Sherry & the first Cirumnavigation

Published 07 March 2017   by PAULA MACLEAN   @soleravieja

Much will be heard over the coming two years about the first circumnavigation of the world, the 500th anniversary of which will be celebrated in 2019.

Since Portugal had reserved the eastern route to the Spice Islands and Columbus had failed to find a western route on behalf of Spain, Ferdinand Magellan left Sevilla and set sail in a fleet of five ships from Sanlúcar in September 1519 in search of it. The voyage was largely financed by King Carlos I of Spain, and was completed three years later by Juan Sebastian Elcano after the death of Magellan, most of the crew and the loss of four ships.


Luis Molla delivering his lecture (foto:diariodejerez)

The fleet loaded its supplies at Sanlúcar, and these included a lot of wine. In fact more was spent on wine than on weapons for protection. Sherry was therefore the first wine to circumnavigate the world, and yesterday a lecture on the subject was given at the Consejo Regulador by Luis Mollá Ayuso, a writer, naval captain and professor. During research for his forthcoming novel on the subject he came across the original 200 page ship stores book which lists 253 butts and 417 odres (wineskins) of Sherry enough for 246 sailors, and which cost the crown the modern equivalent of 60,000 euros.


Page 5 of the ship stores book showing references to Sherry (foto:diariodejerez)

About 25 years ago a replica of Elcano’s ship the Nao Victoria was built and was successfully sailed round the world. It is only 28 metres long and 7.5 metres at its widest point yet, if we do some sums, it carried some 50 butts and 83 wineskins – among all the other stores – and a crew of 42. The precise size of these containers, in days long before standardisation, is not known but the wine ration was one litre per day issued in four rations. The Nao is tiny, and it must have been incredibly cramped, I know, I’ve been aboard, but these sailors were aboard for three long years!


The Nao Victoria replica at sea 

During his discourse, Luis Mollá was rightly at pains to encourage the trade to take maximum advantage of this opportunity to promote Sherry during the celebrations. He said that Sanlúcar will be the capital of Andalucía for a while and that the Consejo should support initiatives such as special fifth centenary labels. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of El Consejo Regulador.
Paula Maclean @soleravieja
Three generations of family connections in Cadiz gave me a healthy love of the important thing in life: Sherry.After 40 years in the wine trade, ten of them in Spain, I am beginning to understand its history, culture, variety, quality, value and versatility. So I am doing all I can to introduce others to its unequalled delights.
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