Could Sherry be entering a new Golden Age? Writers in specialist publications are paying homage to a resurgence in what they consider is the best wine in the world and the trade, conscious of the opportunity, is working to recover lost prestige and put Sherry at the forefront of the world wine scene once again.
It is a question of price and not volume, and the statistics for the first two months of 2016 reflect that. Sales were down 13% or 3.8 million litres especially in export markets which were down 18% compared to the domestic market at 3%. Over half a million litres less was sold, 400,000 litres of this was due to the traditional European markets, and especially Germany which saw a drop of 57%. The UK looked better with a drop of only 1% while Holland grew by 0.17%. The drop in Spain, which has consolidated itself as the largest market, was 42,000 litres. The trade is not too worried however, as these figures could be reversed with the onset of the spring feria season in Andalucía.
Looking at the last 12 months, sales were 35.5 million litres or 1.2 million litres less than the previous 12 months, a drop of just over 3%. In the same period 11.5 million litres were sold in Spain, a drop of 0.78% while exports amounted to 24 million litres, a drop of 4.2%. While Germany is the big worry, there is hope in the UK which is the largest export market, and where after years of decline 10 million litres were sold, a drop of barely 1.8%. Holland is also looking more hopeful with sales of 7 million litres and growth of 7.75%.
The bodegas of Jerez have learned a hard lesson. Sales continue downwards and there is no sign of any change in this trend in the short term but there is an increase in sales of Bodega brands at the expense of BOBs which signifies loss of volume but an increase in price. This is borne out by report from ICEX (the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade) on sales of Spanish wine for the last year which shows a drop in volume of 2.4% for liqueur wines, of which Sherry is one, but an increase in price of 1.5%.
Sherry is approaching the crossroads where traditional older consumers of BOBs and sweet styles are dying out and new younger consumers with purchasing power are driving growth in proper Sherry in all its forms such as Añadas, en rama and VORS, which are much more profitable. According to the Consejo, when these lines cross is just a matter of time as the “wine for grannies” dies out while younger consumers drive growth of more interesting wines. Spanish customs figures for 2015 demonstrate this with export clearances for liqueur wines, most of which are Sherry, down to 20 million litres – half a million less than in 2014 – but with a value of 65.7 million euros – one million more than 2014. According to the report the average price of Sherry increased from 3.11 euros per litre to 3.23, an increase of 4% while the total for all wines from Spain saw a decrease in value of 3% to only 1.08 per litre. Liqueur wines have managed to increase their price for four consecutive years giving an accumulated increase of 11%.