Friday, 20 July 2018

Manzanilla Añada 2012 Saca 4/11 15%, Viña Callejuela

Strawy slightly brassy mid gold with golden glints.
Full and delightful. There are wonderful tensions between flor bitterness and early oxidation, dry scrub and humid barrels and Manzanilla and Manzanilla Pasada. It is really more pasada since it has been ageing more quickly as has not been refreshed with younger wine. While there are some traces of cabezuela, the oxidative notes are more evident. There is a distinct difference between this saca and the last. It is big and serious with those overripe apple and slight caramel notes of oxidation, and yet some brine and faint hints of herbs. Super interesting.
Full and very complex with the faintly saline mineral Manzanilla notes almost, but not yet  totally overtaken by the oxidative ones and there's a bit more body. In fact there are lots of young Amontillado notes with a gentle nuttiness setting in and a trace of salted caramel. It is close to that cusp, and much sooner than a solera wine. Bursting with flavour, it is absolutely lovely.
In 2012 the Blanco brothers kept back 11 butts of that year's Manzanilla for static ageing with the brilliant idea of bottling and releasing the contents of one butt every year, so one could follow the development of the wine year by year from a young Manzanilla to a Manzanilla Pasada to Manzanilla Amontillada to Amontillado. No further fortification will be done so it will end up as a natural Amontillado. The first release was 1/11 in 2015, so this is the fourth, and it was bottled as always in spring (27th April). So this is a vintage Manzanilla from 2012, a little over 5 ½ years old, from a single butt and bottled en rama, and quite delicious! The brothers have other great ideas in the pipeline to watch out for and well deserve their success.
19,30 per 50cl Licores Corredera

Sorry, couldn't wait...!

Thursday, 19 July 2018

19.7.18 Harvest Latest

This year’s harvest will be very different to last year’s which was the earliest on record with grapes being picked from 1st August. It looks like being more than a month later, more like it used to be, and right now the grapes are going through the “envero” or colour change which is a key point in ripening. But it has been noticed that some vinifera scions have been putting out roots into the air at grafting points, something which only happens in the tropics and is associated with excess humidity. Certainly winter and early spring brought record rainfall, but this is unheard of. Also virtually unheard of is the appearance of botrytis so early in the season, before the envero, but it too is the result of excess humidity.

Bunches just before envero when the grapes turn golden (foto:Vanesa Lobo/Diario de Jerez)

The grapes are ripening more slowly than usual due to relatively mild temperatures with overnight dewfall and there has so far been no sign of the hot dry Levante wind to dry things out and stop the fungi which cause botrytis, oidium which is widespread especially near the coast, and mildew, which is largely under control. It is turning out to be an expensive vintage in terms of both hours worked and treatments used. What at first looked like being a huge harvest is now looking more like last year’s 75 million kilos or slightly less. While the torrential rain guarantees a large crop, it does not guarantee a healthy one. It looks like the harvest will have to be manual wherever possible as selection will be required, which adds to costs but is something harvesting machines can’t do. So as things stand only a good Levante can help, along with some leaf pruning to better  expose the bunches to the sun.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Vino Blanco La Riva 2016 13.5%, M Ant. De La Riva

Mid strawy brassy gold with golden highlights.
The first thing you notice is seriousness: depth and a good degree of ripeness; most Palomino table wines are 12% and lack this depth and intensity. It reminded me slightly of a fine Burgundy, Meursault possibly - it certainly has that level of class, and faint oxidative nuttiness. There are as many fruit notes as those of flor with very ripe/stewed apple and quince balancing the bitter ones of the flor. It has a slight orchard air about it with some wild herbs growing nearby, and also a distinct nod to Fino. It is very complex, intense and beautiful.
This is way more complex and concentrated than any white table wine I have come across so far in Cádiz. It has a lovely chalky grapeskin texture and a gentle tension between that lovely ripe fruit and just a little bitter flor edge. It is clean with reasonably low acidity and lingers for ages. No new French oak barrels necessary for complexity here, just outstanding grapes and winemaking - the way it was done in the past. It makes you realise how much has been lost, and how important Ramiro's and Willy's work is in recuperating it. This wine is utterly superb.
This stunning wine was made by Ramiro Ibáñez and Willy Pérez for their new brand, M Antonio de la Riva, for which they bought the rights. The original firm was famed for quality and they want to maintain that, and have got off to a great start with Oloroso and Moscatel (just 90 half bottles) Viejisimos and an outstanding Fino. This white wine is made from old Palomino 84 vines grown in the Viña El Notario, located in the northern part of the Viña El Majuelo, owned by Fundador, in the Macharnudo Alto. It is well inland with a warmer climate but has a decent altitude of some 115 metres and fantastic albariza soil composed of tosca cerrada and barajuela. The grapes were harvested by hand in mid September and sunned for 8 hours, as was the original La Riva practice, which increased the must weight by 1.2 degrees. The grapes were very lightly pressed for maximum quality and the wine was fermented in butt at ambient temperature using flor yeast, and remained in the butt under the flor for 10 months before only 400 bottles were filled in October 2017 en rama and under a fine quality 2 inch driven cork. If you manage to get hold of a bottle, don't over chill it.
35.50 (and worth every centimo) Guerrita

