

We’re going to highlight one or two blog posts from each month to refresh your memory about all the varied and (we hope) interesting topics which we have covered in our posts throughout 2014.

We started the year with the exciting announcement that Spain is now the world’s third-most popular tourist destination, with 60.6 million visitors in 2013, after France and the US. We await with interest the figures for 2014; Andalucia’s are certainly looking healthy.

Legendary guitarist, Paco de Lucia, who died in February. Legendary guitarist, Paco de Lucia, who died in February. Photo: Tony Bryant

And the next month, we heard that Spain has become the world’s top wine-producing country for the first time ever, taking over from Italy and France. Production levels were up by a staggering 40% in 2013, and by 20% in Andalucia. This month we lost one of Andalucia’s most respected and enduring flamenco legends: guitarist Paco de Lucia, who came from Algeciras.

Anna Kemp, Un Teatro Para Todos Anna Kemp, the woman behind Un Teatro Entre Todos – A Theatre For All – in the Alpujarran village of Laroles.

Going hyper-local, we talked to a dynamic British script editor and long-term expat who is building an outdoor theatre in the Alpujarra. Since we spoke to her for the blog, Anna Kemp’s fantastic mountainside project in the remote village of Laroles, Un Teatro Entre Todos, has won several awards, and next season will be welcoming renowned international theatre and dance companies.

The ever-influential Trip Advisor reported that half of Spain’s ten most popular cities with visitors, as voted by the millions of users of the travel review website, were in Andalucia. The famous five were (in order): Seville, Granada, Malaga, Marbella, and Cordoba.

Videos to the tune of Pharrell Williams’ global mega-hit song Happy were shot in all corners of the region, providing some great showcases for Andalucia’s most interesting and stunning people and places.


sherry, ISW, International Sherry Week Sherry and tapas pairing menu for International Sherry Week, which had more than 1100 events in 22 countries during June. King Juan Carlos abdicated in June this year. King Juan Carlos abdicated in June this year. He was succeeded by his son, who became King Felipe VI of Spain. He was succeeded by his son, who became King Felipe VI of Spain.


International Sherry Week, organised by a team of aficionados based in Vejer de la Frontera, encouraged people around the world to try pairing different types of fortified wine with local dishes. We tried the special menu at Vineria San Telmo in Seville.

King Juan Carlos announced his abdication, and his son Felipe took over as monarch of Spain.

Game of Thrones, GOT The Alcazar of Seville, which was used as a location for filming season five of Game of Thrones in October.

English writer Paul Murphy retraced the fabled journey across Spain as recounted in As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, discovering how much – and in some cases how little – the country has changed in the near-century since the much-loved poetically-penned adventures.

HBO confirmed that they would be filming part of the fifth season of phenomenally successful fantasy drama Game of Thrones in Seville and Osuna. The shooting took place in October amid scenes of high excitement, with fans waiting at the entrance to the Alcazar to see their favourite characters, and actors in the series being regularly stopped for photographs in the street.

A new law in the region’s capital city means diners cannot talking while standing outside a bar at night.

The grape harvest in Andalucia is an important time of year for agriculture, tradition – and drinking wine!


xxxx's film about Joe Strummer. Nick Hall’s film about Joe Strummer, seen here with the Alhambra behind him.

A new documentary about Joe Strummer looks at the time spent in Spain by the Clash’s lead singer.

Rocio Molina in new documentary Beyond Flamenco. Rocio Molina in new documentary Beyond Flamenco.

The most avant-garde artists of the flamenco world are featured in Javier Vila’s superb new documentary filmed at Sadlers Wells in London, shown at the Seville Film Festival.

Burnarj is Cordoban sparkling wine made from oranges - a novel way to toast the New Year. Burnarj is Cordoban sparkling wine made from oranges – an original tipple to welcome the New Year.

Andalucian sparkling wines - celebrate Noche Vieja (New Year’s Eve) with your 12 grapes and some fizz from Andalucia.


