Wednesday, 29 July 2015

29.7.15 Don’t Call it Sherry, Call it Jerez

In Spain it is identified with Andalusian folklore and in Britain as a drink for grandmothers. Broadly speaking these are the two great barriers to consumption which Sherry faces according to a report by the DYM Institute commissioned by the Consejo, the main conclusions of which were presented at a meeting of the Consejo yesterday.

The study interviewed wine drinkers between the ages of 30 and 50 but who were not Sherry drinkers in Britain (London and Manchester) and Spain (Madrid and Barcelona). The object was to discover why they avoid Sherry and to try to break down those barriers. There will not be time until after the summer to sit down with the marketing people from the bodegas to analyse the study’s conclusions, but in yesterday’s summary the author of the report pointed out that it would be worthwhile to promote the name Jerez rather than Sherry.

Classic image of Sherry (foto:dailyrecord)
The consumers of other wines than Sherry who were interviewed have two basic problems with it which explain their inclination towards other wines. Firstly they know nothing about it and find it difficult to obtain in their usual wine shops, and secondly they see its image as outmoded being associated in Spain with Andalucía and in Britain with grandmothers. César Saldaña, director of the Consejo says that the study’s conclusion is that the image of Sherry is a psychological barrier to non- Sherry-drinkers who have a negative image of it and don’t even realise it is a wine.

After the harvest the Consejo and the bodegas will sit down to study the advisability of incorporating the fairly drastic changes into publicity to overcome these barriers, though the use of the name Sherry may not need to be abandoned but rather toned down. This way the Consejo would look for a way of approaching new consumers, especially in the British market, by disconnecting from the negative image of Sherry and instead promoting Jerez for wines like Finos, Manzanillas, Olorosos more efficiently.

César Saldaña said that the Consejo’s communication strategy is still to be worked out, pointing out that the negative image highlighted by the study only took into account non Sherry drinkers. He explained that the chosen premise of the study was to find out why consumers of other wines don’t drink Sherry and so the DYM Institute had organised discussion groups with in-depth interviews.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

28.7.15 Highest Points for Sherry in Guía Peñín 2016; Awards for Williams & Humbert

Carlos González, director of the Guía Peñín, is a self-confessed Sherry lover whose passion is reflected in the scores for the 2016 edition of the prestigious guide, where Sherry gets the highest average score of 91.67 points. Sherry and Manzanilla beat Priorato (90.07) by over 1.5 points despite the latter’s spectacularly good 2013 vintage which merited a special mention. In 3rd place were the wines of Valdeorras with an average score of 89.07.

After the exhausting round of tastings which began in Jerez in January, the Guía Peñín is currently being published and printed to be available in October, coinciding with the XVI Guía Peñín Best Wines of Spain Show. The tasters held a re-tasting of all the wines which scored over 94 points, and there were no fewer than 370 of them.

Carlos Gonzalez at work in Jerez (foto:diariojerez)
The 2016 edition has a record-breaking 11,200 wines tasted, of which 200 were Sherries, and this year they have included special editions such as Finos and Manzanillas en Rama. While tasting in Jerez, the Peñín director noted how good the wines were, highlighting the good moment Sherry is experiencing. He said that in the guide’s 26 years of existence no wine had been awarded 100 points, but if any wine deserved it, it would be Sherry. Further, he said that Sherry has always given dignity to the array of wines produced in Spain, and urged readers of the guide to try Sherry, which too many think is a wine for connoisseurs only, but in fact is a wine with styles to suit everyone.

Overall, the tastings have seen increased average points for 24 Dos and reduced points for 40 others with one remaining the same. In the preamble to the guide, it is noted that nearly 1,000 wines from new producers were tasted, varying from small to large. Straightforward wines with international inspiration which reflect the regeneration inspired by young winemakers in Spain.

 At the recent Wines from Spain Competition in London, Williams & Humbert took the two Awards for the Fortified Category. The wines were Manzanilla Alegría and Dos Cortados VOS 20 Years Old. The competition is for the best Spanish wines in various categories which are available in the UK.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

An Interview with Manuel Lozano of Lustau

Juan P Simó talks to Lustau’s chief Oenologist in today's Diario de Jerez

Wine as it used to be. No noise, no fuss. He collected his seventh “Oscar” at the Park Lane Hilton hotel in London at midnight on Thursday in front of over a thousand world wine experts. Then he flew back to Jerez bearing his seventh consecutive World’s Best Fortified Winemaker award from the International Wine & Spirit Challenge. Manuel Lozano Salado (Jerez 1954) is calm, straightforward, serene, unchanging. He is not one for razzmatazz, just the day to day work in the bodega, as always. We are talking with a wine lover, mad about Sherry who has dedicated 40 years of his life to it.