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Fino 9/65 15%, Alexander Jules

Deep golden amber with golden glints.
Big, generous and rich with lots of yeasty flor and notes of sourdough balanced by a slight strawy buttery note and a hint of almond. There is a fine mineral backbone with a faint trace of apple and a feeling of weight and seriousness. Oxidative notes are just beginning to make an appearance through what must now be pretty weak flor. Most attractive.
Again, full, almost powerful for a Fino which is approaching the crossroads towards Amontillado, but still very much a Fino. Acidity is on the low side, but the bitterness from the flor compensates and is augmented by autolytic notes, faint oxidation and concentration. There is loads of flavour and it carries through to a very long finish. Excellent.
This outstanding Fino comes from the "other" superior Camborio solera which consists of 65 butts selected for their quality and allowed to age longer than the 9-10 years of the normal - and excellent - Camborio which comes from Juan Piñero's Jerez bodega. I think this was the idea of the brilliant oenologist Ramiro Ibáñez, who acted as a consultant. He spotted that some butts had flor of different strains from others and made a feature of it. This wine, then, is a blend composed of a selection from 9 butts in this solera and blends the different yeast strains giving amazing complexity. It was bottled en rama in June 2017 and sealed with a Diam cork.
15 euros per 50cl, Er Guerrita

Monday, 16 July 2018

González Byass and Sustainable Viticulture

This interesting article from was written by Raquel Benjumeda

González Byass is working towards sustainable viticulture and their weapons of choice are biological: roses, woodland daisies, lavender, rosemary, oleander, jacarandas and pheromone diffusers. The latter attract male moths into traps so they can't breed, obviating the need for insecticide, and the others protect the vineyard from mosquitos, spiders and fungi. This is what has been happening at the firm’s Viña La Canariera in the pago Carrascal.

Roses are planted at the ends of the rows of vines for the early detection of diseases which can be lethal to the vines such as oidium, a virulent fungus whose spores blow in the wind. It is attracted to the humidity of the rose petals and in a few days it can cover the leaves in an ash-like powder, killing them off. Once alerted, the vineyard staff can spray the roses and the vines with sulphur, a natural antiseptic.

Rose bushes

The woodland daisies which share soil with the vines begin to feed the mosquitos at the most sensitive stages of the vineyard cycle, the flowering and fruiting. There are referred to as weeds but those which grow spontaneously do not affect the vine’s yield. Lots of flowering oleanders will take over the provision of nectar for the mosquitos from the nearby sunflowers when they wilt offering an alternative to vine sap.

This combination of species protects the vines while avoiding the use of contaminating chemicals and is the method used in so called “integrated production” which has been successfully used for many years with positive results for the company and the environment. Integrated production is an intermediate step between traditional and organic viticulture according to the firm’s agronomist Manuel Delgado.


All the firm’s 414 hectares of vineyards are now managed this way, including the ones near Arcos where they make red wine at Finca Moncloa. There a project is under way to plant trees and shrubs to attract useful wildlife. At the 12 hectare La Canariera vineyard the organic conversion has begun, with no chemical products used for over two years. Next year the official green seal will be issued making it one of few organic vineyards in the area.

Along with the careful plantings in the vineyard, the winemakers will install advanced applications which will provide climatic and agricultural data throughout the seasons in real time so they can predict the conditions which might lead to the presence of fungi and insects and be able to act quickly. The idea is to use chemicals only if absolutely necessary.