We at would like to wish all our readers a very Happy New Year – may 2015 see all your wishes fulfilled and plans realised.

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Christmas in Seville

December 19, 2014 – 11:31 am

This Christmas visitors are spoiled for choice for things to do and see in Seville.

From traditional nativity scenes to delightfully original handicrafts – which make ideal Christmas presents – as well as camel rides and ice-skating, together with the pretty Christmas lights which make the centre into a magical wonderland. Christmas markets abound all around the centre, fron the Alameda to the Prado.

Christmas lights on Avenida de la Constitución.

Christmas lights on Avenida de la Constitución.

Luces navideños – Christmas lights

If you are taking a stroll around the monumental part of Seville, don’t miss Avenida de la Constitucion, alongide the cathedral, with a sequence of stunning lights; Mateos Gago with its orange trees backed by the Giralda; and Plaza Nueva, where the colour-changing Christmas tree is set up in front of the illuminated Ayuntamiento.

Christmas tree and star.

Christmas tree and star.

Mercado Navideño de Artesania – Christmas Craft Market

In Plaza Nueva until 5 January you will find the Mercado Navideño de Artesania. This has over 70 stalls selling handmade jewellery, leather goods, toys and clothes. We found handbags made out of colourful men’s ties, traditional wooden children’s toys, such as pullalong dogs on wheels, old-fashioned balancing tricks, and praxinoscope – an early version of animation. Mini-works of art inhabited a beautifully laid out stall full of antique books (300 years old), with little bronze figures of girls and boys reading in various postures – sitting, standing, lying. Our favourite of these was sitting on the loo.

Among the toys on sale, a wooden steam train.

Among the toys on sale, a wooden steam train.

As always in these fairs you’ll find innumerable presents for ladies – jewellery in gold, silver, leather, titanium, copper… one stand had necklaces of paper woven with copper thread. Nuna is a clothes designer who has woollen wraparound collars and scarves of softest merino mixed with silk, exquisitely dyed.

Traditional toys on sale at the Mercadillos in Seville.

Traditional toys on sale at the Mercadillos in Seville.

More manly were the cast-iron toasters, coat hooks, and even roses – the ultimate example of a delicate piece of nature rendered in the strongest, toughest material.

Christmas craft market in Plaza Nueva - great for finding unusual handmade presents, direct from the maker.

Christmas craft market in Plaza Nueva - great for finding unusual handmade presents, direct from the maker.

This Mercado Navideño is very well organised and has a programme listing all the exhibitors.

Hours: 11am-3pm, 5pm-9pm; 24 and 31 December 11am-3pm (closed 25 December and 1 January).

Mercados de Encarnacion, Alameda and Prado de San Sebastian

Venture up to the Plaza Encarnacion market and there are further stalls as well as children’s rides – these were more picturesque, with their pointed alpine rooves against the backdrop of the Mushrooms, though less impressive in their contents. The notable exception was Saray of De Jaquete a Broche, who had ingenious roll-up blackboards – fun, colourful fabrics with wipeable “boards” which kids can write on with the chalk and wipe with the cloth provided.

Roll-up fabric blackboards in the Plaza Encarnación.

Roll-up fabric blackboards in the Plaza Encarnación.

Metropol Parasol also has its own programme of entertainment, including shows during the day.

Up at the Alameda you will find yet another Christmas market, this time with some fairground rides, camel rides and a flea circus. Be prepared to queue for the camel rides, which take in a generous circuit of the Alameda itself.

At the Prado’s market there is also an ice-skating rink.

Mercado de Belenes

The annual Belen market has nativity figures to populate the scenes that you’ll find in many Spanish homes, banks, offices and restaurants. From the asses, cows and goats of Jesus’s stable, to every conceivable type of food, the village houses, wells, and of course the shepherds and Three Kings, this market is great to fun to look around even if you don’t have your own nativity scene. And watch out for belenes all over the city.

