Sunday, 25 September 2016

25.9.16 A New Era for Sherry

This is an optimistic article by Á Espejo published in yesterday’s Diario de Jerez

The bodegas are leaving behind long decades of crisis marked by high volumes and low prices, and a new cycle of growth is underway with a return to the origins and with the premise of not repeating the mistakes of the past.

It can be felt in the atmosphere. The bodegas are getting back into their stride and looking forward eagerly and hopefully to a new era for the wine of Jerez which looks like being one of expansion. But unlike the boom of the 1970s, which was a period of massive production and unsustainably low prices, they are now focusing on quality and added value, boosted by wine tourism and gastronomy which are helping the renaissance of a wine which looks back proudly to the origins which gave it its unique identity.

This hopeful new dawn full of opportunity is also catching on in the areas of public administration and finance which are committed to the common cause of repositioning Sherry to the highest ranking after a long period lost in the desert, a prolonged crisis from which at last light can be seen at the end of the tunnel. However, great care must be taken to show that lessons have been learned for the avoidance of the mistakes of the past of which there only too many examples.

These are the general conclusions reached at the “Editor’s Breakfast”, a debate held this week at the offices of the Diario de Jerez titled “A New Era for Sherry” sponsored by Banco Sabadell. The highly qualified people present were the director of the Consejo Regulador, César Saldaña, two oenologists: Antonio Flores of González Byass and Manuel Valcárcel of Fundador, the Junta’s director general for industry and the agro-alimentary chain Rosa Ríos, the director of business banking at Sabadell, Mauricio González, and of course the director of Diario de Jerez, Rafael Navas.

During the debate it was pointed out that Sherry has reached a point where the increase in value has compensated for the fall in sales volume. This loss corresponds to the cheap buyers’ own brands (BOB) which do nothing for the reputation of Sherry, and which are being dropped in order to focus on the high quality bodega brands.

According to César Saldaña there is now a proper balance in production, fruit of the painful restructuring of the trade, and he stressed the need to understand the position Sherry is now in so as to make the right decisions and reinvest in the future. The oenologists agreed on the importance of the land, the various historic pagos, which are coming back into fashion but, as César Saldaña said, the trade had abandoned the quality they offered for the standard fare offered by the solera system. “Sherry is made in the vineyard, but for too long we have been selling wine made in the bodega”, he said, pointing out the fundamental role the vineyard plays on the stage of quality winemaking.

The winemakers agreed, but Antonio Flores made the point that while a return to focusing on the pagos is vital, the bodega also has a role: Sherry IS made in the vineyard, but it is made great in the bodega. Manuel Valcárcel agreed, saying that Sherry is really two wines: the one made in the vineyard like everywhere else, but also the one produced in a bodega over very many years.

The bodegas are well aware that BOBs will be scrapped, and in fact González Byass, later followed by some others such as Fundador, stopped producing them a while back. But some will keep on producing them until demand finally drops, when new, younger, better off consumers who can be courted in the social networks and are prepared to travel to the region overtake the traditional consumers. The latter are still quite numerous, usually aged over 75 and to whom Sherry is more of a drink than a wine, but their numbers are naturally in decline. There is a third type of consumer: the occasional one, usually linked to the ferias and pilgrimages. They are quite stable consumers and can be grouped with the younger ones, whose numbers are growing unceasingly and to whom the Consejo is directing all its generic promotional efforts.

The professionals in the Sherry trade also point out the essential role played by education, and both the bodegas and the Consejo are heavily involved with this, as well as wine tourism and gastronomy, the fundamental pillars of the resurrection of Sherry. And it is working: the Sherry and Brandy Route of Jerez is the second most popular in Spain receiving over 400,000 visitors annually.

Rosa Ríos mentioned that the Junta de Andalucía is working with the Sherry trade by sharing out up to 4.2 million euros of EU funds from the Integrated Territories Initiative in support of wine tourism, and underlined the Junta’s support for the trade, which also has some 2 million euros in aid for promotion in third countries. She made the important point that “there is room to increase value, but we must commercialise better”. She said “the Junta is here to help, because the trade is dynamic, unique and a leading exporter, a road which started here centuries ago.”

The topic of Vinoble was discussed. The biennial wine fair has rather lost its way in recent years for lack of political and public support, but Rosa Ríos is prepared to wipe the slate clean and start again. Also discussed was the dynamic young breed of grower-winemakers who are producing such interesting wines from classic soils in the area but for regulatory reasons cannot get the support of the Consejo. The Consejo is not ruling out their future incorporation, however. Rosa Ríos expressed her willingness to collaborate in eliminating obstacles saying “if the current law isn’t working, then it should be changed.”

Friday, 23 September 2016

23.9.16 TTIP Protection for Sherry Might Not Happen

There are many in Europe, especially in France and Germany who believe the TTIP treaty is dead. It had been hoped that the controversial and increasingly unpopular Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a trade deal between the European Union and the United States, would be concluded in 2014, but it is still ongoing and looks unlikely to be concluded till 2019, and even then maybe not to everyone’s satisfaction. One of the key elements for the wine trade is the protection of Denominaciónes de Origen, and if the deal fails, that protection will not be implemented. This is a worry for the Consejo, since there are many fake “sherries” available in the US, where Sherry, Port and Champagne for example, are considered styles of wine rather than individual wines from a specific place, and can thus be freely imitated in the US. Although the TTIP negotiations seem to be running out of steam they are not over, so the Consejo is doing its utmost to ensure the interests of Sherry are properly represented by keeping close contact with members of the Spanish negotiating delegation, the Ministry of Agriculture and the embassy in Washington.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Amontillado 17.5%, Viña Santa Petronila