There is now more colour in the vineyard than in the days when chemicals were used. Manuel Delgado says “we believe that as well as protecting the vines, this new bio diversity will favour an increase in other species which will fill the vineyard with life and colour. Already there are lots of quail and rabbits which live among the native shrubs which are being planted between the rows of vines. It all adds up to a healthier vineyard and a better product”.

This environmental conscience which distinguished Manuel María González, the firm’s founder in 1835, has been passed down the generations of both family and employees. The principle of responsible use of natural resources has resulted in the firm’s ten point sustainability plan “5+5 Caring for the Planet” created by the first five generations and dedicated to the next five. 

These are the firm's "Ten Commandments":

1 Reduce atmospheric emissions by reducing the use of fuel and increasing the use of electric vehicles in the bodegas and the planting of 10,000 native trees in the vineyards over the next 10 years.
2 Reduce the use of lights by installing high efficiency motion sensor bulbs, conduct audits of energy use periodically and harvest the grapes at night.
3 Increase the use of clean energy. Change from biomass boilers to solar panels for heating water in the bodegas.
4 Save water by using rainwater collection ponds, use controlled deficit irrigation and clean used water using specific algae in the firm’s own water purifying plants.
5 Reduce waste from bodega activity by recovering by-products from winemaking and distillation, production of organic fertiliser from cattle manure and 100% re-cycling of paper, cardboard, glass and plastic generated in the bodegas.
6 Change to eco-design, reducing the weight of glass in bottles, using re-cycled containers and packaging, buying cardboard and wood from certified forests, supporting and educating suppliers to achieve better results.
7 Test sustainable agricultural practices in the vineyards with integrated ecological production, substitute chemical treatments for biological ones wherever possible.
8 Conserve the biodiversity of the environment, protect fauna in danger of extinction, and conserve gardens and native species.
9 Undertake to offer people a range of products which are sustainable and respectful of the environment.
10 Social commitment to employees.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Vermouth Rojo Premium 15%, Bodegas Osborne

Deep orange tinged brown with coppery glints.
Bright and bitter at first, it really catches the attention with wormwood and quinine, and then notes of bitter orange peel and hints of cinnamon and sweetness from the Sherry come through and it starts to form a whole. It has an attractive tang and is very appealing.
The Sherry is a little more apparent and that up front bitterness subsides a bit. It is not over sweet and has a smooth gentle texture which is lifted by a light, elegant bitterness which imparts a sort of freshness. This is great vermouth, a little different and full of character.
Although originally launched in May, the new Osborne Vermouth Rojo Premium got a bigger and more official launch at Vinoble 2018. The label is striking and the quality is excellent. It is based on a blend of Medium and PX which give it a very smooth character while the botanicals used, which include wormwood, hierba gitanera (dittany), cinnamon, nutmeg, bitter orange peel are mostly locally sourced and typical of the area giving it a good bitter-sweet balance. 

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Atuna 2017 14%, Santiago Jordi

Bright pale lemony gold with golden highlights.
Forthcoming zippy and quite fragrant. Chardonnay can often be a little vegetal with added oak for flavour, but this wine seems not to have any oak and instead has slightly tropical fruity aromas of lemon icing, pineapple and kiwi, very appealing.
It has a lively refreshing tartaric acidity and plenty of those tropical fruit flavours which give it a slightly New World character which is slightly at odds with its Cádiz origins. Nonetheless, it is elegant and fresh and would be perfect for casual summer drinking.
Santiago Jordi Martín is a consultant oenologist and president of the Federation of Associations of Spanish Oenologists. His philosophy is to make interesting wine from small vineyards on poor low fertility soils using traditional methods and varieties with minimal intervention so that the vineyard character can shine through. This 2017 is the first release of Atuna, which is made from 100% Chardonnay, is a Vino de la Tierra de Cádiz. The label illustrates the various cuts of tuna, which the Cádiz coast is famous for, and he produced the wine with accompanying tuna very much in mind. "Bottling the power of the sea of Cádiz, the personality of its aromas and the character of its seafood" as he puts it. Only 6,500 bottles have been produced.
8,95, Licores Corredera

