The Region Today
The Region Today
As an autonomous region within the Spanish state, Andalucía now possesses the political institutions necessary to ensure its own development. For years held back by the vagaries of history and by occasionally archaic social structures, the region is now blessed with a major asset in the form of tourism which, in its different forms, brings wealth to Andalucía without destroying its soul.
To express his admiration for the immense natural riches of Andalucía, the Greek geographer Strabo compared the region with the Elysian Fields. How is it possible, therefore, that in centuries to follow, peasants were plunged into starvation and then forced to emigrate?
Agricultural decadence began with the expulsion of the Moors.
Land was abandoned while new settlers, fewer in number than those who had already left, showed greater enthusiasm for warfare and the colonisation of America than for agricultural labour. In years to come, large landowners (caciques) and the ruling classes did little to improve the situation. However, there are those who believe that the “traditional” underdevelopment of Andalucía is in reality a relatively new phenomenon which began in the second half of the 19C. In fact, at the beginning of the 19C, the distribution of wealth was reasonably uniform across the whole country.
The development of the Hispanic capitalist society had an extremely detrimental effect on the lands of southern Spain, to the extent that in 1935 per capita income in Andalucía was just 717 pesetas, against 1 307 pesetas in the rest of the country. The problems intensified in the post-war period, when the most impoverished felt obliged to emigrate to other Spanish regions (mainly Catalonia and the Basque Country) and to various European countries (particularly Germany, France and Switzerland). During the 1960s, over 900 000 Andalusians left their native region.
This situation slowly began to improve during the 1970s, although the endemic problems remained: the unequal distribution of land into large estates (latifundios), low levels of industrial investment and poor professional training for workers. During the second half of the 1980s, the region enjoyed another economic revival, particularly in the provinces along the Mediterranean coast.
The year 1992 was to be key in Andalucía’s economic development. The World Expo in Sevilla, which received 40 million visitors, brought tremendous economic benefits to the region’s capital and coastal towns and cities, and had a positive effect on other provinces. This included the construction of the motorway linking Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada and Málaga, and the creation of the AVE high-speed rail link between Madrid and Sevilla via Córdoba.
Following the euphoria of 1992, a new industrial crisis hit the region, exacerbated by problems linked to drought, forest fires and unemployment.
In recent years, the growth rate in Andalucía has been similar to the national average, while the official unemployment rate, although the highest in Spain, has been significantly reduced to 13 per cent.
Agriculture and livestock
Agriculture is the mainstay of the region’s economy. Cereal production is concentrated in the province of Sevilla (which leads the country in production), Cádiz, Almería and Granada; fruits (particularly citrus fruits) and vegetables are mainly produced in the fertile lowlands of Granada; olives in Jaén and Granada; vines in Jerez, Montilla and Málaga; and cotton in Córdoba and Sevilla. Over the past few years, the provinces of Huelva and Almería have, controversially, become covered with a sea of plastic, used to protect early season produce and winter crops.
Livestock farming is concentrated on the pasturelands of the Sierra Morena, the Sierra de Cádiz and the Cordillera Subbética. In the main, these fenced lands have been stripped of their low bushes and scrub and, in places, of their natural vegetation of holm and cork oak. These areas constitute an agro-forestry system which is unique in Europe, where in addition to animal breeding, firewood, cork and honey are produced. Traditional livestock operations are extensive and take advantage of natural pasture to raise select and, in many cases, uniquely Andalusian, breeds, such as the Cartujana horse, Merino sheep, Iberian pig and the fighting bull.
The food-processing industry is also worthy of note given the widespread production and excellent quality of Andalusian wines (particularly around Jerez, Montilla and Málaga), and the reputation of the region’s olive oil. Andalucía is also the country’s second most important region for fish and seafood, in particular tuna, sardines, clams, cockles, shrimp and prawns.
Andalucía is a region with limited industry, with the exception of the province of Huelva and the area around La Rábida, where a number of chemical and petrochemical plants and factories have been established. Andalucía’s traditional mining has declined dramatically and is now a mere shadow of its former self. Gone are the days when, at the end of the 19C, the English company which acquired the mines at Riotinto (Huelva) employed over 10 000 workers or when, in the time of the Phoenicians, the kingdom of Tartessus prospered from mineral and metal deposits.
