Sunday, 22 May 2016

22.5.16 Luís Pérez Lecture at Williams & Humbert Ciclo de Conferencias

It took Jesús Medina, director general of Williams & Humbert, nearly ten minutes to run through all the qualifications and achievements of Luís Pérez in his introduction to the lecture, such is the greatness of this man, an academic, chemist, oenologist and bodeguero with vast experience in the Marco de Jerez, and yet down to earth and with ready humour. He is regarded as one of the fathers of the silent revolution which aims to reclaim the value and relevance of the vineyard. The Lecture was titled “Sherry: A look toward the future” and was very well attended by over 150 people in the exotic surroundings of thousands of butts of Sherry. Here is a brief summary.

Luis Perez (L) and Jesus Medina

Luís began by setting out the challenge: how to give Sherry more value and thus a brighter future. He asked which other place in the world has the volume of wine with the amount of ageing as our VOS and VORS? “Now is the time to consider what we should be doing, not what we should have done, “he said. He went on to make various important points:

 “A wine cannot be understood without the influence of its vineyard”. No other wine but Sherry evolves so much during its ageing so it is easy to think it is the product of the bodegas rather than the vineyards, and this has happened over the last 40 years, but the vineyards must be recognised. He also pointed to the standardisation of Sherry and the fact that Fino and Manzanilla are interchangeable so long as they are aged in the appropriate place – the vineyard doesn’t matter - and stabilisation doesn’t help. We need less industrialisation.

He sees the en rama wines as a positive step as they are better yet cheaper to produce. A specific vineyard origin gives further added value. He pointed out thata there are places where they value not only the vineyards but also the specific plot, and he would like to see wines where there is harmony between the soil and crianza. Sherry is now in a strategic situation for the remodelling of our 7,000 hectares to achieve higher quality permitting the recuperation of varieties of Palomino lost during the past century. This would bring with it the production of wine with real vineyard character.

“Wine: the result of Man working with Nature”. Luís said that wine is not a natural product as it wouldn’t exist without human intervention, yet humans could not make wine without Nature. Science has given us a more intimate understanding of Nature and thus a wiser and better balanced relationship. The more we work with nature the better and more individual the wine will be.

“The evocative power of wine, an icon of our culture.” Cultivating the vineyards so as to produce the best possible wine with marked personality is the aim. The better the raw material supplied to the bodegas the better the result. To achieve this, the grower should understand more about winemaking, and the winemaker should understand more about viticulture.

“When I look inside a glass of Sherry I think of it as the fruit of the light and heat of our sun, the water from our rain, the nature of our soil, the work, knowledge and love of our people. That glass of Sherry has everything to make us feel masters of our patrimony and is thus more than justifiably an icon of our culture.”

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