Monday, June 9, 2008

Ten Simple Rules for 'Doing the Bull'

 id=One of the advantages of not having been raised Protestant is that neither Señor Gato Gringo nor I have any sort of work ethic. So, it was with great ease and no strain on our consciences that we ditched work on Friday, borrowed a car, and sped up the coast to El Puerto de Santa María to visit the Osborne winery. Having already graced the González-Byass and Domecq wineries with our presence, it was high time we extended the courtesy to Osborne.

This being our third bodega - and I don't mind saying that our not having yet visited the manzanilla bodegas of Sanlúcar de Barrameda weighs heavily on my mind - and being self-acclaimed V
eterans of the Bodega Tour Experience, I have compiled a simple Do-list for visiting the Osborne (or any, for that matter) bodega.

Ten Simple Rules for 'Doing the Bull'

1) Do allow yourself plenty of time for your trip. This being summer, you will find your progress impeded both by road construction and the one Spaniard in the entire country who drives 15 kilometres under the speed limit on the single no-passing lane hairpin roads to the Jerez area.

2) Do try to time your visit with a group of Dutch tourists. Sherry consumption is not a part of their cultural genetics and they will either refrain from dri
nking altogether or have a sip or two out of politeness, leaving several full bottles for your enjoyment. Never visit a bodega with Brits.

3) Do pay attention to the how-sherry-is-made video as the tour guides at Osborne will quiz you during the tour. As we had ignored Rule #1 and arrived late - half-way through the video - we missed the final Jeopardy(!) question which would be later posed to us. But so did everyone else and they had seen the entire video. Being Veterans of the Bodega Tour Experience, we naturally knew the answer but were reluctant to flaunt the depth of our knowledge at the expense of the others on the tour. After a very uncomfortable and very pregnant pause of about 55 seconds, we piped up with the correct answer, earning us paeans of praise from our guide and filthy looks from the Dutch who I thought were supposed to be nice people. In any case, it would be exceptionally useful to memorize the following terms before you embark on a tour at Osborne as these are the most likely correct responses to any final Jeopardy(!) question posed by a guide.

* flor
* chalk

* humidity
* palomino
* soleras
North American oak

Don't worry that you don't even know what these terms signify or that you may blurt out the incorrect answer - you will impress your guide with your retention of this extensive and highly technical sherry vocabulary.

4) Do eat breakfast beforehand i
f your tour is in the morning. At Osborne, the English-language tour is at the ungodly hour of 10:30 so there is the very real possibility that - like Señor G.G. and I - you will be three sheets to the wind by 11:30 a.m. Especially if you have followed Rule #2.

5) Don't panic if you skipped Rule #4. If you are unable to have breakfast before attending a tour and you find yourself three sheets to the wind by 11:30 a.m., know that the chips and olives provided by the bodega are an excellent source of protein and easily fulfils your daily requirements of vitamins and minerals.

6) Do leave all politeness at the door. You are expected
to refill your glass and encouraged to crack the seal on unopened bottles left on the table. Don't be shy - just because the tour guide has slipped out to have a cigarette doesn't mean that the sampling has ended. Odds are you will be berated if she returns to full bottles. We were.

7) Do realize that Rule #8 is predicated on adherence to Rule #6. Which leads me to ...

8) Do prepare to mortgage your house before entering the gift shop. This is especially true if you have followed Rule #5. It's astounding what you suddenly realize you can't live without after a bracing breakfast of potato chips, olives, and the better part of five bottles of sherry. Who doesn't need a bottle of Solera Gran Reserva designed by Salvador Dalí or an umbrella splattered with dozens of Osborne bulls?

9) Do have your photo taken with a bull. Since clambering up th
 id=e sides of the AP-series of highways just to have your picture taken with an Osborne bull can be a bit foolhardy and besides, you are probably three sheets to the wind, you should take advantage of the smaller stationary bulls in the bodega's courtyard. Your mother will thank you.

10) Do realize that your day is now shot. If you have taken a morning tour, by the time you have finished, sampled every available bottle, and spent your children's inheritance in the gift shop, everything in town will be on the verge of closing for the siesta. Since you are already three sheets to the wind and there is nothing you can do about Time, you might as well find a bar and patiently wait it out until 5:00.

Strict adherence to these 10 Simple Rules will guarantee a worry-free and happily sodden visit to any of Spain's bodegas. Of course, I will be happy to make any necessary amendments after completing the Sherry Triangle with our next road trip to
Sanlúcar de Barrameda. It is truly gratifying to be helpful. In fact, I feel so good about compiling this list that I can totally almost deal with the Catholic guilt of skipping work on Friday. Perhaps I should buy a plenary indulgence from the Church - isn't that what they're there for? Or better yet, just open that bottle of Solera Gran Reserva designed by Salvador Dalí. After all, Spain is a secular country.


Anonymous said...

Who needs breakfast?

I bet those sherries were amazing. I love finos and manzanillas!


La Gatita Gringa said...

I believe that I said that we had breakfast: chips and olives (!)