“People need to be made to understand that Sherry is a wine and not a spirit.”
Beltrán Domecq, an oenologist who is considered to be one of the great Sherry men, was speaking yesterday at the Hotel Jerez on the present and future of Sherry at the Desayunos Informativos (informative breakfasts) organised by the publisher Grupo Joly and sponsored by Banco Santander.
The Consejo is celebrating its 80th anniversary. It has been a long journey in which much has changed, but the purpose for which it was established has not: its fundamental dedication to the certification, protection and promotion of Sherry. 80 years on, it is facing new challenges in a much more competitive global marketplace. The institution’s president, Beltrán Domecq, is appealing for a strategy to be put in place for what he considers the “best wine in the world to continue to be a source of wealth for many years to come.”
Contrary to what might be thought, the Consejo president’s powers are limited and he has no magic wand to solve the problems of the sector, but he highlighted the intensive promotional work of recent years, saying “I firmly believe that the future of Sherry will be played out in the marketplace and not in offices.”
|Beltran in full flow (foto:diariojerez - published by Grupo Joly)|
After offering a few facts on the internal workings of the Consejo and some trade statistics, he went on to analyse the actual situation and the tools available to the sector to consolidate recent advances, sketching out a better future for Sherry. The president has a “feeling” that the trend has been changing over the last couple of years, and improved prices for Sherry have led to increased turnover despite reduced sales volume.
Furthermore, the president pointed out that the wine trade encompasses other associated activities which also generate wealth, for example the distribution of other drinks and food products or wine tourism, which attracts about half a million visitors to the area. Then there are the more intangible things among which he mentioned the wine as a sign of cultural identity and the principal means of international recognition of the area.
The evolution of sales of Sherry and its consumers demonstrate some of the main challenges and opportunities the sector faces, and they are not without dangers. Sr. Domecq explained that although Spain is the principal market, nearly half of the rest goes to the traditional European markets which prefer the sweeter styles like Cream, Medium and Pale Cream, but think of it more as a liqueur than a wine. On this point he considered that the sector must promote Sherry more and more as a wine. “We must link our product to the grape, to the vineyard, to gastronomy and everything to do with wine. While this might appear obvious to many, the positioning Sherry as a wine in the eyes of consumers and professionals still needs work.”
There are three types of Sherry consumer. The” traditionals”, among whom there are many women over 55 years of age who see Sherry as an aperitif but also drink it at other times of day, however their numbers are declining. The “Occasionals” consist of both sexes who drink it at fairs, celebrations or in cocktails. Then there are the “experts” who also consist of both sexes but are younger and drink it more often and more like any other white wine, but preferably with food. Sr. Domecq encouraged the targeting of promotion towards this group which has a better grasp of the versatility and variety of Sherry, a wine which can sit with you at the table and be drunk from a more suitable glass than a copita or tasting glass.
Now that Sherry has set out again on the path of growth in value and in the hope of increased sales, the president defended “the need to define a strategy based on the criteria of identity, quality and profitability,” to consolidate recent progress and allow Sherry to continue to generate wealth for years to come. Among the proposals which could contribute to positive change, Sr. Domecq backed the incorporation of profound changes to the regulations, paying special attention to the need to make the traditional premium wines compatible with the development of other products aimed at the volume sector. The idea is to segment the range of styles taking advantage of the value of the brand “Sherry” and its implicit quality.
The president encouraged the trade to concentrate its efforts in defining what the Sherry which conquers the future should be like, its categories, types and requirements, always in accord with consumer opinion. At the same time he underscored the importance of the leading role played by the premium Sherries with their thoroughbred Jerez values of the vineyard, the ageing period etc.
He also pointed out the importance of exploring increased communication: “how to communicate with consumers, where to apply collective effort and with what message”, aspects with which the Consejo and other trade organisations are already working.
“Personally, I must say that I have loved Sherry since I was born, and that as an oenologist I am convinced that our wine is the best in the world,” declared Beltrán Domecq, who is optimistic for the future with the conviction that “ if we work together, the wines of Jerez will achieve the success they deserve.”