Sunday, 29 November 2015

29.11.15 Lustau to Launch Vermouth

Madrid’s Botanic Garden is the venue for the launch of this interesting new product on 10 December. It is made from Amontillado and PX Sherry over 10 years old selected by oenologist Manuel Lozano. The vermouth is flavoured with over 10 botanicals including wormwood, gentian and orange peel, all of them macerated separately. The firm has revived one of their old formulas from the past when many Sherry firms made vermouth, a drink which has been seeing an enthusiastic revival recently.

29.11.15 César Saldaña Looks at Sherry’s Traditional Markets

The Director General of the Consejo Regulador, César Saldaña led a debate on the evolution of the traditional markets over the last 80 years in the Scientific Symosium marking the 80th anniversary of the Denimonación de Origen at the Consejo’s bodega San Ginés yesterday. He was joined by representatives of those markets: the UK, Holland and Germany.

In the mid XX century these three markets took 79% of exports between them. Fluctuations in these markets took place in three key periods over the last 80 years: the period of warfare between 1935 and 1960, the golden age of expansion between 1960 and 1986 during which time Spain joined the EU and Nato, and the period from 1986 till the present day when sales slumped and EU grants dried up.
Cesar Saldana (centre) at the debate (foto:diariodejerez)
The crises of the mid and late 1980s brought desperate measures including the lowering of costs and the reduction of advertising due to the lack of external grants, and the image of Sherry collapsed. The period between 1993 and 2008 saw things improve until the world banking crisis put a stop to that with exports and consumption falling dramatically, and young people turned away from wine which they saw as an alcoholic drink for old people at Christmas.

Despite it all, César confesses to seeing “signs of change” thanks to the growth in “experts and people interested in wine,” protagonists of “an aspiration towards a future of growth, not only in volume but also in image, prestige, price and profitability. I don’t know when, but I’m sure improvement will only come if we continue to sell Sherry for what it is, a great wine.”

29.11.15 Re-invention is the Key to the Future

A round table debated the future of Sherry on the closing day of the Scientific Symposium held at the Consejo Regulador in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the DO Sherry. The speakers were Fedejerez president Evaristo Babé, Equipo Navazos’ Jesús Barquín, Williams & Humbert MD Jesús Medina and Barbadillo MD Víctor Vélez, and the moderator was David Fernández, director of Diario de Cádiz.

Víctor Vélez opened the debate saying that “the future of Sherry is a complex question. The Consejo figures are disappointing so I would say that it is uncertain. There is a tremendous emotional distance with Sherry, it is associated with an Andalucian culture and high degrees of alcohol, yet on the other hand, a luxury-loving public is emerging which is interested in cuisine and which knows the oenological qualities of the wine. There is a revival, but our wine is difficult to understand and few really get it.” Jesús Medina made the point that “The number of wines included in the DO has been a fortress but now it has become our weakness. We need to focus on selling the wines which I consider the basics: Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso and Palo Cortado.”

Jesús Barquín said that the future starts with the Jerezanos themselves, who “should know their own wine. The locals should love the wine, but that is something that has disappeared for a variety of sociological and political reasons of which they are aware.” Evaristo Babé took a realistic view saying “We can’t keep making the same mistakes and say that Sherry is the best wine in the world and just leave it at that. We must be realistic, it is an excellent wine, but when you look at the figures the quality and the profitability don’t correspond. We must be optimistic but also consistent with what is said and done.”

Revival or rebirth of Sherry coming from increased consumption by young people occupied much of the debate. "I am not sure, I have heard that people are coming back to wine but I would like to see a study to endorse it,” said Víctor Vélez, and Jesús Medina agreed saying “there is a renewed interest but sales keep on falling. We need to take advantage of this interest and create an image far from that of traditional, and cheap, wine.”

