La Zambomba, a festival declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 2015, is the most genuine expression of Jerez Christmas. It recovers the celebrations that were held in the neighborhood patios, where sherry wines, food and music were shared around the fire. You cannot miss wine recipes, basic, solid, made with olive oil, such as ajo campero (with tomato, loaf bread, peppers and garlic), tomato soup (a broth made with chopped tomatoes that is served hot) and cabbage (dish close to stew).

Some wineries, such as Lustau, hold charity zambombas open to the public inside. Although you can also visit its facilities throughout the year. They have served as a setting for the series La temperanza (Amazon Prime Video), an adaptation of the literary success by Maria Duenas, and have received the NBA star and wine lover LeBron James. In some of their wineries they organize concerts of classical or flamenco music during the 12 months.

To find zambombas in the center of the city, all you have to do is follow the sound of the music and the smell of the embers. One of them is the Plaza de Rafael Rivero, in front of the Casa Palacio Maria Luisa hotel, which was the home of some of the prominent families of Jerez, later converted into a Casino and later into the city’s Chamber of Commerce.

The award-winning renovation by Pedro Rodriguez de Pineda (PRP Arquitectos) has transformed this 19th century building. In its interior garden you can find a virgin who was buried and was discovered during the reconstruction works, and a historical stained glass window belonging to an old chapel that remains intact in its main suite. At the entrance, the iron palm tree by the Sevillian artist Fernando Oriol shares space during the weeks around the turn of the year with the huge Christmas tree that is visited by the residents of Jerez, in an interior patio with marble floors and a glass roof in the one that also finds a birth that is a work of art. The neighbors incorporate it into their nativity scene route, passing by the Royal Convent of Santo Domingo, a few steps away.

In the hotel’s English bar and in the T22 restaurant, the wineries of the Estevez Group are present, those of the fine Ynocente, the Tio Mateo amontillado and the La Guita manzanilla, connected to the hotel by marriage. Art is a constant in both spaces thanks to the joint passion of the businesswoman Marisa C. Azcarate, owner of the accommodation and owner of a collection that can be admired in part in the facilities of the place, and her husband’s family, Jose Ramon Estevez. The colorful and hypnotic works of Carlos Ayala are on display, along with others by Miro and Tapies, in their Jerez bodegas, which receive guided tours and teach the mysteries of their alcohols with tasting included.

Celebration of a zambomba, on December 20, in a square in Jerez de la Frontera (Cadiz). EUROPA PRESS

The Plaza del Arenal has a stage with live flamenco for Christmas afternoons, as well as a Christmas market on weekends and La Rondena pastry shop. Its specialty is the real dough (cake filled with angel hair), but pay attention to the bizcochada (oval shaped made with egg and milk and with a mild lemon flavor), the Sanluqueño bun (flavored with matalahuga and cinnamon) and the almond cake. At the gates of the nearby and impressive food market ―“There is nothing more in Jerez than the food market”―, says a sign inside, churros are bought. 

Like the rest of the year, this area is surrounded by tabancos, the typical wine taverns of Jerez that once sold other tobacconist products, such as tobacco. In Las Banderillas (Caballeros, 12) they offer almost all the varieties of Jerez wines (fino, manzanilla, cream, oloroso, amontillado…) for only between 1.3 and 1.7 euros. They can be combined with alina potatoes, minced sea bass or ling roe. And in the nearby Tabanco de San Pablo (San Pablo, 12), decorated with its own wineskins, it can also be made with old cheese, free-range garlic and pork rinds. But it is the one in El Pasaje (Santa Maria, 8) that also has live flamenco. It happens, during these Christmas dates, three times a day. At 2:00 p.m., at 7:30 p.m. and at 9:30 p.m. Tables can be reserved and it is convenient. Otherwise, the visitor could hopefully approach the narrow space of its bar, where the waiters serve the house sherry wines and tapas in absolute silence. From there, it is possible to observe the show through the mirror that shows the stage.

In the two gypsy neighborhoods par excellence of Jerez, San Miguel and Santiago, is where the largest number of tabancos and flamenco tablaos are concentrated. The one in San Miguel is that of Lola Flores, where the house of her birth and a commemorative statue are located. Near the one in Santiago is one of the most outstanding restaurants in the city. Albala (Divina Pastora, no number) has an extensive wine list and the innovative cuisine of chef Israel Ramos.

In addition to ancient walls, rows of orange trees flank the Alcazar de Jerez, a monumental complex of medieval origin that preserves seven of its 12 original towers. The royal portfolio goes there on January 3 and 4. From the pergola of its park, the Alameda Vieja, there are beautiful views of the city’s cathedral and its tower, built separately as it belonged to the previous temple, demolished at the end of the 17th century. They are as close to each other as they are to the windows of the Tio Pepe winery hotel, which stands out for its terrace with views of the Pedro Nolasco Gardens. The first Sherry hotel in the world was awarded last October at the VI Spanish Wine Routes Wine Tourism Awards, together with a restaurant in the city, La Carbona (San Francisco de Paula, 2), with special menus for Christmas and New Year’s Eve in which they cook with some of the wines of the area. They take the pairing to its maximum possibilities with dishes such as oloroso bird pate with Pedro Ximenez veil and veal gizzard glazed with amontillado and celeriac.

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