Amber-tapaz with coppery tints, legs.
Quite a generous nose and fragrant with traces of nutty sweetness and some age with traces of spice; cinnamon and vanilla, an earthy note and American oak. Very attractive.
Fairly full with gentle traces of warm spices such as cinnamon interlaced with toasted almonds, hazelnut and oak. There is enough volatile acidity to give bit of bite and balance the glyceric sweetness leaving a  very classy wine with real character and length.
This is a really good wine and it is probably somewhere around 15 years old. It comes from the smallest bodega in the Marco de Jerez, an XVIII century casa de viña surrounded by its vineyard, with its tiny bodega where everything is done by hand. The wine is contract bottled en rama.
25.75 euros per 50cl bottle from Licores Corredera

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

21.9.16 La Tapería Fundador; Fedejerez Responds to Unions

Bodegas Fundador has remodelled one of its bodegas as a gastronomic space, which opens today, with public access from Calle San Ildefonso. An inauguration event was held there yesterday, led by the bodega’s managing director Rafael Rendón and attended by Consejo director César Saldaña, president Beltrán Domecq and Brandy president Evaristo Babé. The tapería offers a wide range of tapas and menus matched to the firm’s Sherries and brandies; Harveys, Terry and Fundador, as well as an exciting range of cocktails. Fundador wants to promote the growing trend of accompanying food with brandy and prove that it is as versatile as Sherry, and they hope to attract the younger generation. This is only one of many innovations Fundador is working on in connection with wine tourism.

Fedejerez, the association of bodegas, has spoken out regarding the XXV Convenio de la Vid negotiations. They say they are quite open for discussion but that the unions have “distorted and manipulated” their proposals in the information given to the workforce and to the public. According to Fedejerez, far from suppressing length of service bonuses, they intend to consolidate them. They also dispute the union’s figures on part time workers, saying that over 80% of days worked were worked by people on fixed or stable contracts, and say that any part time work will be offered to those who have worked there at least 60 days in the past 2 years. Fedejerez denies wanting to reduce salaries for newly contracted staff but they will naturally be lower than those for experienced staff. No salary reduction will apply to part time staff. Work days and hours will be maintained and the bodegas will not impose working on weekends and holidays, furthermore they deny that they want to abolish leave for childbirth, deaths in the family, medical reasons etc. when in fact they have more generous proposals.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Royal Cream 17.5%, Marqués del Real Tesoro

Deep amber, mahogany with coppery highlights and fairly slow legs.
Quite a lot of PX on the nose with soft raisins soaked in brandy, traces of turrón and caramel with hints of walnut from the Oloroso. It is a soft, easy-going nose yet has depth.
Sweet and rich, again plenty of PX and theraisiny texture it brings, soft and smooth with a gentle Oloroso backbone, hints of vanilla, orange and walnut and good length.
A classic standard Cream Sherry from Grupo Estévez. It is decent quality, and is probably the fairly normal blend of around 75% Oloroso and 25% Pedro Ximénez. The old firm of Marqués del Real Tesoro was bought by José Estévez and installed at his purpose built bodega complex which also houses the Tio Mateo solera and Valdespino.
5.80 euros from El Rimero, Fuengirola

Monday, 19 September 2016

19.9.16 Death Announced of Joaquín Rivero; Harvest 2016 All But Finished

The real estate magnate and founder of Bodegas Tradición, Joaquín Rivero has died aged 72 in hospital in Jerez. Jerezano by birth and entrepreneur by nature, he started his career in the family business but soon founded his own, making construction materials. In the early 1980s he moved into real estate on an international scale and soon became a multi-millionaire.  This wealth allowed him to indulge his two passions of Sherry and art.

Rivero was a descendant of the famous old bodega family JM Rivero, and in the 1990s he bought an old bodega in the Plaza Cordobeses and had it renovated. He bought old soleras and some Añadas and established a Fino solera, quickly earning a reputation for quality. He also built the most impressive collection of Spanish art in Andalucía, amounting to some 300 works from between the XV and XIX centuries, and a selection of this is on display at the bodega. He was recently selected for the Premio Ciudad de Jerez 2016 in recognition of his achievements.

2016 is the second smallest harvest in the last decade with a fraction over 57 million kilos, 26% down on last year. Only 2012 was smaller with only 47 million kilos thanks to extensive drought. Yields this year have varied widely in the different areas with Jerez producing a little over 40 million kilos (70% of the total crop, but 19% down on last year), while Sanlúcar was 40% down and Trebujena nearly 50% down. Chipiona was down 34%, El Puerto nearly 50%, Rota 30%.

It all goes to show that while we have improved husbandry and winemaking dramatically, we are still at the mercy of the weather. An estimated 7% of the losses are attributable to the mildew outbreak which resulted from heavy rain (200 litres/square metre in some places!), especially in coastal vineyards. The main cause however, has been the almost endless Levante wind which takes moisture from the grapes. The poor growers who sell grapes to the bodegas are paid by weight, and have suffered financial losses. Also, Sherry grapes are ridiculously cheap at about 0.35 €/kilo. At least the quality is good.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

17.9.16 Impressive Sales Growth of Wines From Cádiz

Exports of wine from Andalucía are growing healthily with wine from Cádiz leading the way. The first 6 months of 2016 show a total increase on the same period last year of 21%, and wine from Cádiz – Sherry and the Vinos de la Tierra de Cádiz - represent over 70% of this. Wines from the province have increased sales to 37.2 million euros or 12.4%. This is mainly the result of favourable conditions in export markets led by the UK with 26.6% of sales (up 35%), the USA 15% of sales (up 34.8%) and the Low Countries with 12% of sales. Sales to Russia have grown dramatically to 4.7 million euros which represents a growth of 950%! Japan remains a small market (in 11th place) but grew at 133% and great efforts are being made to promote the wines there.