Mapping – Plaza San Francisco

You can see the Mapping show, a laser video projection onto the rear façade (Plaza San Francisco) of the Ayuntamiento. This takes place at 7, 8 and 9pm from Monday to Thursday and 7, 8, 9 and 10pm Friday to Sunday.

The shows are usually full of detail, and the images move and change fast, so it’s tricky to catch every part. For this reason, it’s worth sticking around to watch a second time, to make sure you don’t miss anything. Check out some belenes in between shows.

All of these markets and shows are on until 5 January, in time for the arrival of the Three Kings.

Saturnalia at the Antiquarium

Not connected in any way to the Christmas season, but well worth seeing if you’re in the area and have an interest in the history of Seville, is the exhibition of the gates in the city walls. Built by the Moors, these stood for the best part of 700 years, enclosing the entire city centre, from Puerta Jerez to Puerta Macarena and along what’s now the ring road, and had 15 gates located all the way around. You can see paintings, and latterly photographs, of each one, with fascinating historical background; a huge blown-up map of the city showing the locations of all the gates, a 3D film about the gates; contemporary photographs of where each was; and braille models of the puertas. Sevilla Y Sus puertas is on at the Antiquarium, the Roman museum under the Setas. This is on till 22 February.

In the Aquarium, they also have a programme of “Saturnalia” activities – about socially egalitarian Roman festivities held in December in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture, to celebrate the end of the shortest, darkest says of the year. You can see what they ate and drank, and the games they played. These activities are available on 20 and 21 December.

Christmas craft markets in Plaza Encarnacion and the Alameda.

Christmas craft markets in Plaza Encarnacion and the Alameda.

For a complete programme of all the activities in Seville this Christmas, with opening hours, including zambomba (flamenco carol) concerts and other entertainment, as well as a list of belenes, and QR codes for some events, click here to Sevilla Turismo to download a PDF copy.

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Some Andalucian sparkle (in a glass) for your festive season

December 9, 2014 – 5:39 pm
Fragrant muscat Botani's sparkling version.

Sparkling version of fragrant dry muscat Botani.

The Christmas season has now officially started here in Spain, with the Puente de la Constitucion – the December bank holiday.

Families all over Andalucia are starting to think about their big Christmas dinner, which takes place on the night of 24 December – Christmas Eve here is called Noche Buena (Good Night).

Many people will be popping bottles of bubbly over the festive season – cava is very popular being (currently) a Spanish product, made in Catalonia. And of course on 31 December (Noche Vieja, Old Night) at midnight, once the 12 grapes have been eaten for good luck, more corks will be popped.

But now, here in Andalucia, new types of sparkling wine are being produced, providing a local alternative to Freixenet and other popular brands.

Most Malaga wines are sweet, made from the muscatel (muscat) grape, but one family winery bucks that trend by producing a dry muscatel: the deliciously fragrant, fruity, and floral wine called Botani. Bodegas Jorge Ordonez also makes a sparkling version of this award-winning DO Sierras de Malaga wine – Botani Espumoso.

Produced from Muscat of Alexandria grapes grown in the mountains of Almácha, at 600-800m. Bodegas Ordonez is a traditional, artesan wine maker, using old-fashioned methods to ensure an exceptional result: the grapes are harvested by hand, in small boxes of 10 kg, to prevent damage to the fruit, and the boxes are carried uphill by hand and loaded onto mules, so they arrive at the winery in perfect conditions. The wine is lighter than other sparkling wines at only 6.5%, but with the distinctive floral aroma and taste of Botani.

Umbretum - sparkling wine from a family bodega near Seville.

Umbretum - sparkling wine from a family winery near Seville.

Another option is the sparkling wine made by Bodegas Salados, a winery in the small town of Umbrete near Seville. Salas is well-known locally for its mosto, unfermented young wine, and its sherry-type wines. But this centuries-old family bodega also produces a sparkling wine, called Umbretum. At a heftier 11.5%, this is made from the Garria Fina grape, native to the Aljarafe region west of Seville, and comes in semi-sweet and dry (Brut Nature) varieties. The taste is fruity and citric, with a hint of honey in the sweet version.

