Fino and Manzanilla, the stars of the Spring Fairs in Andalusia

08 April 2024

The arrival of spring heralds a series of spectacular events that take place in Andalusia at this special time of year: the spring fairs. Colour, festivity, tradition, and some of the most unique wines in the world - the wines of Jerez and Manzanilla - come together in arguably Spain’s most celebrated festivals.

Discovering the Spring Fairs: Andalusian Tradition and Joy

“Vamos pa’ la feria, cariño mio!” (“Let's go to the fair, my darling!”) Let this sevillana song’s opening line serve as a siren call for one of the most exciting seasons of the year. The spring fairs are here - the time to get together with friends and family, to listen to the Andalusian musical artistry of flamenco, to enjoy the finest company, and to drink the wines of Jerez and Manzanilla. Once spring has arrived and Easter has passed, “Ya huele a Feria!” ("It already smells like the Feria!").

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What are the Feria de Abril and the spring fairs?

The Feria de Abril, as the Seville fair is known, is one of the unmissable events on the national calendar: a celebration of deeply-rooted Andalusian passion and culture, which stimulates all the senses and captures the hearts of those who have the good fortune of experiencing it.

The origins of the Feria go back to a cattle and horse-trading fair, organised by two Seville councillors and businessmen, José María Ybarra and Narciso Bonaplata (neither of whom was a native of the city ) in 1846. These two men suggested holding a commercial fair that would boost the livestock trade. The rest is history - the Feria has evolved from 19 casetas (small tents) dedicated to selling livestock the first year, into today’s fair with more than 1,000 - a socially and culturally significant event which draws visitors from all over Spain and beyond. Over the years the Feria has grown exponentially: a celebration of the Andalusian way of life, infused with the brilliant intensity of light, colour and joy.

Calendar of important fairs in Andalusia and their dates

When can you experience these unforgettable festivities? The Feria de Abril in Seville is always held two weeks after Easter, so despite the name (the April Fair), some years it has been held in May, for example in 2022. The Seville Fair, which in 2024 will take place between 14 and 20 April, is perhaps the most important, and the one that kicks off the series of fairs held in other Andalusian cities. On the opening night, the Feria’s magnificent portada (entrance gate) is spectacularly illuminated (el alumbrao) and the Real (fairground) is lined with farolillos (coloured paper lanterns), striped casetas, and ladies of all ages in fabulous frilly flamenco dresses.

After the Feria de Abril in Seville, the following month Jerez holds its famous Feria del Caballo (Horse Fair), from 4 to 11 May this year. The Manzanilla Fair in the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda takes place from 28 May to 2 June, followed by the Spring Fair and the Fino Festival, both in El Puerto de Santa María between 5 and 10 June. Numerous other towns and cities in Andalusia hold their own Ferias, such as San Fernando in July, and Malaga during the month of August.


The fusion of flamenco, gastronomy, and Jerez wines

These fairs bring together a number of elements, flavours, and traditions to create a unique festival. These are flamenco, the art of song and dance that runs through the veins of Andalusians, the region’s renowned gastronomy, and, of course, the true protagonists, which take centre stage during these dates: Fino and Manzanilla. They are the best form of refreshment during these unique, colourful, and joyous spring celebrations.


Why do Fino and Manzanilla play such an important role in the fairs?

The wines of the Marco de Jerez have a special place in Andalusians’ hearts, and are also well-loved by those who, as soon as they taste them, discover what makes these wines so special. It is not surprising that during the Spring Fairs, these wines, and especially Fino and Manzanilla de Sanlúcar, are enjoyed at every celebration - they are the preferred order at the bars of the Real’s "casetas".

The statistics are impressive. During this key week for Seville, 1.5 million half-bottles of Manzanilla, the most popular format at the fair, will be sold - this figure is double the population of the city of Seville. In addition to being a cultural, social and tourist attraction, the fairs have become an economic catalyst for the cities and, in particular, of the bodegas in the Marco de Jerez region.

In Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the 42 bodegas that produce Manzanilla belong to the Consejo Regulador, and each has its own personality marked by relative proximity to the river. Different brands, styles, and varieties from each winery, but all use the same ingenious technique, which makes it a hugely popular wine.

"Spring energises our bodies, and Marco de Jerez wines enrich our lives", say the wineries, because during this season many wineries present their spring sacas, extracted from the butts when the velo de flor is at its best. There is no greater symbol of celebration than the magnificent wines of Jerez, together with the spring fairs.


Drinking Guide: How to enjoy Fino and Manzanilla at the Fair

With the high temperatures that tend to occur during the Spring Fairs, especially when wearing your close-fitting flamenca dress or suit, your focus will inevitably, at certain points, turn to cooling down. The best way to do this is using the traditional, time-honoured method – drinking Manzanilla de Sanlúcar, Fino wine, or a rebujito, the Feria cocktail par excellence.

The importance of temperature, format and how to drink wine at the Fair

While choosing the wine you are going to drink is important, how you serve it is even more so. Everything matters - both the temperature and the way you drink it, and even how you bring it to the table. Tips to become an expert for enjoying sherry wines at the Feria: ask for the wine to be served chilled, the colder the better. Ideally, these heavenly elixirs are served at a temperature of between 5 and 7 degrees, in an ice bucket. The second commandment for consuming sherry wines at the Fair is to order them in half-bottles, which contain enough for about 6 glasses and are the most-consumed format, because it is the perfect amount to avoid the wine warming up and losing its properties.

Does it also matter how you drink these wines? During spring fairs, the tradition is to drink them in catavinos, a type of narrow glass used for tasting, which is also how these wines are enjoyed at their best. Remember to hold the glass by the base, so as not to warm the chilled wine with your hands.


Rebujito: the refreshing drink of the Fair

The drink that is most strongly identified with these festivities is the rebujito. The English created a drink called the Sherry Cobbler, with a mixture very similar to the one made today.

Undoubtedly, there is no Fair without this refreshing drink - one could not exist without the other. No one can resist a rebujito, which is made with a base of Fino or Manzanilla, plus sparkling lime or lemon, ice, and fresh mint, to give it an even fresher touch. The result is guaranteed to win anyone over.

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How to pair Sherry Wines during the Fair

You will obviously need to recharge your batteries while you’re at the Fair. Spending the day at the Feria is energetic and full of fun - dancing sevillanas and walking around the sandy fairground. The best way to regain your energy is to eat the typical dishes of these festivities, which you can find at the bar of every caseta. Fortunately, all these delicacies pair beautifully with the star wines, Fino and Manzanilla.

One of the most popular pairings is Iberian ham with Fino, two products that go perfectly together, because their textures and flavours complement each other. Both have a salty profile and the wine cleanses the palate of the ham’s fatty aftertaste. Another of the great Feria dishes is pescaito frito (fried fish) - the first night of the April fair is known as El Pescaíto, when most feriantes (fair-goers) enjoy a meal of various types of fried fish. This salty, crunchy dish from the sea is even more appetising, if that were possible, accompanied by a glass of Manzanilla – its saline character is thanks to the proximity to the river estuary, which permeates the air of the wineries’ 100-plus-year-old cellars and the wines in their butts.

Typical gastronomy at the Spring Fairs also includes tortilla, fried peppers, and a dish that has earned cult status - the serranito: a sandwich of pork loin, green pepper, tomato and Iberian ham. It tastes much better than it sounds, especially when eaten with a glass of sherry.

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Author Vinos de Jerez

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