Grupo Estévez has decided to make its wines 100% Jerez. If you thought Sherry already is 100% Jerez, well it isn’t quite. The alcohol used for fortification comes from La Mancha and is distilled from the Airén grape rather than the Palomino of Jerez. At about 95%/vol the alcohol is very pure and has no flavour, but it doesn’t come from Jerez. This is a spin-off from Jerez brandy, which needs far greater volumes of grapes than Jerez can produce. At the end of the XIX century distilleries were established in La Mancha for this purpose and logically they also produce the fortification spirit.
The highest level of Denominación de Origen (DO) is the DO “Calificada”, held only by Rioja and Priorato, and Sherry should definitely hold it as well, but there is a general lack of interest. Grupo Estévez is interested, however, and has opted to make all their wines 100% Jerez which is a condition of the DOC. They will start with the 2015 harvest to distil Palomino for fortification and use it in Fino Tio Mateo to begin with and gradually work through the range.
|Jose Ramon Estevez growing Sherry (foto:Miguel Angel Gonzalez/diariojerez)|
Estévez wants the cooperatives to set aside some of their production for distillation and sell the wine as sobretablas (already fortified rather than just fermented). They would pay the market price for the alcohol and compensate any losses by paying more for the grapes: 80-85 pesetas (@50 céntimos in Euros) the kilo rather than the 65 ptas. paid last year representing an increase of 25-30%. (In Jerez they still use the old peseta for grape purchases).
The cooperatives could thus add value to their product which would help them through difficult times. Sales are still declining and they sometimes have to wait up to two years to be paid, so according to Estévez they need to change their business model to avoid the loss of even more vineyard. Estévez maintain that the idea of 100% Jerez wines is a “strategic decision” which is in contrast to the norm of producing excesses to reduce grape prices to the cheapest in Spain.
José Ramon Estévez would like to see the construction of a distillery in Jerez if the plan goes well. It would also produce 100% Jerez brandy. The company has already sent an important quantity of last year’s Palomino must from Jerez for distillation in La Mancha with this project in mind.