Sunday, 29 November 2015

29.11.15 Re-invention is the Key to the Future

A round table debated the future of Sherry on the closing day of the Scientific Symposium held at the Consejo Regulador in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the DO Sherry. The speakers were Fedejerez president Evaristo Babé, Equipo Navazos’ Jesús Barquín, Williams & Humbert MD Jesús Medina and Barbadillo MD Víctor Vélez, and the moderator was David Fernández, director of Diario de Cádiz.

Víctor Vélez opened the debate saying that “the future of Sherry is a complex question. The Consejo figures are disappointing so I would say that it is uncertain. There is a tremendous emotional distance with Sherry, it is associated with an Andalucian culture and high degrees of alcohol, yet on the other hand, a luxury-loving public is emerging which is interested in cuisine and which knows the oenological qualities of the wine. There is a revival, but our wine is difficult to understand and few really get it.” Jesús Medina made the point that “The number of wines included in the DO has been a fortress but now it has become our weakness. We need to focus on selling the wines which I consider the basics: Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso and Palo Cortado.”

Jesús Barquín said that the future starts with the Jerezanos themselves, who “should know their own wine. The locals should love the wine, but that is something that has disappeared for a variety of sociological and political reasons of which they are aware.” Evaristo Babé took a realistic view saying “We can’t keep making the same mistakes and say that Sherry is the best wine in the world and just leave it at that. We must be realistic, it is an excellent wine, but when you look at the figures the quality and the profitability don’t correspond. We must be optimistic but also consistent with what is said and done.”

Revival or rebirth of Sherry coming from increased consumption by young people occupied much of the debate. "I am not sure, I have heard that people are coming back to wine but I would like to see a study to endorse it,” said Víctor Vélez, and Jesús Medina agreed saying “there is a renewed interest but sales keep on falling. We need to take advantage of this interest and create an image far from that of traditional, and cheap, wine.”

The debate in Bodega San Gines at the Consejo (foto:Miguel AngelGonzalez/diariojerez)
The production of quality up-market or premium wines was a subject much talked about during the Symposium. With this range of more up-market wines and the consequent increase in pricing, the experts would like to achieve, in the words of Jesús Barquín, “the lost prestige. In the XIX century natural Sherries were already sold at much higher prices and they were duly recognised. We should focus on the word “Jerez” meaning the whole area and reserve it for the natural wines and get rid of the baggage of everything linked to the idea of “Sherry.” Evaristo Babé said that while “these quality premium wines were fundamental they would not be enough for the survival of most bodegas.” Jesús Medina said “We need to be careful in this respect. The Marqués de Casa Domecq once spoke of laboratory-blended wines. To me Sherries are the basics I mentioned before, but that doesn’t mean to say that everybody should make premium wines as that would be reflected in the profits.”

Would this increase in prices recover the prestige of the wines, or would it just shock the local clientele? “The price is the consequence of factors relating to the past,” said Jesús Medina, “It is perfectly compatible to have both premium wines and others at a more accessible price, though the latter should be properly made and represent a fair profit.” Evaristo Babé didn’t see a problem with a young person drinking a glass of Sherry for just a euro or two, the worry comes “when that price is the result of an imbalance between supply and demand, although that is about right for now.”

The most positive thing about the situation according to the experts, is that Sherry’s position is understood, and from there it can go forward using tools such as communication and marketing. It is time to get to work and construct an image of excellence in line with the quality of the product because “Sherry clearly has a future. It only has to reinvent itself with a consequent change in the mentality of the trade,” as Evaristo Babé put it.

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