Alvear was founded in 1729 and is located in Andalusia in Spain within the DO Montilla-Moriles. It has extensive vineyards located in the most famous estates in the Sierra de Montilla y Moriles (Córdoba). Alvear distributes its products all over Spain, its main market being the Mediterranean region from Catalonia to Algeciras. The bodega also sells 40 per cent of its production abroad to more than 25 countries including the UK, Holland, Japan, Canada and Australia. The Bodegas Alvear has the capacity to age 5 million litres of wine in oak wine butts that are distributed around various bodegas: La Sacristía and El Liceo, where the oldest wines are stored; Las Mercedes, known widely as C.B., and Las Higueras and Buganvillas, where the Pedro Ximénez wines are aged. The bodega called ‘de la Casa’, Alvear’s first property, which is located in the old town centre, is regarded as a site of Historic and Artistic Interest. This 18th century former manor house hosts the region’s oldest ‘soleras’ which contain 200-year old Amontillado wines.
Jerez, or to give it its full name Jerez de la Frontera, is one of the oldest wine-producing towns in Spain and the centre of the sherry industry. It’s also the name of the DO, which produces this fortified wine. This DO is a triangular area in southwest Andalucia extending from the town of Chiclana de Frontera in the southeast to the Guadalquivir river in the northwest and tapering inland. Within this DO, there are three centres for sherry maturation – Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa Maria, each of which imparts its own subtle differences to the wine.
The region’s climate is strongly influenced by the Atlantic, and sea breezes from the gulf of Cadiz temper extremes in the coastal Sanlucar de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa Maria – in summer temperatures may be 10°C lower here than in Jerez inland, where they are often 30°C, or occasionally even 40°C as a result of the dry, dusty levante wind. It is thanks to the porous white albariza soil that the vines manage to survive the hot dry summer months. The best albariza soils, which include sand and clay and some limestone on the surface, cover rolling country north of the Guadalete river, between Jerez and Sanlucar de Barrameda, and the areas with them are known as Jerez Superior. In between the albariza soils are the more clay-heavy barro soils, which produce fuller, coarser wines, and the sandy arena soils, which produce double the yields but poor-quality wine.
The region produces a variety of styles of sherry from three authorised grape varieties: Palomino, Pedro Ximenez and Muscat of Alexandria. Sherry, by the way, is simply an English corruption of the Spanish word.