|Manuel Pimentel (L) and W&H CEO Jesus Medina (foto:Pascual diariodejerez)|
Friday, 21 April 2017
The Challenges Facing Sherry, Lecture at Williams & Humbert
Williams & Humbert last night hosted the first of their excellent cycle of lectures for 2017 at the bodega. The speaker was Manuel Pimentel, ex minister for work and social affairs and ex-president of the Consejo Regulador of Montilla-Moriles among many other posts, and his theme was “The Changes Faced by Wine in Society, Bodegas and Consejos Reguladores”. He began optimistically saying that things are looking up, “we have already touched the bottom”, but Sherry faces many challenges, one being to stop being seen only as a wine for ferias and romerіas (pilgrimages), and approach young urban people who are not familiar with it. They are always looking for something different, and that is one of Sherry’s many attributes, so reaching them would bring better times.
The lecture put considerable focus on the importance of Consejos Reguladores saying that “we associate wine with the place it is made, and thus the importance of the DO which defines it and guarantees a minimum quality to its particular style. If shifting the focus back to the vineyards, to the origins, is a trend, then the DOs have a fundamental role to play along with the Consejos Reguladores which regulate them”. He said that while bodegas, cooperatives and growers are proud of their DO they often mistrust it, seeing it simply as an expensive immovable bureaucratic organisation, restrictive rather than helpful.
So do Consejos Reguladores have a future? Absolutely, according to Pimentel who said that if they didn’t already exist they would have to be invented. “But they must evolve in unison with social changes, fashions of producers and consumers and the technical possibilities which will amaze us in the coming years. Furthermore, the wine world in general and the Consejos Reguladores in particular should fight for wine to be considered a healthy drink unlike certain others.
He noted the recent growth in wine consumption in Spain, but while in the 1970s it stood at 40 litres per person per year, it stands at only 21 litres now. There are without doubt social factors beyond just the economic crisis, and those social changes related to the perception of wine are the ones which should be addressed by the Consejos Reguladores. “Urban society idolises the natural, and wine is just that. No product symbolises the land quite like wine, and people are attracted to its culture and participate in the story it has to tell, but this requires sustainability of production in the face of better environmental awareness.
These days, consumers are very worried about their health and quality of life, and wine is full of healthy attributes which should be promoted. The health benefits of biological ageing of Sherry deserve to be researched; after all, red wine has been promoting itself on its antioxidant properties and cardiovascular benefits for years. People nowadays value leisure time more; the millennials consider it equally important to their professional life and they value wine more as the perfect drink for social occasions than for everyday; drinking better wine but less frequently. As great users of the internet and social media, wine should be seducing them by that means. Consumers look for more quality and variety because they want to feel special and are prepared to pay for it. Sherry has all these attributes in spades, so Pimentel said he was “reasonably optimistic” for wine in general and Sherry in particular.