Friday, 27 November 2015

27.11.15 It All Began With Fraud

The cause of the origin. With this premise Alberto Ramos Santana, doctor of contemporary history at the University of Cádiz, gave a lecture titled “The Genesis of Denominaciónes de Origen”, to those attending the symposium celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Consejo Regulador in Jerez yesterday.

“To speak of Denominación de Origen is to speak of the classification and individualisation of what we produce,” he began. “One of the most widespread suppositions is to talk about what happens when wines are named after their place of origin. Another is that in taverns all over the province the wines were easily recognised by their provenance, the classics being those from Jerez, El Puerto and Sanlúcar.”

Alberto ramos Santana (foto:uca)
Nevertheless, during his talk Ramos emphasised two essential aspects. Firstly, with the arrival of Phylloxera in Europe in 1863, small winegrowers quickly went bust and the big ones were left to face up to the challenge. Secondly, in places like France and Jerez fraud and imitation took off since production by 1866 had plummeted to nearly half and there was no spare wine for export. In the case of Jerez wines were fortified with alcohol from Germany which did not originate from wine.

At the Congress of Intellectual property in Paris in 1878 people started discussing who had the property of each product. In this sense the Agreement of Madrid of 1891, to which very few subscribed, differentiated between indication of provenance, generic denomination and the denomination of origin – which it failed to define. It would not be until 1902 according to Ramos, when there began to appear “a clear precedent for denomination of origin” through a law promoted in May which regulated “the use of collective brands under the geographical name of the place of production.” In Jerez two great motivators stepped up who proposed to restore the winemaking culture: the ex-mayor of Jerez, Juan F Lassaletta and the Marqués de Casa-Domecq who, despite their good intentions, came up against an argument between growers and exporters about the Jerez denomination not accepting wines from elsewhere, or on the contrary that it was a collective brand for various producers.

The brand “Vino de Jerez” along with the territory which should be included in the denomination of origin went through as many stages as political changes. Particularly memorable is the date of January 1935 when the statutes of the Consejo Regulador were approved. The regulations established the zone of production as Jerez, El Puerto, Chipiona, Rota, Puerto Real, Chiclana and Sanlúcar. One year later the deputy Juan José Palomino suspended this clause and established that the production zone should include all the wine villages of Cádiz, Córdoba, Sevilla and Huelva, limiting the crianza zone to Jerez and El Puerto and legalising adulteration and fraud in the production of Sherry, thus pandering to the exporters.

This situation only lasted till the following year when the people of Jerez punished him by not voting for him in the 1936 elections. Then the demarcation returned to the original, but including Lebrija. Now the Consejo’s job was to get rid of fraud and imitation Sherries throughout the world. A real lesson from history.

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