Despite this decline, the extensive open-cast pits at Ríotinto are still operational, lead is still mined in the provinces of Jaén, Almería and Córdoba, pyrite and manganese dioxide in Huelva, and iron in Granada, Sevilla and Almería.
In a surprising twist of fate, the tourist industry now brings wealth to regions and countries that were overlooked by the industrial revolution two centuries ago. Every year, more than 15 million tourists visit Andalucía, which is now the third most popular destination in Spain for foreign holidaymakers.
The region’s many attractions appeal to a wide range of visitors. The mild climate and beaches of the Andalusian coast attract visitors in search of sea and sunshine, with the majority of tourists heading to the coastline between Málaga and Estepona on the Costa del Sol. This stretch caters to everyone, with package tours filling many of the hotels in Torremolinos and Benalmádena. The Spanish and international jet-set head for the more upmarket resorts of Marbella and Puerto Banús. Today, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and marinas stand side by side along the seafront, changing forever the face of former fishing ports. Less crowded is the Atlantic coast of the provinces of Huelva and Cádiz, known as the Costa de la Luz, whose long, sandy beaches are particularly popular with surfing enthusiasts. The indented, tropical coastline of the province of Granada has also retained much of its original charm, as has the Almería coast, especially around the protected areas of Cabo de Gata.
However, Andalucía has much more to offer than its coastline, as demonstrated by the increasing number of Spanish visitors attracted by the outdoor activities and mountain tourism on offer in inland areas.
Footpaths criss-cross the region, allowing visitors to discover its flora and fauna and to enjoy the relative cool of the mountains, whether they are exploring the Serranía de Ronda with its whitewashed villages; the Sierra de Cazorla, where the distant call of a stag can often be heard; the Sierra de Aracena, with its lakes and forests; the Sierra Morena or the Sierra Subbética. The scenery is varied and ever-changing, ranging from luxuriant vegetation to desert landscapes, from olive groves stretching as far as the eye can see to extensive sugar cane plantations, and from snowcapped mountain peaks to vast sun-scorched plains.
Finally, cultural tourism attracts visitors to the historical centres of Andalucía – not just the famous cities of Sevilla, Granada and Córdoba, but also to the lesser-known towns of Ronda, Carmona, Écija, Guadix, Úbeda and Baeza.
An autonomous region
Once democracy was restored to Spain after the death of General Franco in 1975, Andalucía was the fourth comunidad to be recognised within the Spanish state, which is now made up of 17 autonomous communities.
The Statute of Autonomy, approved in 1981, was a response to the wishes of the Andalusian people as expressed in the referendum on 28 February 1980.
The Junta de Andalucía is the autonomous executive body that coordinates and manages the administration of the region. Its president works in collaboration with the Consejo de Gobierno (Cabinet), currently made up of 13 ministers, each responsible for a separate department.
Legislative functions are performed by the Andalusian Parliament (Parlamento de Andalucía), the seat of which is in Sevilla. Its 109 members are elected by universal suffrage every four years.
The region’s highest court is the Tribunal Superior de Justicia in Granada.
Centralised administration is the responsibility of the government’s delegate for Andalucía (Delegado del Gobierno), whose office is based in Sevilla, and beneath whom affairs are managed by a network of provincial subdelegates (subdelegados).
The symbols of Andalucía
Although definitively approved by the Andalusian Parliament as part of the new democratic process, the three symbols of Andalucía are not new. In fact, the Statute of Andalucía (1982) clearly stated that the anthem, coat of arms and green and white flag would be those defined by the Assembly of Ronda in 1918 and by the Juntas Liberalistas de Andalucía in 1933.
The coat of arms, inspired by the escutcheon of the city of Cádiz, shows Hercules between two columns subduing two lions. Above him is the Latin inscription Dominator Hercules Fundator and at his feet the motto Andalucía, por sí, para España y para la Humanidad (Andalucía itself, for Spain and for Humanity). The anthem, the third symbol of Andalusian nationality, embraces the traditional claims of its people, reaffirming their love of peace and their desire for a future in which they regain the privileged position they occupied in the past.
