While the vineyards of Jerez have been drastically reduced, producers are looking at them again as a decisive factor in the final quality of the wine, and indeed other products such as brandy. As things stand, 95% of the grapes for brandy come (legally) from outside the Sherry zone, from La Mancha, as Jerez can’t produce nearly enough, but it would add value if a brandy could be made from Jerez grapes.
Grupo Estévez is hatching a plan to do just that and is looking for trade support in the creation of a distillery. They have set aside a considerable quantity of Jerez wine from 2014 for distillation into a Solera Reserva brandy with plans to later produce a Solera Gran Reserva, and these would provide a market for any excess production.
There exists already the occasional 100% Jerez brandy, but Estévez wants to go a step further by certifying the use of 100% Palomino grapes qualified for Sherry production which will be traceable. According to José Ramón Estévez, group president, this initiative means that, like Cognac for example, every drop in the bottle would come from within the Denominación de Origen and would have the fingerprint of the vineyards of Jerez.
|Jose Ramon Estevez (foto:diariodejerez)|
This fits in with the Estévez philosophy of putting more value back into the vineyards, dealing with any over-production and guaranteeing the growers a sale for their grapes. However, with the reduction in vineyard a balance was achieved between production and sales, and bodegas have been able to reduce stocks considerably: from 1.2 million butts down to just under 300,000 in recent years. Indeed, some bodegas have not bought any grapes in the last 4 or 5 years, but will need to do so soon making excess production unlikely. This situation is likely to see increases in grape prices.
The brandy business needs to focus on quality, especially as many cheaper brands no longer have the support of the Consejo as they not only reduced the strength to below the minimum of 36%/vol, but blended in non-grape spirit. Estévez want to build a communal distillery – a first for Jerez – which would make quality spirit, 100% Jerez, and reduce costs. Currently the costs of producing spirit in La Mancha are rising due to more expensive grapes and transport, fiscal pressure and a reduction in EU grants, and demand is falling. Estévez therefore believes that this is the right moment to build a distillery and restore quality and value to JEREZ brandy.