The origin of ‘Tapas’

Myths about the origin of Tapas

Where does the concept of Tapas come from? There are many myths and many different answers to this question. In this blog we will bring you some of these myths and stories behind the origin of Tapas:

Myth 1: King Alfonso X recovered from an illness by drinking wine with small dishes between meals. After regaining his health, he made all bars and restaurants serve a small ‘tapa’ with the wine being ordered.

Myth 2: During the Spanish Civil War, the food supplies where low causing hunger in the country, so when food was served it would only be in small portions. This could consist of just a piece of bread or a bit of sausage or alike, always being small amounts at a time.

Myth 3: It was king Alfonso XIII who ‘invented’ the tapa. During a visit to the bar El Ventorillo del Chato, he ordered a glass of wine when suddenly a heavy storm reached the area. In order to keep dust/sand and insects (such as fruit flies) away from the wine, the waiter would put slices of jamón (cured ham) on top of the glass to cover it (‘tapar’ in Spanish means ‘to cover’). The monarch loved this idea so from this point on every time he ordered a glass of wine, he would ask for jamón to accompany it. After this, the accompanying snack became very popular.

Myth 4: A final possibility surrounds Felipe III, who passed a law in an effort to curb rowdy drunken behaviour, particularly among soldiers and sailors. The law stated that when one purchased a drink, the bartender was to offer a small quantity of food as part of the purchase of the beverage, the hope being that the food would slow the effects of the alcohol.

Other possible origins of the Tapa:

  • The habit of having small delicacies before the main course is part of the Jewish and Arabic gastronomical traditions, cultures that have left a significant culinary print in Spain over the years.
  • In the 17th century ‘tapa’ (from the French word ‘étape’) would be used for the food offered to the military troops in the different places they came by.
  • Tales have been told how Don Quijote and Sancho Panza were meeting up with pilgrims, who were always well supplied. The pilgrims would typically travel with olives, nuts, cold cuts and cheese, all being either a bit salty or spicy and this way calling for something to drink.
  • Bartenders and restaurant owners realised that the saltiness of the tapas would cause thirst and this way they used the tapas to increase alcohol sales. Others say that the strong flavours of cured cheese or ham could disguise the not so pleasant flavours of a cheap wine.

So, as you can see there is no clear answer to the origin of the Spanish tapa. For this reason, we invite you to do your own field work and discover this fascinating culinary world of small dishes. We have prepared a route as an example, taking place in Seville, and in each of the stops of the way we are presenting a tapas dish paired with one of our Sherry wines. We recommend doing this route in pleasant company and to take your time while you enjoy each of these traditional and charismatic places.

First stop: Casa Moreno – a unique example of the old corner shops where they started to serve tapas. They have one of the most beloved waiters in the entire city.

We recommend: Tio Pepe Fino with jamón, spicy chorizo and Asturian cheese (Cabrales)

Second stop: Bodega Morales – a typical bodega opened by people from the region La Mancha who wanted to sell their wines in Seville.

We recommend: Viña AB Amontillado with artichoke and vegetable stew (berza gaditana)

Third stop: Bodeguita Romero – Family bar famous for its small sandwiches (montadito de pringado) and its potato salad (patatas aliñadas). The owners are very passionate towards Sherry wines.

We recommend: Leonor with ‘montadito de pringado’ and Alfonso with slow cooked ox-cheeks (carrillada)

Fourth Stop: Tomamojama – New kind of Abacería, specialised in Sherry, fresh tuna and salted fish. They offer both the possibility of tasting raw and cured versions.

We recommend: Tio Pepe with Semi salted tuna called Mojama, Bonito and Mújol roe. This would go well with mussels with pickled foam and potato salad with mayonnaise and Maruca roe and grated Mojama.

Fifth and final stop – La Azotea: Here you will find innovative and interesting tapas with ingredients from other gastronomical traditions, all made with the highest quality products available. Although being innovative, they still use the traditional cooking techniques offering tapas which are easy to understand and show the products as naturally as possible.

We recommend: Apóstoles with homemade foie and fruit jam. Noé with a chocolate coolant for dessert.

We hope you have the possibility of enjoying the fascinating world of tapas and all the pairing possibilities with the Sherry wines. It is only a matter of going to many different places and trying as many interesting dishes as possible. The choice is yours!


Information Sources: 

Isabel González Turmo, Sevilla banquetes, tapas, cartas, y menús, 1863-1995


Aldara Arias de Saavedra

Guide Manager

González Byass Pio X 1903

González Byass Pio X 1903

Presented by Mauricio González Gordon, Chairman of González Byass.

Family traditions

Gonzalez Byass has been a family run business since it was founded in 1835. Today, some 182 years later, the firm finds itself with an ancient and exquisite collection of casks and rare bottles that were laid down by previous generations of the family.  There are some themes that run through these rarities; special vintages, experimental wines, coronations of kings and queens and elections of new popes.  Some are simply prized soleras or vintage olorosos selflessly set aside for the appreciation of future generations. The Gonzalez Family has decided to begin releasing part of this fascinating and varied array of wines. They offer a glimpse of the past and a unique opportunity to acquire an ancient gem. We feel a deep sense of gratitude to the company’s founder, Manuel M. Gonzalez, and his descendants for leaving such wine for the enjoyment of today’s connoisseurs and collectors.

