Jerez City Council has decided to take a step forward to empower the Sherry vineyards as a tourist attraction. It is well known that previous municipal efforts fell foul of the Junta in this respect so it will have to be seen how this will work in the future. On this occasion however, the council is aware that too much of the tourist offer is based in Jerez itself and that the vineyards offer the chance to discover the very roots of Sherry.
On Thursday the mayoress, Mamen Sánchez, and Consejo president, Beltrán Domecq and director, César Saldaña, accompanied by members of the relevant council departments visited the vineyards of the Castillo de Macharnudo, the Cooperativa Nuestra Señora de Las Angustias and bodegas Real Tesoro with the idea of promoting the harvest from the vine to the bodega.
|Mamen Sanchez helping with the harvest (foto:diariodejerez)|
The mayoress said that “Jerez is also about vineyards, not just towns and independent local entities but about the countryside which little by little we are going to make into a tourist resource.” She praised the work already being done by private enterprise as well as that of the Ruta del Vino y Brandy. One of the first things to be done is to produce a guide to the tourist resources the vineyards offer for promotion abroad. She also said that diversification is needed around the wine itself, opening the vineyards to visitors. As Beltrán Domecq said, “the vineyard is 50% of the wine, so it is hugely important for the quality of Sherry.”
The council noted that the Fiestas de Vendimia which are to be held from 1 – 20 September will be celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Denominación de Origen and of the Consejo, and numerous activities will be taking place in the vineyards.
It was an intense meeting which clearly demonstrated the tourist potential being wasted by not making better use of the vineyard houses, all standing in elevated positions with spectacular views and the cool interiors provided by their XIX century construction.
Rafael Rendón, director of Beam Suntory, explained at the Castillo de Macharnudo how the harvest progressed through to the favourite product of the Anglo Saxon world: Bristol Cream. At Las Angustias it was pointed out that they are one of the largest producers with 200 growers on 1,000 hectares of vineyard. At Grupo Estévez’ bodegas Real Tesoro, company secretary, Jaime Estévez and production director, Eduardo Ojeda, showed the visitors the technology at their production centre in Avda. Reina Sofía yet they still employ traditional harvest practices. Eduardo Ojeda explained the fine quality of this year’s harvest saying that the sugar levels, acidity and health of the grapes are excellent. The group is making great efforts during this summer to promote the vineyards.
The visit really showed the potential there is and how much benefit there could be. Let us hope it happens.
The big three bodegas in Jerez (González Byass, Estévez and Beam Suntory) have nearly finished what has been a fairly short harvest but one of excellent quality which may exceed the Consejo’s predictions of 70 million kilos. The Consejo says it has been a “capricious” vintage with days with very high temperatures and others cooler. Over 45 million kilos are already picked with most of the rest in the cooler coastal areas starting to come in.
The first “mostos” or newly fermented wines will be ready inside a month, according to Eduardo Ojeda, production director at Grupo Estévez. They will be fermenting the “mosto yema” (the finest juice, pressed by its own weight) for Finos, some in barrel for Valdespino Inocente and the rest in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks for Tio Mateo. Juice from the presses will produce other styles of wine, especially Olorosos.
Mechanised harvesting, meanwhile, appears unstoppable. According to Rafael Rendón of Beam Suntory, producers of Bristol Cream, 90% of the grapes were harvested by machine. González Byass used to employ about 500 pickers, but now it is more like 100, and mainly for the old vines which are not planted in a suitable way for machines.