Friday, 27 November 2015

27.11.15 Eight Decades of DO Jerez

The opening lecture at the Scientific Symposium  which forms part of the 80th anniversary of DO Sherry, was given yesterday by Luís García, a professor of constitutional law and past president of the Consejo. Since 80 years of history is a lot to cover in an hour and the lecture was so interesting, he was allowed to overrun.

The many regulations of the DO and their modifications formed the thread of the lecture. García felt the principal change during those 80 years came about from the Ley del Vino (Wine Law) 2003 which established the separation of the fuctions of control and management of DOs to avoid the conflict of Consejos being judge and jury. Curiously, the consequences of the transfer of powers of prosecution to the Junta can be seen in the current BIB conflict, in which some bodegas decided to sell Manzanilla in a prohibited container for which the Consejo is asking the Junta to prosecute, but without much response so far.

Luis Garcia with Cesar Saldana (foto: Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Diario Jerez)

García did not expand on this matter other than to say that the rivalry between Jerez and Sanlúcar is as old as the Consejo. Now that the Consejo no longer has the powers to prosecute, which it acquired in the regulations of 1941, it enjoys a friendlier and more agreeable countenance with fewer tensions, being responsible for matters such as sales quotas, prices or crop disqualifications, and is more centred on promotion of events like Venencia competitions and International Sherry Week. “Currently it is more glamorous but it is difficult to say if it is better or worse than what went before.” He alluded to the realities imposed on the Consejo, and with the loss of its legal powers the most it has been able to do is reduce the vineyard area from the 10,500 hectares of the recent past to the little over 6,000 of today to restore balance in supply and demand.

Regarding the love-hate relationship between Jerez and Sanlúcar, he said that Manzanilla used to find itself under the umbrella of Sherry at a time when it lacked its own identity; it was just another style of Sherry like Fino or Oloroso until the DO was split in 1964, which gave rise to dispute over the term “Manzanilla” after the ministry authorised its use for the product of the town in Huelva of the same name.

According to the professor the first regulations – and in 1935 there were at least three, the second of which excluded Sanlúcar from the ageing zone – set the foundations of a continuous adaption to a changing reality which was marked at the beginning by insufficient grape production, a situation which was correcting itself until the introduction of the regulation of 1964 which imposed order by limiting the entry of wine from outside the region with the exception of Vino de Color and Pedro Ximénez. Nevertheless, a sales quota was introduced that year of 40% which caused widespread discontent and threats of lawsuits, but this was settled by the regulations of 1969 which coincided with great expansion.

With the regulations of 1941, the zona de crianza was set as the towns of Jerez, Sanlúcar and El Puerto de Santa María, but Lebrija was excluded from the production zone causing a problem which would take 40 years to solve. The subzone Jerez Superior was introduced, along with the obligation to buy a percentage of grapes from it. These regulations were also modified on three occasions; in 1959 the Consejo was given the power to control unfair competition in price and quality, a ticking bomb which gave rise to not a few conflicts in relation to the drop in international markets. However in the records one could see confidence in the future of the trade, above all with the expansion of brandy sales at that time.

The Casa del Vino in Jerez
In 1956 the Consejo was able to celebrate the export of the 50,000th butt and was offered the site at the corner of Avenida Álvaro Domecq and Calle Paul on which was built the “Casa del Vino” the seat of the Consejo Regulador. During his run-through of the regulations, García related the ins and outs of the purchase of the site which had already been deemed necessary as early as 1938. Even so, it was a quarter of a century before the definitive site was chosen after consideration of one at Capuchinos and another at Sotoflores. Until construction of the new building was complete, the Consejo rented office space in a building in Calle Lealas, possibly at the site of the now disappeared Cine Lealas.

This important Symposium continues today with lectures by Carmelo García Barroso, Álvaro Girón, José Manuel Aladro and Enrique Montañés. There will be a debate on “Multinationals versus Family Businesses” in which such noteworthy people as Beltrán Domecq (Consejo president), Mauricio González Gordon MD of González Byass), Eduardo Ojeda (technical director of Grupo Estévez), Jorge Pascual (MD of Delgado Zuleta and ex Consejo president) and Helena Rivero López de Carrizosa (president of Bodegas Tradición).

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