A gentle pace of life
As you explore the delightful towns and villages of the region, it won’t take long before you stumble upon a typical Andalusian scene: a small cobblestoned square surrounded by dazzling whitewashed houses, an ornate fountain, the emblazoned façade of an aristocratic mansion, a Baroque church and a bar frequented in the early evening by locals of all ages, the women sitting in the shade playing with their fans. This indolent, seemingly timeless scene encompassing both the modern and the archaic is repeated throughout the region, providing a picture of Andalucía that is clichéd and yet authentic, full of the contrasts that make up this complex region.
Visitors soon adapt to the summer rhythm of life in Andalucía, with the impossibility of getting anything done during its long afternoon siestas, those late nights and late meal times and the constant noise of activity that reigns in the region’s lively streets and public squares. Lottery ticket sellers calling “para hoooy”, locals relaxing with the newspapers at outdoor cafés, seemingly oblivious to the limpiabotas shining their shoes, the sharp click of a fan expertly handled – all these vignettes of local life contribute to the gentle Andalusian way that slowly charms and delights visitors.
Behind the sunny facade however, there is a gloomier side. Andalucía has one of the highest unemployment levels in the European Union and is nicknamed “the workhouse of Spain” by the rest of the country. EU funding, particularly improvements in local infastructure, has greatly helped the situation but the region still lags behind.
In 2006 the GDP per capita of Andalusia was 17 401, the second lowest in Spain. At the same time, the economic growth rate for the 2000–2006 period was 3.72%, one of the highest in the country, so at least things are moving in the right direction.
Traditions and Customs
Andalusians are renowned for their fiestas, uniquely celebrated by entire villages, towns and cities. Through the course of the year over 3 000 festivals are held around the region, the majority of a religious nature (processions and romerías), although mention needs to be made of the famous fairs (ferias), carnivals and Moorish and Christian fiestas.
Holy Week (Semana Santa)
Gold-embroidered capes glistening in candlelight, sumptuous statues lit by the moon borne reverently along streets lined by orange trees, the beating of drums, sacred flamenco saetas sung from a balcony as Virgin and Child pass below… such is the image of Semana Santa (Holy Week), the most important fiesta in the Andalusian calendar.
Towns, cities and villages across Andalucía all commemorate the Passion and the Death of Christ in their own way, carrying in procession works of art created by famous sculptors such as Alonso Cano, Martínez Montañés and Pedro de Mena. These images are transported on floats known as pasos in Sevilla and tronos in Málaga, all of which are decorated with richly sculpted wood, engraved silver and a multitude of flowers. Hidden by velvet gowns, the bearers or costaleros advance slowly with their load, weighing around three tonnes. Each carrier supports a weight of approximately 80kg/176lb.
To prepare for this arduous task, teams train for three months between Christmas and Semana Santa, during which younger members cover the route to be taken with a structure similar in weight and size to the one they will bear on the day of the procession.
Andalucía has close to a thousand Confraternities or Brotherhoods of the Passion, responsible for the creation and maintenance of these floats. Donations and raffles ensure that these pasos are impeccable and increasingly sumptuous. The statues of the Virgins themselves have an extensive wardrobe from which the santera (statue keeper) will choose as appropriate.
As the processions wind their way, onlookers take up strategic positions to admire the floats – illuminated as they negotiate a darkened lane – as well as the skill of the carriers beneath. Amid this endless shuffle, the outdoor terraces of bars are quickly swamped with people caught up in the sometimes surprising bustle that is so characteristic of religious expression in Andalucía.
“Al cielo con Ella!” (To heaven with Her!), rises the cry as the float is lifted and the procession advances.
Religious pilgrimages (Romerías)
Devotion to the Virgin is without doubt the most characteristic feature of Andalusian religious fervour, to the extent that it is said that “Andalucía is the land of the Blessed Mary”. Countless sanctuaries advocate every possible veneration of the Virgin: de la Cabeza (the head), de la Bella (the beautiful) de la Regla (the rule), del Sol (the sun), de la Luna (the moon), de la Peña (cliff) and de la Sierra (the mountain), to name but a few.
