Friday, 10 July 2015

10.7.15 Q & A with Beltran Domecq; More on 100% Jerez

After yesterday’s Desayuno Informativo with Consejo president Beltrán Domecq in Jerez there was the chance to ask him questions. The majority of them focused on the recent announcement from Grupo Estévez that they intended to distil Palomino for fortification spirit thus making their Tio Mateo brand 100% Jerez. The president declared that he disagreed with this and that “all wine certified and supported by the Denominación de Origen (DO) is 100% Jerez.”

The wine producers were well represented and asked various questions on the current position, about such matters as supply and demand, grape prices, the possibility of promoting Sherry from DO to DOC, the proliferation of bag-in-box, all matters in some way related to the Estévez announcement which seems to be generating an element of unease. For Beltrán Domecq the debate on 100% Jerez is closed since everything in a bottle of Sherry is produced locally except a tiny proportion of fortification alcohol which has been used historically to stabilise wine for export.

He feels that if a producer wants to distil excess Palomino grapes into fortification spirit that’s fine, but it makes little sense from the technical point of view since the alcohol currently used has a strength of 95-96%/vol which is the maximum obtainable from distillation and is extremely pure – unlike in the case of Port, where the spirit is only 77%/vol. In other words the Sherry bodegas have always bought alcohol from the distilleries in La Mancha which is clean, pure and neutral and does not alter the characteristics of the wine – fundamentally its flavour.

Sr. Domecq went on to say that a wine such as that proposed by Estévez can’t be made overnight.  It will take years from fortification to final bottling due to the solera system. He also pointed out it would be difficult to certify, and that the debate was unnecessary given the more important challenges facing Sherry.

On the matter of a DOC, the president said that the Consejo had considered it and shelved it. The door is not closed, but there is a problem and that is that the bodegas would have to be dedicated to the production of Sherry only, meaning that brandy, table wine or vinegar would need to be moved to other bodegas, and this would be very costly, especially in the current situation.

Another question was about the fact that Fino can be produced in Sanlúcar, but Manzanilla cannot be produced in Jerez. This matter has been fully debated at the Consejo but due to a lack of agreement it was archived. The president’s view is that “It is obvious that the wine of Sanlúcar is Manzanilla, so there can’t be Fino of Sanlúcar, so the regulations would need to be adjusted.” On the subject of containers he said that bulk Sherry can only be sold in containers of one arroba (@ 16 litres) therefore bag-in-box is illegal and is not supported by the DO.

Many non-trade people asked questions too, and a local councillor who wondered why a Sherry label does not carry a bottling date. Beltrán Domecq did not reject the idea saying that some bodegas already print a “use by” date and always to drink Fino and Manzanilla well chilled.

He expressed his admiration for the growth of the tabancos who bring Sherry culture to young people, but lamented the mistreatment of Sherry on wine lists – even in Jerez – something he is working on. He wound up with a recommendation, one which not a few took on board, fried eggs with ham and a glass of Amontillado “which is what I feel like right now!” (at eleven in the morning).

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