|Members of Manifiesto 119 (foto:diariodejerez)|
Tuesday, 22 May 2018
22.5.18 General Consensus in Jerez for Unfortified Wines to join DO
The commission set up by the Consejo to look into all the contentious matters which would require changes to the rules has been busy. There is consensus in Jerez for allowing the new wave of white unfortified wines the DO seal so long as they will add to the prestige of Sherry. It is not about volumes, but about adding value, with the revival of old winemaking practices and grape varieties in use before the DO was established in 1935. The new wines could really be said to be the old wines, whose exceptional quality and personality relates to the soil, far beyond the standard fare of the industrialised wines.
When the DO was created (only 40 years after Phylloxera arrived) it took into account the current practices of the time and not what had already been abandoned, often as a result of Phylloxera. Thus the new DO opted for the solera system rather than that of añadas and for fortification rather than sunning the grapes, both perfectly valid production methods nonetheless.
The historic pagos of Jerez with all their different characteristics are beginning to regain their prominence after many years of uniformity when Sherry was made in the bodega and the laboratory, and the vineyard origin didn’t matter. Until recently almost taboo, the new wines have met with remarkable success despite being outside the DO and selling at higher prices than much Sherry.
To set out the guidelines as to what could qualify for the DO, the commission organised a technical working group consisting of representatives of bodegas already in the DO and members of Manifiesto 119, the association of new wave winemakers who stress the vital importance of the land, grape cultivation and ancestral production methods. The name derives from the number of grape varieties growing in Andalucía at the beginning of the XIX century.
At the first meeting of the working group last Thursday, the basic criteria for a starting point were laid out. It was agreed to limit a potential DO to white wines and to indigenous grape varieties which had been ousted by Palomino Fino, such as Perruno, Cañocazo, Mantúa or Rey, all described by Parada y Barreto at the end of the XIX century in his book on the viticulture and wine trade of Jerez, which they are using as a reference. The author also mentioned Tintilla, the only widespread red variety, though he only referred to it as a producer of traditional sweet Tintilla de Rota, but this too has a chance of being incorporated into the DO.
It is still early days, and the Consejo stresses that the objective is to find a high market position for the products which, depending on the wine, could get the DO and that might imply certain controls like yield limits, the need or otherwise for minimum ageing periods, use of overripe grapes, vintages etc. A while ago the Consejo asked for EU permission for the inclusion in the DO of unfortified wines but the debate is now much wider and more open. And they point out that they need to tread carefully as not all the wines made from indigenous varieties, including Palomino, would have a place in the DO, there is no carte blanche. However the intention, within certain limits naturally, is not to be over restrictive as that can be taken care of by technical measures like yield control or minimum alcohol content.
This consensus on the possibility of including the unfortified wines into the DO is already considered a significant advance, and although expression of the terroir is nothing new, there is much new wisdom behind this movement which is beginning to catch on in the traditional bodegas and which is being closely watched from outside the Sherry region, as much for the rediscovery of these wines as for the winemaking practices which made Sherry world famous in the first place.
This article by Ángel Espejo appeared in yesterday’s Diario de Jerez