Every romería (religious pilgrimage) has its idiosyncratic features, some particularly odd, but in general each consists of a pilgrimage to a church, often on decorated carts and horseback, and a religious ceremony with a procession, followed by dinner outdoors with dancing and singing until dawn, or beyond.
The most famous romería is to the Virgin of El Rocío, an event attracting close to one million pilgrims and visitors from around Spain as well as from other European countries.
May Crosses (Cruces de Mayo)
The Festival of the Crosses (cruces), held every year on 3 May, celebrates the Discovery of the Holy Cross. According to tradition, in the 4C the mother of the Emperor Constantine discovered the cross (Lignum crucis) on which Christ had died and distributed fragments throughout the Christian world.
The Cruces de Mayo are celebrated all over Andalucía, although veneration varies from province to province. In some areas, the crosses are fixed and venerated all year round, as in La Palma del Condado in the province of Huelva, while in others crosses are erected specifically for the celebration, as in Conil de la Frontera (Cádiz). In every case, the crosses are adorned with branches of rosemary and flowers. Religious ceremonies are followed by singing and dancing well into the night. In Córdoba, Cruces de Mayo erected around the city are particularly renowned for their imagination and stunning beauty.
In most Andalusian towns and cities, the fiestas during Carnival have a long tradition, initiated by Sevilla during its Golden Age and further developed by Cádiz, nowadays the site of the most spectacular celebrations. Carnival is a time of excess for the imagination and an opportunity for extravagant celebration. It is the culmination of months of hard practice and costume design.
The main participants are known as comparsas – groups dressed in similar costume who make their way through the streets singing ironic and humorous songs based on political and current affairs.
Carnival celebrations near the Meseta and the borders with Castilla tend to be more restrained in nature. More importance is attributed to the so-called “burial of the sardine”, in reference to fish eaten during Lent.
The Andalusian feria is a celebration encompassing all the colour, music, dance and exuberance of the region. Its origins lie in the spring and autumn cattle fairs, which were first held, as in the rest of Spain, during the Middle Ages. As these fairs developed over the centuries, they evolved into general celebrations where everyone would dress up in finery, bring out their finest horses and carriages, and above all, enjoy themselves to the full. Although every feria has its specific characteristics, they also have many features in common.
Strangely, Sevilla’s April Fair, the bestknown of all Andalucía’s festivals and one which was to serve as a model for other important modern ferias such as those held in Córdoba, Málaga and Jerez, is relatively recent, created in 1847.
The area used to host the feria is generally enclosed with access via a large entrance gateway decorated with myriad coloured lights. Inside, the fairground is separated into distinct zones: the so-called calle del Infierno (literally, the Street of Hell); the Recreo (entertainment area); Los Cacharritos, home to typical fairground attractions (Ferris wheel, roller coaster, shooting ranges, tombolas, etc.); the shopping area, or Rastro, (only generally found in small towns and villages); and the feria’s Real area, with its succession of flimsy, ephemeral entertainment booths known as casetas. The booths are decorated with lamps, pictures and furniture designed for the simple pleasures of eating, drinking and dancing, day and night; some are private, with entrance strictly reserved for members or for those with tickets, while others are open to everyone.
Although it may not appear obvious to first-time visitors, there is a strict programme for the feria, as is the case with every traditional celebration in Andalucía. From noon until around four in the afternoon, everyone gathers in the Real dressed in traditional costume. As music starts up in the casetas, encouraging the more energetic early birds to dance a sevillana or two, others parade through the streets on magnificent horses with elaborately decorated harnesses and saddles or in elegant open carriages. The period after the siesta or the traditional bullfight is the time for children to make the most of the festivities. As darkness falls, more visitors return to the feria, in everyday dress, for more eating, drinking and dancing until the early hours of the morning. Such is the typical routine during feria week – a time for little sleep and significant reserves of energy.
The world of bullfighting, which excites the passions of its enthusiastic followers and staunch opponents alike, is indelibly associated with Andalusian life.
