Since the Tio Pepe soleras were established in 1844, Tio Pepe has been produced in the Andalucían town of Jerez. Situated in the south west of Spain, an hour or so south of Seville, Jerez is the home of Sherry wine, and the home of Gonzalez Byass. On the street named in honour of its founder, the Tio Pepe bodegas are entwined with the history and culture of Jerez, and are a tourist attraction in their own right. For information about visiting Tio Pepe in Jerez, see here.
As our Spanish colleagues constantly remind us when they visit the UK, Jerez has a very different climate. With long hot summers, (the average high from July-September is over 30⁰C), and mild winters. Almost all of the rainfall in Jerez falls from November to January; indeed in most places Jerez would be too hot and dry to produce wine. Thankfully however, there is one unique aspect of its geography that allows for wine production, the soil.
The vineyards around Jerez are blessed with a specific type of soil, ‘Albariza Clay’. White and chalky; the Albariza clay has a great ability to retain moisture. The summer sun bakes the top layer of the soil into a hard dry, white crust, locking in the moisture beneath, and reflecting a lot of the suns energy. This allows the hardy vines in Jerez to survive the long, dry summers, and produce perfect Palomino grapes that we can turn into Tio Pepe!