Have you never changed?
I live in a regulated sort of way; I have the same friends as always, I buy the same medicine in the same pharmacy as always; I have a drink in the same bar as always however good it is, because life’s like that.

How did it all start?
I grew up in a restaurant environment. My parents had bars, restaurants, beaches, clay pigeon shooting and the Hotel Comercio in Calle Doña Blanca. Through all that I came into contact with the world of wine. I got to know all sorts of wines especially the “medio tapón” (younger Finos sold cheaply in bars). There was no television and the hours were short and in December there were the afternoon drinks, occasions where I learned a lot from comments at the bar or from the more knowledgeable people who worked in bodegas. Also my father had contacts with the wine salesmen who would sit down and discuss wines and prices.

And you paid attention?
I loved it but it wasn’t studied then. It was a case of mouth to mouth or visiting a bodega as a child and taking in the sights and sounds and slowly becoming a wine professional. There were no degrees and I had to do some training in Madrid going on to professional education. You came out as a technician in viticulture and oenology which later got me into a bodega.

Nobody mentored you, you had to be self-taught?
I had no mentor. My father, who knew various bodega representatives, used to take me to visit the bodegas. I was only ten but it was the only way to find out what one could never know.

What must the good oenologist know?
The oenologist must have an in depth knowledge of what is in the bodega. It is not just working with wine but managing a bodega. One has to enter the world of cost competitivity as wines of the same quality at a lower price give the bodega a better margin. The romance of the past has gone, what matters now is management and results.

Manuel and some of his awards (foto:Pascual/diariodejerez)

In Jerez we have always had very good oenologists.
José Ignacio Domecq, “La Nariz” (the “nose”), is a clear example. With him people could count on ways to study abroad and get a good training. Those who studied at his side like senior bodega foremen learned the day to day work and managed everything related to the business side of the wine. They were fine tasters classifying wine from butt to butt. There was the language of the chalk, marking each butt carefully and watching its evolution. It used to be done solely with the nose, a venencia and a glass.

You started from the bottom.
I started working my first vintages with González Byass. You need to do it that way, from the bottom.  Even just hosing the bodega has to be well done. Things were done traditionally then and you even had to know which wind was blowing so you could close the windows against the Levante and open them at night to let in the Poniente or the moisture, which would blow away the heat of the day.

And then you entered a bodega?
When I finished my studies I started in the laboratory at Fernando A deTerry. I worked there for 22 years. I began as an analyst of wine, brandy and vinegar. I started in 1983. Those were the years of merging of bodegas and companies after the collapse and expropriation of Rumasa. Terry went to Harveys where I continued in bodega production.

Are you one of those who think these prizes have less value here than in other countries?
I move around the world a lot and they have different values in different countries. In fact the oenologist goes out on the streets a lot to help the salesmen. That wasn’t done before, but it is now. He does tastings, food matching… Have you ever seen so many chefs on television? Before, we didn’t even know them, but it has worked, now people drink less but know more about wine.

But these things are not easy to achieve.
Absolutely. Five thousand fortified wines might enter the competition and be analysed and tasted by a jury of specialists who award marks. We can bring some 50 blends, usually not well known around here but certainly internationally. Since Lustau exports over 90% these things sell a lot of it. And if you go around doing tastings, explaining how the wine is made, you meet the customer who is going to drink it. This is added value which didn’t exist before.

I have read that you are optimistic for Sherry.
I love Sherry. It should be remembered that it was once the biggest selling wine in the world. It will come back. It has certainly gone through some bad times and the multinationals have done it no favours, but most bodegas are now back in family hands. I am optimistic, I see the bottle half full. I used to be worried about the average age of Sherry drinkers, but I am now seeing young people drinking it in tabancos with interest. A lot has changed and quickly.

But the majority of young people still drink long drinks.
That’s certainly true; I think we are lacking something here which is the culture of Sherry.

That has been a great mistake, to allow the loss of Sherry culture.
There are actually schools which visit bodegas who give them a glass of grape juice after they have seen what a butt is and the different types of Sherry. They are told that this is what once supported the economy of Jerez along with lots of related businesses like label printers, bottle makers and bottle cap makers, an enormous industry related to Sherry, but it has all gone.

We are hearing about new formulas to re-launch the wine. What do you think of 100% Jerez?
I think it is meaningless. The key to Sherry is the solera system and there the alcohol is mixed in over many years until a homogeneous wine of whatever type comes out. It can't be 100% Jerez. Maybe this idea comes from people who have more grapes than they need. And it is good marketing. The fortifying spirit is rectified to 96%/vol and about 18-20 litres of it goes into a butt containing about 500 litres to bring the wine up to 15%/vol, but it gives no noticeable organoleptic character whether the grapes were Airén or Palomino.