Whether the event is a full-fledged corrida de toros featuring leading matadors, a novillada, at which aspiring bullfighters take on three-year-old bulls, or a bullfight on horseback (corrida de rejoneo), the bullfight is the highlight of the feria in every Andalusian town and city.
In general, a bullfight comprises the killing of six bulls by three matadors. Each combat is divided into three acts (or tercios): the mounted picador thrusts his lance into the bull’s neck; the bandilleros plunge their decorative darts into the bull’s back; and lastly, the matador himself performs his faena with his red cape (muleta) to demonstrate his art, technique and bravery, before finally putting the bull to the sword.
If the faena is performed successfully and the kill (estocada) is clean, swift and effective, aficicionados in the stands will wave their white handkerchiefs to implore the presiding judge to award one ear, two ears or even the bull’s tail to the matador in recognition of his skilful performance.
The expertise of the bullfighters and the knowledgable spectators in Andalucía makes the region the ideal centre in which to discover the world of the corrida. The magnificent Plazas de Toros in Sevilla and Ronda are a must. Good alternatives are the bullrings of Antequera, El Puerto de Santa María, or Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and attending the bullfights at the ferias held in Jerez, Córdoba, Granada, Almería and Jaén.
Flamenco was created towards the middle of the 19C from a combination of musical forms present in Andalucía, including Jewish, Byzantine, Moorish and even Hindu. Experts fail to agree on the scale of this influence, but what does seem clear is that it developed in Lower Andalucía (Jerez, Utrera, Lebrija, Cádiz) among families who passed the art from generation to generation. Though in no way of gypsy origin, it is generally acknowledged that the gitanos have incorporated their own personality and their considerable talents into flamenco.
For a long time considered to be an art form associated with “low lifes” – a view expressed at the turn of the century by writers such as Miguel de Unamuno – initiatives led by leading cultural figures such as Federico García Lorca and Manuel de Falla elevated flamenco to the status of the cultural expression of the Andalusian people.
Flamenco has seen the rise to fame of singers such as Antonio Mairena, Fosforito, la Niña de la Puebla and, in more recent times, Camarón de la Isla, renowned guitarists such as Paco de Lucía and dancers of the quality of Cristina Hoyos.
The new generations have demonstrated that flamenco remains a living art and that it is capable of evolving and assimilating new rhythms.
Purists do not agree, but groups such as Ketama and Navajita Plateá, guitarists such as Raimundo Amador and dancers of international renown such as Joaquín Cortés and Antonio Canales are ready to show that flamenco can explore new avenues.
Although to many observers and listeners the individual aspects of flamenco may be somewhat difficult to comprehend and interpret, it is impossible not to be moved by the passion of this truly Andalusian art form.
Each of Andalucía’s provinces has its regional costume, which varies significantly from one area to the next. In Málaga, for example, part of the verdiales costume consists of a garish hat totally covered with flowers and a variety of coloured bands; this contrasts with the piconera costume in Cádiz, with its satin skirt, white blouse, black apron and hairnets of arbutus flowers; and the costume of the Alpujarras mountains (Granada), with its multicoloured striped skirt, long-sleeved blouse and flowery shawl.
However, what is considered to be the Andalusian costume par excellence is the one traditionally worn in Córdoba and Sevilla which saw various modifications during the second half of the 20C. In fact, the so-called Andalusian costume is perhaps the only one in the world with its own fashion, which varies from year to year in colour, number and length of pleated ruffles, the shape of the sleeves, etc.
Variations apart, the traje de faralaes or flamenco costume worn by women is characterised by bright colours and a tight fit, which highlights the figure. A wide neck and a skirt ruffled at the bottom complete the look.
The costume is sometimes accompanied by a shawl, earrings and bracelets to match, as well as real or artificial flowers in the hair. The country version, worn on horseback, consists of a riding skirt, a blouse with a lace apron, and a black jacket.
The men’s costume, generally black, grey or dark brown in colour, includes a short jacket, white shirt without a tie, tight-fitting trousers and leather boots. The traditional headgear is either the wide-brimmed sombrero cordobés or the lower-crowned sombrero sevillano.
