In his lecture to the Scientific Symposium celebrating 80 years of the DO Jerez, the famous historian Javier Maldonado Rosso chose to talk about “From the Gremio de la Vinatería to the Consejo Regulador. From Protectionism to Liberalism.” He said that there is a widespread belief that the Gremio de la Vinatería/Cosecheros (Guild of Winegrowers) was the antecedent of the Consejo, but this is far from true.
While Denominaciones de Origen and Consejos Reguladores came about from the necessity for self-regulation and to combat fraud and imitation which were doing enormous damage at the beginning of the XX century, the growers’ guilds were revelling in privileges granted long ago by royalty which meant a straightjacket for the development of Sherry by holding back modernization. The Consejos are integrated entities; they unify growers, almacenistas and exporters to whom they offer judicial security while they represent a guarantee for consumers. In contrast the Gremios were exclusive – growers only – rabid localists and protectionists of their privileges.
The Gremio de la Vinatería de Jerez was established in the XVIII century, closely preceding those of Sanlúcar and El Puerto. It was constituted in response to the growth of exports and the consequent disparity of interests between growers and exporters. The exporters wanted to squeeze the growers to achieve better margins so the growers organised to protect themselves, but the Gremios tended to be run badly by oligarchies of growers. The system was corrupt from the start and by the end of the 1760s, the growers’ failure to comply with their own rules led to the development of the system we know today. In the case of Jerez the transformation was led by Juan Haurie – founder of what would become Domecq – together with a small band of growers who established the ageing of wine in the solera system for easy blending for British tastes which led to the construction of the great bodegas to store them.
|Javier Maldonado Rosso (foto:gentedelpuerto)|
This movement, whose objective was to recapture the added value of the wine from Britain so it remained in Jerez, led to the liberalisation of prices and the appearance of exporting houses with vertical integration – the bodegas de Crianza y Expedición which also owned vineyards. With the triumph of liberalism after the death of Fernando VII in 1834, the Gremios were abolished without the growers’ attempts to face down the exporters over the following decades ever coming to fruition.