Pio X & Papal Traditions  

Our detailed archives confirm the company tradition of laying down wines in honour of newly elected Popes.  Pedro Nolasco Gonzalez de Soto, eldest son of the founder, dedicated a very fine, sweet Moscatel to the new Pope Pius X (Pio X in Spanish) in 1903 as his father had done on the occasions of previous papal elections. Gonzalez Byass still has the casks dedicated by his father, the founder of the company, to Pius IX (dated 1846) and Leon XII (dated 1878).

About the wine itself

The first gem that Gonzalez Byass is offering for sale is this Moscatel which we simply call ‘Pio X’. It is most probably from the Muscat variety called Moscatel Menudo Blanco (Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains)ref 1. It was widely grown in Jerez in the mid-19th century although by the mid-20th century its plantings were replaced by Moscatel Gordo Blanco (Muscat of Alexandria).  This variety is still one of the two sweet grape varieties permitted today in DO Jerez. When this Moscatel was made there were forty different grape varieties grown in the Sherry region.

Pio X cannot be categorised technically as Sherry as it was never fortified and has just 9% alcohol. It comes from a small cask that now contains just 90 litres; enough for 120 bottles. Only 100 numbered bottles will be released for sale. The balance will be laid down in the Gonzalez family’s bottle cellar, El Aljibe.

It is a sweet wine and a joy to drink. According to Antonio Flores, head winemaker at Gonzalez Byass, Pio X is well balanced and has both astonishing freshness and complexity with notes of dried figs, walnuts, tar, treacle, lacquer and coffee.  

History of this wine

Here is the chronological history of this wine: Pio X Moscatel appears for the first time in our Accounts as an asset in 1908 with a volume of 2,620 litres.  While we do not know exactly how old this wine is, we have a good idea because in the same ledger of 1908 Pio X appears with a value of 600 reales/@ 2..  Not only is it one of the most highly valued wines in the entire winery but all the wines with a similar value are vintage Sherries from mid-19th C.:

Reina Cristina PX 1858 –> 400 reales/@

Reina Mercedes PX 1860 –> 300 reales/@

Fundador M.M.G. 1843 –> 750 reales/@

Dubosc  1843 –> 450 reales/@

Jesus Anguita, Gonzalez Byass historian, estimates that the original wine comes from the 1850’s or 1860’s given its book value in 1908. Pio X was certainly made well before the re-planting of Sherry vineyards in the 1890s in the wake of phylloxera.

Our records show that the wine was stored in a cask called ‘3/1’ (or three separate 1,000L casks) from 1908 until 1941 and since 1941 the wine was stored in another large cask called ‘Tonel 90@’.

Some wine was removed and added to Pio X several times over the next forty years (see detail below 2.)  1,173 litres of this original wine were removed in 1911, the cask being topped up with a similar amount of Moscatel two years later. Again in 1925 and 1946 smaller amounts were added to the cask(s) of Pius X to make up for occasional bottlings/‘sacas’.  In fact, the last time we see any further addition of wine was in 1946. Since that time, the reduction (from 2,559 litres to today’s 105 litres) is due to the wine being used for blending with other Moscatels and more recently for sampling.

There is also a reference in our 1919 Accounts to a stock of 24 bottles of Pio X being stored for posterity in El Aljibe, the bottle cellar located under the Apostoles bodega. We still have some of these bottles.

Anecdotally we have ‘thank you’ letters from popes dated 1949 and 1963 relating to gifts of Sherry. We can’t be sure however which Gonzalez Byass sherry they are referring to.

  1. D. Diego Parada y Barreto – Cultivo de la Vid 1868
  2. @ = Arroba. The measure for volume in Sherry. One Arroba = 30.465 litres
  3. 3. Source:  Gonzalez Byass Foundation; Company ledgers showing stocks and ‘sacas’ of Pio X.



Tío Pepe in the Vineyard, september: Aserpiado

We will start a new chapter in our blog, this time focusing on the dedicated work happening in our vineyards. This chapter is called “Tio Pepe in the vineyard” and here, together with our Agricultural Engineer Manuel Delgado, we want to share the most relevant moments of the life in the vineyard with you.

José Manuel Harana, Coordinator and Vineyard Manager is working closely with Manuel and both are supervised by our Production Manager Salvador Guimerá who is the main responsible for the production in the vineyards.

In this initial post we find ourselves in September and it is now time to prepare the vineyards for the expected heavy rain during these months. The technique Aserpiado or Aserpia is being carried out straight after harvest, during the months of September and October – the sooner the better. Here you dig trenches in the soil with approximately 80 cms of distance between each of them. These trenches will provide the soil with more time in order to absorb and retain as much rain water as possible. The trenches also have a second purpose which is to avoid erosion in the vineyards. Without using this agricultural tool, we would end up with the lower zones of the vineyard covered in soil and the higher zones being left without hardly soil and the entire vine and roots would be exposed. It is all about caring about our vines as much as possible, as we want them to reach 30-50 years of age.

Celebrate Sherry Week 2017 with Tío Pepe

Celebrate Sherry Week with us join for live tastings with Antonio Flores, Master Blender at González Byass. Take part in the Online tastings on either: Tuesday 7th of November, 8:30pm English-Spanish, 10:00pm Spanish or on Wednesday 8th of November, 9 a.m.

You can follow the tasting live via Facebook Live on And you can comment on Facebook or twitter with #sherryweektiopepe.

📥 Here Graphic Resources for your Tasting.

Tasting Note Competition

Tweet your tasting notes via #sherryweektiopepe. The best tasting note, selected by Antonio Flores, will win a full set of the Las Palmas Collection 2017.