Food and Drink
The colourful cuisine of Andalucía is distinctly Mediterranean in character. Regional gastronomy is based on the wealth of local produce, with pride of place given to its olive oil, the key ingredient in many of the region’s recipes. Another key component in Andalusian cuisine is wine, and in particular its world-famous sherries, which provide the perfect accompaniment to the typical dishes of southern Spain.
Eight centuries of Moorish presence have had a profound effect on Andalusian culture, including the region’s cuisine. Moorish agricultural techniques, based on making the best use of water through irrigation networks, made it possible to grow crops on hitherto uncultivated land, thus enabling the region to produce fruits and vegetables throughout the year. The Moors also brought with them a whole range of new crops (rice, aubergines, artichokes and asparagus) as well as spices, which at the time were unknown in the Western world (such as pepper, cinnamon and cumin).
The Moors also introduced the modern-day order for the presentation of dishes which, until then, had been served at the same time. Yet, despite its deep influence on southern Spain, Arab cuisine failed to displace traditional Mediterranean cooking, centred on wine and olive oil, which remains very much alive today. Nowadays, the wines of Andalucía have a well-deserved worldwide reputation, while the region’s olive oil, including two quality Denominación de Origen labels – Baena (Córdoba) and Sierra de Segura (Jaén) – currently enjoys great popularity.
The dominant features of Andalusian cuisine differ according to whether you are on the coast, where fish and seafood predominate, or inland, where the cooking is dominated by meat dishes, vegetables, hearty soups and stews.
Although fried fish (pescaíto frito) is a popular dish in bars along the coast, Andalusian cuisine is mainly based on its stews (guisos), which may also be known as cocido andaluz, olla or puchero. These can be found in every province, with variations according to local ingredients.
Dishes with either pork or chicken, vegetables and chickpeas and/or various type of beans (judías) are also popular across Andalucía. The local meat stew known as pringá is a popular tapa in the bars of Sevilla.
In the more mountainous parts of inland Andalucía, game stews are an important part of the local cuisine, providing energy and warmth on a cold winter’s night. This contrasts with lighter fish dishes, prepared in every manner possible along the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts; these may be boiled (cocido); grilled (a la plancha), particularly the shrimp and prawns from Sanlúcar de Barrameda; served in stews (guisados), such as the seafood stews (guisos marineros) from Cádiz; fried (frito), including anchovies, squid and cuttlefish; or barbecued (asado), an ideal way of grilling sardines caught off the Málaga coast.
Another important aspect of Andalusian gastronomy is the wide choice of cured hams and sausages (embutidos). Local products include morcón, a type of blood pudding; the cured legs of hams (cañas) from Jabugo (Huelva), one of Spain’s main areas for the rearing of acorn-fed pigs for the famous jamón ibérico; morcilla (black pudding) from Ronda (Málaga) and the renowned sausages and hams from Trévelez, in the province of Granada.
In most bars and cafeterias you can try a typical Andalusian breakfast (desayuno) consisting of toasted bread with olive oil and manteca colorá, a reddish-coloured sort of dripping. If this traditional delicacy fails to whet your appetite, try deep-fried churros, long strips of doughnut, traditionally served with thick, hot chocolate.
Andalucía’s cheeses are generally made from goats’ or sheep’s milk, although cows’ milk is used on rare occasions. Although these predominantly strong-flavoured cheeses are little known outside the region, they are an ideal accompaniment to a glass of chilled fino, manzanilla or oloroso sherry, but (unlike in the French tradition) are never eaten after the main course. The main areas of cheese production are the mountains of Almería and Granada, the Serranía de Ronda (Málaga) and in the Sierra de Grazalema (Cádiz).
Moorish and Jewish influence is very evident in the tremendous variety of regional cakes and pastries. Some of the best- known, flavoured with cinnamon, almonds and anise, include the polvorones and mantecados from Estepa (Málaga), which are eaten throughout Spain at Christmas; the delicious tocinos de cielo (literally “bacon from heaven”), a custard pudding from Jerez de la Frontera; and flaky round cakes known as roscos in a variety of guises such as millefeuilles (milhojas) and honeyed fritters (pestiños).