Pretty bottle of BurNarj, sparkling wine made from oranges.

Pretty bottle of BurNarj, sparkling wine made from oranges.

And for something quite different, how about orange sparkling wine? In Palma del Rio (Cordoba), a company called BurNarj – bur from burbujas (bubbles) + narj from naranja (orange) – makes a wine from oranges. This is not orange-flavoured wine, as made in the DO Huelva, but wine made from pure fermented orange juice, using the champage/cava method.

Made with oranges from the Guadalquivir valley, this vino espumoso is the first-ever natural sparkling wine made from oranges. It is fermented to obtain the alcoholic content from the sugar, then fermented a second time inside the bottle, with two litres of juice needed to produce one 75cl bottle of BurNarj. This sparkling wine comes in four varieties: Brut Nature (very dry, 11%), Brut (dry, 11%), SemiSeco (semi-sweet, 11%) and SemiSeco Light (7%). The flavour is not overpoweringly citrussy, and the colour is pale. The drier wines pair well with caviar (such as Rio Frio from Granada) and smoked fish, while the lighter, sweeter types are less fizzy and go well with puddings, especially dark chocolate. Unlike the other two espumosos, this is made by a very new company, which celebrates its third birthday this month.

What better way to celebrate Christmas in Andalucia than by enjoying some locally made fizzy wine? Cheers! Y salud!




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The “Chef del Mar” gets his second Michelin star

November 27, 2014 – 12:40 pm
Fish chef Angel Leon as seen on the website of his two-Michelin-star restaurant Aponiente in El Puerto de Santa Maria.

Fish chef Angel Leon as seen on the website of his two-Michelin-star restaurant Aponiente in El Puerto de Santa Maria.

Last week the Michelin Guide to Spain and Portugal 2015 was launched, with the announcement of the all-important stars.

Andalucia still has seven restaurants with one Michelin star each, largely concentrated along the coast – Choco in Cordoba; La Costa in El Ejido and Alejandro in Roquetas del Mar (Almeria), Abantal in Sevilla, El Lago and Esquina both in Marbella, and Jose Carlos Garcia in Malaga.

But the big news for the region’s gastronomic scene this year was that Aponiente, the experimental and highly innovative restaurant of chef Angel Leon, known as Chef del Mar, won its second star. El Puerto de Santa Maria, the port town where the restaurant is located, will now become a gourmet mecca.

Angel Leon in action with his restaurant team at gastronomy conference Andalucia Sabor in 2013.

Angel Leon in action with his restaurant team at gastronomy conference Andalucia Sabor in 2013.

Leon, who opened his restaurant in 2007 and won his first Michelin star in 2010, has long been advocating revolutionary new ways of cooking not just fish, but all kinds of marine products such as plankton. His signature dishes include fish sausage, a “pepper” made of crab and baby squid, navajas (razor clams) with capers and anchovies, oysters with plankton, and slow-roasted almadraba tuna.

Beetroot and cuttlefish-plankton.

Beetroot and cuttlefish-plankton.

This is the Michelin inspector’s review from the guide:

“Close your eyes and savour the full flavours of the sea at this restaurant, where chef Ángel León creates innovative cuisine that will certainly cause a stir. As a result of his outstanding skill, ingredients and techniques (marine plankton, bioluminescence etc), the traditional cuisine of Cádiz takes centre stage, reaching incredible heights of creativity.”

Sausage made of seafood.

Sausage made of seafood.

Watch the video of a delighted Angel Leon celebrating the good news.

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Pushing the boundaries of Spain’s favourite dance: Beyond Flamenco

November 20, 2014 – 9:42 am
Rocio Molina, one of flamenco's most exciting dance stars, in new documentary Mas Alla del Flamenco.