The debate in Bodega San Gines at the Consejo (foto:Miguel AngelGonzalez/diariojerez)
The production of quality up-market or premium wines was a subject much talked about during the Symposium. With this range of more up-market wines and the consequent increase in pricing, the experts would like to achieve, in the words of Jesús Barquín, “the lost prestige. In the XIX century natural Sherries were already sold at much higher prices and they were duly recognised. We should focus on the word “Jerez” meaning the whole area and reserve it for the natural wines and get rid of the baggage of everything linked to the idea of “Sherry.” Evaristo Babé said that while “these quality premium wines were fundamental they would not be enough for the survival of most bodegas.” Jesús Medina said “We need to be careful in this respect. The Marqués de Casa Domecq once spoke of laboratory-blended wines. To me Sherries are the basics I mentioned before, but that doesn’t mean to say that everybody should make premium wines as that would be reflected in the profits.”

Would this increase in prices recover the prestige of the wines, or would it just shock the local clientele? “The price is the consequence of factors relating to the past,” said Jesús Medina, “It is perfectly compatible to have both premium wines and others at a more accessible price, though the latter should be properly made and represent a fair profit.” Evaristo Babé didn’t see a problem with a young person drinking a glass of Sherry for just a euro or two, the worry comes “when that price is the result of an imbalance between supply and demand, although that is about right for now.”

The most positive thing about the situation according to the experts, is that Sherry’s position is understood, and from there it can go forward using tools such as communication and marketing. It is time to get to work and construct an image of excellence in line with the quality of the product because “Sherry clearly has a future. It only has to reinvent itself with a consequent change in the mentality of the trade,” as Evaristo Babé put it.

29.11.15 BIB: History is Repeating Itself

The High Court of Andalucía supported the Consejo’s case in April 2006 when it rejected an appeal by a Sanlúcar bodega against a fine imposed by the Consejo, with the approval of the Junta’s agriculture department, for selling Manzanilla in BIB. Armed with this legal precedent, the Consejo and Fedejerez are wondering how it is that the Junta, which supported the fine at the time, does not nip the current BIB affair in the bud.

Back in 2000 Gáspar Florido, later taken over by Pedro Romero, released a Manzanilla in BIB which was the first one ever. This rang alarm bells at the Consejo who acted without delay in initiatiating proceedings, opening Pandora’s Box in the process. The result was a fine of €28,086.50 plus €1,083.50 being the value of the just over 100 BIBs. After an inspection of the premises the Consejo confiscated another 1,560 BIBs which were ready to be sold so that they could be disqualified according to the court ruling.

Tabancos must use garrafas (foto:Jose Contreras, diariodejerez)

This High Court ruling shows that the prosecution was the result of four inspections carried out by the Consejo which found a quantity of wine in five litre BIBs labelled “Manzanilla en Rama.” The BIBs had stuck to them two strips with the Consejo Seal, one a guarantee of origin and the other stating the capacity of four litres, the latter being exclusively issued for glass containers. It seems that there were one litre strips added to balance up the stocks. The bodega’s appeal was dismissed.

The High Court’s case was that the rules of the Consejo Regulador are “special rules” which prevail over more general rules. The sentence stated: “Although national and EU regulations permit the use of BIB, the DO Sherry rules state that wine can only be sold by member bodegas in containers which do not prejudice its quality or prestige and are are approved by the Consejo Regulador.  Furthermore, the court pointed out that the bodega in question, which had a seat at the Consejo, knew that BIBs had been prohibited by a majority at a plenary meeting after another bodega had brought up the matter.  And at a plenary on 20 July 2000 BIBs were banned unanimously. Florido “knew this perfectly well .”

