Friday, 29 May 2015

An Interview with José Luis López Linares, Directior of El Misterio del Palo Cortado

The first showing in Jerez of El Misterio del Palo Cortado took place last night at the Sala Compañía. This very successful film, directed by José Luis López Linares and produced by Antonio Saura, features leading chefs, sommeliers and many members of the wine trade in Jerez. Here José Luis is interviewed by A Cala of the Diario de Jerez.

How did Sherry inspire you to make this documentary?
When I arrived in Jerez I had practically no idea what a Palo Cortado was.  I saw that nobody could agree how it was made yet it had a clear definition, and I thought it would make a great protagonist for a film with all its possibilities: its history, its name…

The director on set 2014 (foto:diario jerez)
Once you had finished the film, was Palo Cortado still a mystery to you?
No, no, no, quite the opposite (he laughs). I like a good mystery and I like to discuss it, develop it but without revealing it. I wanted it to remain a mystery after the film, I think that is one of its great advantages: it is a mysterious wine, and if you take away the mystery you make it into just a normal wine. Wine should be a mystery, and this one even more, so the idea was to try to make it more so.

Were other Spanish wines more familiar to you?
Yes, and although I am a wine enthusiast, I had no idea about Sherry. A Fino occasionally, a Manzanilla, an Amontillado…, but it had never occurred to me to drink Sherry with food, and I hadn’t realised how great the wines could be. I think Sherry is somehow beyond the sphere of the wine enthusiasts, they know little about it which is a great pity. We tried to address this with the film, to enrich their knowledge and show that there is another wine which is not properly known.

Do you think that the word about Sherry is not adequately broadcast?
A lot is happening, and the wine has suddenly been discovered by the sommeliers in the great restaurants of Spain and most of the rest of the world. The word is getting through, and the film is part of this new way of focussing on Sherry.

What exactly is the film about?
It basically relates my experience in Jerez; it is very personal. I know that not all the bodegas which should have been in the film were in it, but then it would have been too long. The film tells of a visitor who has arrived in Jerez and met wonderful people and truly great wines. There are many things not included, but there was a time limit. What I think the film has achieved is to get across the fascination of Sherry.

Using a venencia, a shot from the film (foto:elmundo)

Filming must have been a real pleasure..?
A really hard pleasure! (he laughs). We filmed for long hours and every session brought some new discovery which we did not have time for. It was a fantastic experience because of the people in the bodegas, but it was one of the hardest in terms of hours – the harvest in the middle of it. Filming took from May to December.

And you also had great collaboration and participation from distinguished chefs, sommeliers, Sherry experts from prestigious restaurants like El Celler de Can Roca, Miramar, Mugaritz…,
Yes, yes, we really appreciated their support and knowledge, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Sherry bodegas: Tradición, González Byass, Rey Fernando de Castilla, El Maestro Sierra, Osborne, Barbadillo, Equipo Navazos, Harveys, Williams & Humbert etc., and the fundamental collaboration of the Consejo Regulador. And that of all the people of Jerez: oenologists, bodegueros, coopers, the people in the bodegas, in the vineyards, pickers, cellarmasters, all experts in their respective fields.

Do you think there might be a second part to the film? It has given you new ideas.
I don’t know, (he laughs), possibly. There are certainly other avenues.  Of course there are things we could not include in the film and I would like to do more. There are many possible themes in Sherry.

How was your partnership with Antonio Saura? You have worked together before.
We have been friends for many years and have already made “El Pollo, El Pez y El Cangrejo Real” about gastronomy and various television projects. We collaborate a lot.

Will you be visiting Jerez more often having made this film?
Well, not more often than last year! (he laughs).  I will visit when I can, I would love to.

What will this documentary do for cinema in general?
There are film makers who want to change the world, but I am less ambitious. What I want to do is find a subject I like and which merits being better known, and for me Sherry was a discovery which I wanted to share with as many people as possible.

Alceo once said “In Vino Veritas”. Is that true?
Yes, there is truth in wine, among many other things. Truth is complicated, where a lie is much simpler. The truth has shades, shapes, it can escape and you have to follow it. Wine helps one to find the truth.

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