Rocio Molina, one of flamenco's most exciting dance stars, in new documentary Mas Alla del Flamenco.

Living in Seville, considered by many to be the cradle of flamenco, I have written quite often about such a very Andalucian music and dance form on this blog. Two years ago I had the good fortune to attend the premiere of the movie Flamenco Flamenco in the Seville Film Festival. This documentary depicted the top stars of today’s scene, largely in terms of dancing (baile) and singing (cante).

In the recent 11 edition of the Seville Film Festival, another film on this entrancing and intriguing topic had its premiere: Mas Alla del Flamenco (Beyond Flamenco), directed by Javier Vila.

My interest, and love for, this musical form means that I’ll always try to see any film about it. Aficionados would say you should only see it live, and I have done many times but the beauty of these documentaries is that they bring together the absolute cream of today’s stars, all in one 90-minute feast.

In the case of this feast, it was a delectation of the most cutting-edge, out-there contemporary performers who are pushing the boundaries of the form – turning it inside out and upside down. Rocio Molina, described by the Guardian as “exceptional for the spectrum of her ideas”, and by the New York Times as “one of the best dancers in the world”, Eva Yerbabuena, and Israel Galvan, all impressed with their creativity and originality.

The film was recorded at the 10th Sadlers Wells Flamenco Festival, an annual event which is considered one of the most important showcases for musicians, dancers and singers in the world. It also features insightful comments from critics such as Donald Hutera of The Times and Neil Norman of The Stage. Norman says that he reckons the reason why the English love flamenco so much is that it personifies the kind of intense emotion which we shy away from. It’s like being “fed and nourished,” he says. “Something deep down we can never express because we’re too reserved – flamenco is like a  dream come true.” He certainly has a point.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the film, for me, was seeing the creative process of the artists, as they work at coming up with sequences for their shows. Israel experiments with dancing on top of a wobbly table, using the rhythmic rocking as part of his performance, while working with a French contemporary composer and pianist. Rocio collaborates with a Berlin-based Korean hip-hop artist – the resulting performance was, for me, one of the high points of the film, a work of extraordinary skill and subtlety involving the use of shadows.

Eva Yerbabuena is a lyrical, dramatic dancer who tells stories in her performances, as seen in this film.

Eva Yerbabuena is a lyrical, dramatic dancer who tells stories in her performances, as seen in this film.

Her style of dancing is less elegant than traditional flamenco, and has outraged the more conservative strands of the establishment, but she is extremely communicative and quite fascinating to watch. Eva Yerbabuena stands on a platform which is also used as an instrument of percussion, showing a series of dramatic, moving gestures.

When you see them finally performing their artistic creations, by turns frenzied and contemplative, in front of an audience in the festival, these seemingly random movements suddenly make perfect sense. Having an inside view on how these new performances, new combinations and collaborations, come together, was a privilege. Where else could you see Estrella Morente singing in the corridor, or Farruquito rehearsing with his dance partner?

The film is beautifully shot – Tomatito from behind, so you can only see the back of his guitar, the curve edged with light, and his black, curly hair backlit. Another wonderful visual image is the Korean dancer, Honi Wang – just her loose trousers with light catching their outline. Very simple, but striking.

Flamenco dancer Israel Galvan is known for his minimalist experimentation and is always exploring new ground.

Flamenco dancer Israel Galvan is known for his minimalist experimentation and is always exploring new ground.

In more comments from the film, which were infinitely more interesting and useful than those in many such documentaries, one choreographer said that the young flamenco dancers are “allowing flamenco to be relevant to our world today”, which I think is an important point – perhaps some purists are shocked, but a new generation of fans may be more receptive to dancers who wear less classical costume and have different, more  types of moves. Obviously it’s not just about appearance, and some dancers in the film do adhere to a more familiar form, in couples, wearing typical flouncy dresses.