Last September the Consejo again rejected by majority a proposal by a Manzanilla representative to authorise BIBs. Despite this rejection, the Manzanilleros – with the exceptions of La Guita, Barbadillo and Delgado Zuleta – announced their decision to market Manzanilla in the forbidden container, claiming to have the support of the agriculture department of the Junta. The latter, which has the power to pronounce on matters such as this, has signally failed to do so. The Consejo therefore issued a statement denouncing the fact that the Manzanilleros seem to be behaving with impunity because of the lack of action to resolve the matter by the Junta.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

28.11.15 “Sherry” a Term in Constant Crisis

Álvaro Girón Sierra, doctor of History at the University of Cádiz, gave a lecture on this subject in its historical and social context since 1935 at the Scientific Symposium in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the DO Sherry. He began by quoting the Marqués de Casa Domecq who said in 1875 “It is a mistake to export too much Sherry. It is a wine for the rich or the infirm which, like Burgundy or Champagne, should not be within the reach of everyone.”

Álvaro wanted to get down to the deep roots of the Sherry crisis, “the problems of which are still dragging Sherry down to this day.” He explained that the word “Sherry” was synonymous for many decades, not with Jerez but with a specific process of winemaking to which low quality alcohol was added to produce an adulterated drink for export.

Alvaro Giron (
The fact that exporters were more interested in quantity than quality ended up in compounding the problem. “Sherry is so expensive to produce that for the price for which it is sold the bodegas cannot usually make a profit. This is incompatible with quality.”

To add insult to injury, British and German doctors for many years branded Sherry as harmful to the health, declarations which, although they denied them, simply did more to damage the image which Sherry already had.

28.11.15 Harvesting from Knife to Machine

Carmelo García, professor of analytical chemistry and coordinator of the Master in Vitiviniculture at the University of Cádiz (UCA) gave a talk on technical innovation at the Scientific Symposium in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the DO Sherry titled “Oenological renovation and technological innovation in Jerez over the last 80 years.

Carmelo Garcia (foto:lavozdigital)
Carmelo listed in detail the evolution of all the processes required for the elaboration of wine right from the start: the harvest. One of the key aspects and which differentiates the process now from that of centuries ago has much to do with climate change, which has caused the advancement of the harvest from September to August.

Technological change goes hand in hand with the entire production process, from harvesting with the traditional knife to the use of machines which now pick nearly 85% of the grapes. The grapes are no longer brought in in canastas (traditional baskets), and few are sunned outside. Now there are acclimatised chambers devised by UCA, where humidity and temperature are controlled and the grapes can dry in perfect conditions in half the time and with guaranteed quality.

28.11.15 The Ins and Outs of the Bodega City Project

José Manuel Aladro Prieto, professor of architecture at the University of Sevilla, addressed the Scientific Symposium in celebration of the 80th anniversary of DO Jerez on “Renovation versus Tradition: Architecture and the city in the second half of the XX century.” He began by saying that “the dilemma between renovation and tradition is so present in Jerez that it affects its architecture, urban planning and everything symbolic.”

Jose Manuel Aladro Prieto
The revolution in mechanisation and technology which hit Jerez along with the rest of Europe during the second half of the last century provoked a transformation in the culture of wine, “with a dismantling of the model of architecture, city and land established since the XIX century. The change of land model brought some lagares from the vineyards to the city, but the change is more relevant in the opposite direction since at the start of the XX century mechanised transport made it possible for some companies to move their installations to the vineyard, meaning the wine was leaving the city.”

From then on the landscape of Jerez changed and bodegas started to establish themselves at the city’s perimeter at the new Carretera de Circunvalación (ring road) built as part of general urbanisation plans. At first these projects allowed the two big firms of the city to expand towards the Cuatro Caminos area, but the bodegas were growing so fast that the municipality could not satisfy their needs. The euphoria was short lived as there was no longer enough land for the immense bodega complexes being built at the time.

Huge bodegas with vineyards at the edge of the city

In parallel with the construction of these vast complexes, there were changes in building materials. Concrete and steel structures are now common as they can be made bigger to accommodate conveniently and efficiently all the functions of a bodega in one place. Most present externally the aesthetics of the traditional bodega but inside they are simply huge industrial spaces.