Nowadays, many of these cakes are produced by nuns according to traditional recipes dating back many centuries. Which is why so many of them have names such as huesos de santo (saint’s bones), cabello de ángel (angel hair), suspiro de monja (nun’s sigh) and the aforementioned “bacon from heaven”.
Each province has its signature dishes. The specialities in the province of Granada include habas con jamón (broad beans with ham), sopita de ajo (garlic soup), a range of omelettes, including tortilla del Sacromonte, also known as tortilla granaína (with ham, brains and pig’s kidneys), rabo de toro (oxtail), and the hearty potaje de San Antón, a soup made with broad beans, bacon, black pudding and pig’s ears, which is traditionally eaten on 17 January.
Cod, potatoes and peppers are the main ingredients of gurupina, a speciality of the town of Baza, in the mountainous east of the province, where testuz, a dish comprising broad beans, white haricot beans, black pudding, bacon and pig’s ears is also a local favourite.
Córdoba is known for its excellent grilled meats (churrascos), in particular pork, and alcachofas a la montillana (artichokes from Montilla).
In the province of Jaén make sure you try the humble Collejas (bladder campion
plant) in croquettes, asparagus (espárragos) coated in a variety of sauces, empanadas del viernes, literally “Friday pasties”, and broad bean and aubergine soup (potaje de habas con berenjenas).
The Sierra de Cazorla, in the same province, is known for its talarines, a type of tart stuffed with partridge or rabbit, its game dishes, marinated partridge, and the extraordinary bitter orange fish soup which is a speciality of Baena.
Arroz marinero, the Andalusian variant of paella, is more moist than its Valencian cousin, and can be found along both coasts.
Wine and sherry
Andalucía has 86 000ha/212 500 acres of vineyards producing wines which have a superb reputation around the world. Almost all of this land is found within certified designations of origin (denominación es de origen).
Denominaciones de Origen
Four denominaciones de origen (D.O.) currently govern the quality of Andalusian wines: Jerez, Montilla-Moriles, Condado de Huelva and Málaga. Each of these areas concentrates on the production of full-bodied wines, although recent diversification has seen their range expand towards young, light and fruity table wines.
The sherries of the Jerez area, which include the famous finos and manzanillas, are Andalucía’s best-known and most prestigious wines. Sherry, as the name suggests (the word sherry is the anglicised form of the town’s name), can only be produced in the designated area around Jerez, while manzanillas are the exclusive preserve of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The Jerez appellation also produces sweet and dry olorosos, sweet wines (vinos dulces) such as Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez, and amontillados, which undergo a longer oxidisation in the barrel.
These excellent wines produced in the area south of Córdoba have a high alcohol content. Although they are classified according to the same criteria as those wines produced in Jerez, Montilla-Moriles wines are very different from those produced further west.
Up until a century ago, sweet Málaga wines could be enjoyed on the finest tables in Europe. Despite their decline in fortune due to changing tastes, they are still the perfect accompaniment to many dessert dishes.
The pale and fruity Condado wines are produced from the Zalema grape. There are two types of Condado: Condado Pálido, reminiscent of the sherries of Jerez and manzanilla; and Condado Viejo, similar to an oloroso, which can attain an alcohol content of 23 per cent.
In addition to these leading regions, Andalucía also has other, smaller areas of vineyards producing wines rarely seen elsewhere in Spain or abroad. These include Aljarafe and Los Palacios (Sevilla); Villaviciosa de Córdoba (Córdoba); Bailén, Lopera and Torreperogil (Jaén); Costa-Albondón (Granada) and Laujar (Almería).
The sherries of Andalucía are produced according to a special solera blending process which guarantees uniform quality for years.
These wines are traditionally served in catavinos – narrow, tall glasses which enable the superb qualities of the wine to be enjoyed to the full.
Each variety of sherry should be drunk at a different temperature:
- finos are generally chilled to between 8ºC and 10ºC. Once opened, a bottle should be drunk as quickly as possible;
- amontillados should ideally be served between 12ºC and 14ºC;
- olorosos are at their best at a temperature of 18ºC.