It’s about moving away from uniform styles, but not leaving them behind altogether – the festival embraces a wide variety of treatments. As Donald Hutera puts it: “The younger generation is taking it to places it hasn’t been before, playing with form, and that keeps it alive.” Another comment which spoke volumes about the power of flamenco  was: “The emotion and visceral impact lasts, and gets under your skin. Flamenco touches through sight, sound and soul.”

Whether or not you are familiar with traditional flamenco, if you like being privy to the most ground-breaking developments of an art form with a rich heritage going back a century, I’d highly recommend this film.

Mas Alla Del Flamenco is showing tonight at the Festival de Cine Iberoamericano de Huelva.

Here is a trailer of Beyond Flamenco.



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Seville European Film Festival 2014 – starts tonight!

November 8, 2014 – 12:17 am
The Seville Film Festival starts today and lasts till next Saturday, 15 November.

The Seville Film Festival starts today and lasts till next Saturday, 15 November.

The Seville Film Festival starts today and lasts till next Saturday, 15 November. Tonight Seville, whose Alcazar Palace was recently used as a set for the fifth season of one of TV’s biggest series, Game of Thrones, hosts another major screen event – the 11th Seville European Film Festival.

As usual the festival is divided into sections, with around 120 works showing in total.

The sections include:

Official Selection – in competition for Giraldillo awards

Focus Europa - the invited country this year is Austria

Las Nuevas Olas – refreshing, original views from contemporary cinema

Short Matters! – Short films

SEFF Para Toda La Familia – family movies

Panorama Andaluz – Andalucian films

EFA – in competition for European Film Awards


These are some of the films which caught our eye, including a couple of intriguing creative genius biopics:


This film was adapted from "The Blind Man of Seville".

This film was adapted from "The Blind Man of Seville".

La Ignorancia de la Sangre
(Official Selection: 7 November at 12.30pm, Cines Sur Nervion, and 9pm, Teatro Lope de Vega; 8 November at 10pm, Nervion; 11 November at 12.15pm, Cines Sur Nervion)
Very loosely adapted from (or inspired by) the Richard Wilson thriller, The Blind Man of Seville, which was also made into an English TV series by Sky. A murder mystery, it is set in Seville and Tangiers. In Spanish. See trailer here


Mas Alla del Flamenco
(Panorama Andaluz: 12 November at 8.30pm, Teatro Lope de Vega)
This documentary looks at the most talented contemporary performers who are pushing the boundaries of flamenco baile as they appear at the 10th annual Flamenco Festival at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. In English/Spanish. See trailer here

An off-beat comedy about a young family in New York's Lower East Side.

An off-beat comedy about a young family in New York's Lower East Side.

Swim Little Fish Swim
(SEFF Joven: 8 November at 12.30pm, Cines Sur Nervion; 9 November at 7.15pm, Cines Sur Nervion; 15 November at 7pm, Teatro Alameda)
Franco-American comedy about an unconventional family in New York who take in a French lodger. In French/English. See trailer here

Mr Turner, about the landscape painter, has had glowing reviews.

Mr Turner, about the landscape painter, has had glowing reviews.

Mr Turner
(Official Selection: 12 November at 12 midday and 5.15pm, Cines Sur Nervion; 13 November at 10.15pm, Cines Sur Nervion)
Extremely well-reviewed Mike Leigh film about the English landscape painter William Turner, played by Timothy Spall who won an award at Cannes for his performance. In English. See trailer here

The biopic of the fashion designer was nominated for several Cesar awards, the French Oscars.

The biopic of the fashion designer was nominated for several Cesar awards, the French Oscars.

Saint Laurent
(Official Selection: 9 November at 9.30pm, Teatro Lope de Vega; 10 November at 10.15pm, Cines Sur Nervion)
Film about the French fashion legend Yves Saint Laurent, focusing on the 1960s and 1970s. Produced by Luc Besson. In French. See trailer here

The films are showing at various venues around the city, including the multiplex at Nervion Plaza, Teatro Lope de Vega and Teatro Alameda.

For more information you can download the full programme here



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