Another matter is Bag-in-Box (BIB)…
BIB is the same as wines sold in tetrabrik with lower quality and price, while wines with a bottle and cork are better quality at a higher price, they are not the same. And another thing: like it or not, the Cionsejo has its rules and we have to respect them. If you want to sell BIB then leave the Consejo. And it is not a substitute for the garrafa as the mayor of Sanlúcar says.

So the usual problems look like dragging on forever?
Sherry’s trajectory is still to be resolved. It sells for less than it is worth, it has a great capital value some of which evaporates because it must be in the solera for a minimum of 2 years. Also nobody knows how to sell it nor even lay the foundations to keep building. What wine with crianza bialogica can cost €5 in a supermarket? What do the label and bottle cost?

Or what does the time cost?
Nobody pays for that… but we need to know how to sell it. We have lost time messing about and not investing more so that Sherry is not seen as a wine past its sell-by date, a wine for old people. And why are we not investing more time and money in educating people about Sherry? People in shops don’t know the difference between a Palo Cortado and an Amontillado.

What is your favourite Sherry?
That depends on the circumstances and the moment, how it is served, what temperature and how well it has been looked after.

Excuse me, we’re suffering from the heat. Can you give us a full bodied wine - cold?
That’s not the usual way to serve it. Best to drink an Oloroso or Amontillado at the bodega temperature, 14-15 degrees.

Never cold despite the temperature?
When taken cold it concentrates the aromas but the colder it gets the less the aromas expand.

Something to eat alongside it? A tapa or something perhaps?
Here in Jerez it is neither the custom nor the tradition to serve a tapa with a drink, but if so, it is probably the bar trying to promote the tapas. However the glass should be appropriate-those new, more open ones which don’t concentrate the aromas but open them.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Sherry in New York in 1786

Jerez academic José Luís Jiménez has come up with a really interesting document showing the importation of Sherry to New York in 1786. Although Sherry was already imported during British rule, it increased after independence in 1776. The first president, George Washington, drank it in his punch and Thomas Jefferson had his Sherry sent to him by the US consul in Cádiz, Joseph Iznardi.

Little or nothing is known about the role played in the flow of wine to the East coast of this new country by the European merchants Dominick Lynch (Galway 1754-New York 1825) and Thomas Stoughton (1748-1826). Moving from Bruges to New York before his partner in 1783, Stoughton built new and pioneering networks of trade with Spain and Spanish America, keeping a ledger which survives of his costs and profits.

He imported Madeira, Sherry, Málaga and Tenerife wines as well as brandy, lemons and raisins from Spain and southeast Europe. He imported sugar, coffee, silver and “Nicarauan wood” from Cuba and central America. At the same time he exported flour and wood to Dublin, Amsterdam, Cádiz and the Spanish and French islands of the Caribbean. He was even the Spanish consul in New York from 1794 till 1812, and his relatives maintained business and family relations with Spain.

There are one or two really interesting things in this page from the ledger. Firstly that these accounts are in British pounds, shillings and pence, coming from a time just before the Dollar was in use - yet the raisins are priced in Dollars and Sterling. Secondly the types of wine are not specified. You can't argue with the prices though!

Friday, 24 July 2015

24.7.15 Grape Prices; Culture in El Puerto; Racing & Flamenco in Sanlúcar

Sherry grapes are the cheapest in Spain
A very interesting article in today’s Diario de Jerez by Á Espejo

The wine business in Jerez is going back to its old ways. The first soundings between growers and bodegas to establish supply and price agreements for the forthcoming harvest show a decrease in price for the Palomino, by far the most cultivated grape. After the truce in recent harvests which ended with rising grape prices, the first DO in Spain, now 80 years old, appears condemned to be at the bottom of price tables and earn the title of the cheapest grapes in Spain.

The bodegas are holding surplus stocks to avoid shortages over future years and the increase in value of Sherry in recent times has not compensated for falling sales, a trend for many years now which shows no signs of changing in the short term. The demand for grapes therefore is low and is concentrated in a few bodegas who are pressurising growers to reduce prices which are already barely profitable and moreover insisting on quality in the fight to recover Sherry’s lost prestige.

