WITH its promise of boozy country picnics (sorry, pilgrimages) sherry-fuelled ferias and Atlantic bluefin arriving off the coast of Cadiz to kick-start the tuna-and-manzanilla-pairing season, there’s no time of year I love more than the merry month of May.
In my neck of the woods, not far from the home of Vino de Jerez, sherry is preferred to Rioja and rivers of it are drunk over 31 days, starting with that perennial Rite of Spring, the First Communion.
This is when children who have reached the ‘age of reason’ – seven, according to the RC Church or if you believe in unicorns – get to take their first legal sip of altar wine.
The Spanish spend small fortunes kitting out sons in navy sailor suits and daughters in white brides-of-Christ wedding gowns for this ancient and essentially religious ritual.
(Point of information – the sailor suits were Queen Victoria’s idea of court wear for kids, brought over to Spain by her granddaughter who married Alfonso XIII).
Communions are a great excuse for a party and some of them are on Spanish wedding reception scale with a sit-down five-course lunch, live music and a free bar.
You’re sure to be invited to a wedding if you have any friends at all as May is a big month for them, when our church in Los Barrios churns out newlyweds like a Ford production line.
My favourite hobby is sitting in the next-door pub watching the parade of ladies in lycra (whatever their size), crippling into the church on stilt heels, their fascinators bobbing in the breeze like spring flowers.
Afterwards they all cram into the bar while bride and groom go off for the photo shoot. And that’s just an aperitif to the drinking.
Then there are the romerias, originally Roman Catholic pilgrimages.
In reality, they’re boozy mass picnics in the countryside but if you’ve read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, weren’t they all?
Half our village paint their wagons and saddle up their horses for this raucous rural ring-a-ding.
It starts with a church mass on bended knee and turns into a mass all-night bender in Los Alcornocales Natural Park with a knees-up thrown in!
With barrels of rebujito hitched to the back of the tractor-drawn wagons you can refresh yourself as you walk/dance/stagger along the route.
Could that ever happen in Britain, even on a B-road?
It’s also the start of feria season, kicking off with Sevilla’s world-famous April Fair (4-11 May this year as Easter was late), swiftly followed by Jerez Horse Fair (May 11-18) and those of fellow sherry triangle towns Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María.
Sherry and feria are almost synonymous – more so if you’re slurring.
Finally there are the Cadiz tuna festivals – all four of them, running from May full moon into June – although they’re more about the fish than drinking like one: specifically, top quality Atlantic bluefin caught by trapnet that sell in Japan for prices that make headlines in the FT.
The white villages of Barbate, Conil, Tarifa and Zahara de los Atunes which catch their quotas by this eco-friendly Phoenecian method, turn it into a party and restaurants compete to create the winning tapa.
In Zahara last year there were over 35 to try and a sherry to go with each. Salud!