The Sherry Corner is our new favorite place to take visitors to Madrid!
As Canadians who now live in Madrid we often receive visitors, and without fail they wish to visit places in the city that we enjoy. The Sherry Corner in Mercado de San Miguel is a perfect place to introduce our friends to tapas, sherry, and enjoying time together Spanish style!
The Sherry Tasting experience is comprised of six different types of sherry, accompanying tapas, and an audio tour. For us the basic premise is that this tour is a great way to learn about sherry, and by going to different shops in the market our guests try different types of tapas – and perhaps more importantly, they will overcome their hesitation about ordering new foods in an unfamiliar language. I know it worked for us!
We took our time to listen, taste, and enjoy the experience. We spent about three hours in the market, but it is possible to take far less time. I would submit it would be much less fun to hurry.
Our afternoon started when we found the stall in the market. Fortunately the large barrels behind the bar are hard to miss. On the counter of the bar is a sign (in English!) describing the tour, and leaflets are available. We picked out one of the papers to show to the guy behind the bar, and signaled that we wished to do it three times.
At this point I should mention that there were four of us: me, the wife, our big boy (old enough to drink in Spain, but not old enough in the USA), and our younger son (not yet eighteen). The younger guy naturally was not going to participate in the sherry tasting, but he was not left out because there was plenty of food for him to sample along with his coca-cola. My Spanish is not very good, but I did manage to communicate that the younger son would like to listen to the audio tour. I am pleased to report that they were happy to accommodate that they prepared a headset for him too.
As I paid the bill (€25 each) the crew behind the bar prepared the headsets, poured the drinks, and gave the three of us each a book of six coupons. The six sherry glasses we each received were placed within a Moroccan style tray, and the name of each sherry was etched in the metal. The final step before we began the tour was for me to hand over my identification. Since we were going to be walking through the market the Sherry Corner asked to hold onto my ID to ensure that we brought everything back.
This is the one and only part of the tour that did not proceed flawlessly. We had a small problem with two of the audio players. The crew behind the counter restarted the audio very quickly, but the glitch could have been avoided with a bit further explanation. Perhaps they can add a sign in English? In any case, when the audio instructs the listener to press a number to continue, pressing a number by itself is not sufficient. You must hit the number and then quickly hit play, or else nothing happens. Thanks to the big boy for figuring out the problem for us! Now you, the reader, are informed how to ensure not to look silly like we did as we tried to figure out how to work a seemingly simply audio player.
The audio is something we really enjoyed. We listened and learned about the different types of sherry and the various processes from grape to glass. The audio instructs on the basics of the sherry tasting process, and after the introduction to the first sherry (Fino) the audio suggests matching tapas.
This is the part of the experience that makes it great fun. The coupons we received at the beginning were each good for one serving of tapas. Each sherry had a matching color coded, well-labeled coupon and we could choose from 2 or 3 types of tapas for each sherry. The coupon had a map of the Mercado of which stall would accept which coupon, and after each audio introduction to a sherry we would walk to find the tapas.
After the first tapas we were smart. We found a nice bit of table space in the market, and while the boys and I went for the tapas my wife watched the drinks. This bit of wisdom is quite useful if you wish to sit as the market can become extremely crowded during peak times.
The amount of tapas exchanged for the coupons is small. We understood that at the beginning and hence were not surprised. If you want more, there is plenty to purchase. Just don’t expect a meal with the sherry tasting.
As we were collecting the last tapas we were back at the stall connected to the Sherry Corner, and my son and I spoke (in fluent English) to a gentlemen who was either the manager of the owner of the business. I wish we had obtained his name so we could give him credit here. We expressed our appreciation for the tasting, and he informed us that they had been offering it for about six months. He also told us that the idea for the Sherry Corner was to be fun, but also informative. They decided on the audio headsets because of the need to be able to communicate the same information repeatedly, but in multiple languages. Since he was so kind in taking the time to answer our questions I decided to write this review.
This tasting experience is one of those activities that is fantastic, but will only continue to be offered if people support the vendor. Since we want to be able to take our friends to the experience, we want them to stay in the business. So, if you are visiting Madrid, we suggest you make this one of your important cannot-miss places!
To close out this review, I wanted to share the comments from our big boy. This was the first time we had ever shared time together in an activity involving alcohol, and we are so proud that he is a responsible young adult. These are his impressions of each type of sherry, and we found his assessments to be quite humorous.
Fino: “Is it ok to say that the salt fish takes away the taste of the sherry?”
Palo Cortado: “Like I am licking a tree”
Olorsos: “Taste better with meat”
Amonillada: “Intense. The strong cheese makes it taste better”
Moscatel: “Sweet. Good with cookies”
Pedro Ximenez (we had this poured over frozen yogurt): “oh, wow”
As I write these words it is almost noon on Saturday here in Madrid, and the wife has just suggested we take a walk to Mercado de San Miguel. Pedro Ximenez and frozen yogurt sounds like an ideal afternoon treat to me. I have been a good boy – after all, I wrote this review for you!
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