Sherry harvest (foto:Vanesa Lobo/diariodejerez)

The big bodegas own sufficient vineyard to cover their requirements with Estévez doubling their holdings over recent years and González Byass reactivating planting rights with a view to the restructuring of some of their vineyards which, after some years of rest are in production again. Furthermore, many small and medium sized bodegas have been left in a very difficult position as a result of both the economic crisis and the sales crisis to the point where in order to survive they have been selling finished wine to bodegas in a better position and thus occupying the place of defunct almacenistas.

In this context the growers have very few choices except Barbadillo, the biggest buyer of grapes – although a lot goes for the production of the table wine Castillo San Diego – who have let it be known that they will pay one céntimo less per kilo this year which equates to a price drop of 2.7%. Last year the growers suffered a drop in price of 7.7% making the price over 10% less than 3 years ago.

Worse still, the growers have to face paying the levy on grape production reintroduced this year by the Consejo after the increase in the levy on bodegas for Sherry sold. By this means the Consejo was able to increase its budget by 50% for generic promotion. The levy producers have to pay was re-introduced after the recuperation of prices in previous years: from €0.24 in 2011/12 to €0.39 in 2013/14. Nevertheless the situation began to change last year with the first drop in prices and this is threatening to repeat itself.

Fernando Cordoba, Manuel Lozano and Angel Leon at the bodega

The Castillo de San Marcos in El Puerto was the scene of the announcement of this year’s Ciclo Cultural, an up-market gastronomic event organised by Luis Caballero. There will be three events, on the 6th, the 13th and the 20th of August. The first two will be led by Manuel Lozano, chief oenologist at Lustau and recent winner for the 7th time of the best fortified winemaker award at the International Wine Challenge. The third will be led by two of Andalucía’s most outstanding chefs: Fernando Córdoba of Restaurante El Faro who specialises in food from the land, and Ángel León of Restaurante Aponiente who specialises in food from the sea. Both restaurants are in El Puerto. There will be plenty of Sherry expertly matched with outstanding food. Places are limited and tickets can be bought at

This year’s horse racing on the Piletas beach at Sanlúcar will take place on the following dates: 12, 13 and 14 August then 26,27 and 28 August. A total of 85 horses are registered in this, the 170th year of these historic and wonderful races.

Horses on Piletas beach (foto:VictorLopez/lavozdigital)

This year’s Noches de Bajo de Guia flamenco festival will take place in the gardens of the Palacio Municipal on the evenings of the 21 and 22 August. Pride of place will be given to local artists and this year it will not be a competition as before. The Palace was built by the Duc de Monpensier whose descendants established the bodega Infantes de Orleans Borbón and now belongs to the city council.

A new festival is being prepared for Sanlúcar. The I Feria del Langostino will celebrate the local seafood and in particular the famous local langostino. A date has yet to be fixed.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

23.7.15 Wine & Brandy Routes of Jerez Doing Well

ACEVIN (Asociación Española de Ciudades del Vino) has published visitor figures for bodegas in the Jerez area for 2014, which put them in second position in Spain after Penedés in Cataluña. The Jerez routes received 444,427 visitors, only about 5,000 behind Penedés. Last year the Jerez routes saw an increase of about 13,000 people.

According to ACEVIN, Jerez and Penedés benefit from their proximity to tourist centres such as the Costas and large cities like Barcelona and Sevilla while having some of the most visited bodegas in Spain. Last year the total number of visitors to bodegas and wine museums in Spain as a whole rose to 2,124,229 and they spent over €42.5 million.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

22.7.15 80th Anniversary Conference at Consejo

El Vino de Jerez Durante 80 Años de la Denominación de Origen 1935-2015 is the title of a scientific conference to be held in Jerez as part of the 80th anniversary celebrations of Spain’s first DO. The conference, organised by the Consejo and the University of Cádiz, will analyse in a scientific manner eight decades of Sherry’s intense and complex history. The event will take place at the Consejo on Thurs. 26th, Fri. 27th and the morning of Sat.28th November. 

This important conference will have six central themes:

* The Consejo Regulador and other representative Sherry institutions during the 20th century
* Modernisation of winemaking and technical innovation in the production of Sherry over the last 80    years
* Urban development, renovation of architecture and patrimony of the Sherry bodegas
* Communication and image of Sherry in the last 80 years
* The traditional Sherry markets and their evolution in the last 80 years
* The business structure of the bodegas from 1935 till the present

There will be nine key lectures focusing on and developing these fundamental themes. The event will finish up with two round tables which will be attended by representatives of different aspects of the Sherry business. In parallel with the aforementioned events, there will be various others, such as visits to bodegas and vineyards and tastings which will be included in the programme.

Tickets will go on sale in September at a price of €40 with a 50% discount for students, the retired or unemployed. There will only be places for 100 people. One can participate either as a speaker or as a registered member of the audience. For further information see