Friday, 13 July 2018

Manzanilla Pasada La Gallarda en rama 15%, Bodegas Covisan

Bright mid gold with golden highlights.
Very fresh and at first on the light side but it grows as it opens out and there are some gentle buttery briny hints along with some fresh herbs including camomile and of course some gently bitter flor and the faintest trace of oxidation. It is a very attractive wine with lots of gentle complexities, all nicely balanced and well integrated.
Fairly crisp and very clean and fresh yet it is a bit more serious than first appears with a noticeable minerality and salinity and traces of buttery cabezuela and flor bitterness showing through. It has a slightly chalky texture and a relaxed complexity with a good feel and length. It starts by refreshing the palate and then leaves a long, more complex aftertaste. Good.
Gallarda means elegant, fine, dashing, which suits this wine. It comes from the cooperative COVISAN in Sanlúcar, established in 1968. IThe brand was introduced recently to respond to the pasada en rama fashion and to celebrate the coop's 50th anniversary. The wine has about ten years solera age. There used to be a Manzanilla Amontillada Gallarda many years ago, but they are not related as the other pre-dated the establishment of the coop.
6 euros per 50cl  ex bodega

Thursday, 12 July 2018

12.7.18 Latest Figures for Brandy de Jerez

Brandy de Jerez did not have a good 2017. Despite the strong sales growth noted by the Consejo Regulador in the first quarter of 2018, Ministry of Agriculture figures for spirits with a geographical indication (IG or quality spirits) for 2017 show a 14% fall in both volume sold and income. Sales were below 10 million litres for the first time at 9.2 million litres with a value of 69.2 million euros, as against the 2016 figures of 10.7 million litres and 80.2 million euros.

However the product of Jerez is still far and away the leading Spanish spirit with 53% of total spirit sales, which in 2017 were 17.4 million litres, and 58% of total value which was 19.5 million euros. The 19 Spanish IG spirits are produced by a total of 238 companies, and they saw a drop in sales in 2017 of 10.8% and a drop in income of 11.7%. The IG spirits represent about 8% of total Spanish spirits production which totals 218 million litres.

60% of the IG spirits were sold on the home market. The Ministry’s figures highlight “the great social and economic importance” of Brandy de Jerez which maintains its leadership in exports with a share of 88.4% and a volume of 6.2 million litres. 72% of all IG spirits exports go to countries outside the EU with Asia buying 29%, mainly Brandy de Jerez for the Philippines. In Spain Brandy de Jerez is the second biggest selling spirit with a market quota of 30%, just 1% behind Pacharán de Navarra, but it has a much larger economic value with 58% compared to the 16.2% of Pacharán. Let us hope that the promising figures for 2018 continue.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

11.7.18 IWC Champion Trophy Results

Last night’s gala dinner in London saw the presentation of the top IWC awards. Fortified Winemaker of the Year went to Sergio Martínez of Bodegas Emilio Lustau, who seems to be keeping this award at the bodega as successor to Manuel Lozano who won it seven times. This is Sergio’s second. Ironically the Manuel Lozano Trophy for Fortified Wine went to a Madeira, Justino’s 50 year old Terrantez.

The top awards given to Sherry as a whole were as follows:

Pedro Ximénez Trophy: Harveys PX VORS
Oloroso Trophy: Lustau Almacenista Oloroso González Obregón
Palo Cortado Trophy: Harveys Palo Cortado
Amontillado Trophy: Harveys Very Old Amontillado VORS
Manzanilla Trophy: Booth’s Manzanilla (Williams & Humbert)
Fino Trophy: González Byass Tres Palmas
Cream Sherry Trophy: González Byass Matúsalem VORS
Sherry Trophy: González Byass Tres Palmas
Best Value Champion Fortified: Booth’s Manzanilla (Williams & Humbert)

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

10.7.18 International Sherry Week: Event Registration Open

The 5th edition of International Sherry Week will run from 8th - 14th October and is now open for the registration of events. This international event gets bigger every year and there are now events in over 30 countries around the world. It could be pairing Sherry with food, a tasting, tapas, cocktails, a lecture from a Sherry Educator for shop or restaurant staff or simply a party. All sorts of useful material can be downloaded from the official website, where you can find out more and register your event. The best event could win 1,000 € worth of Sherry, so it’s time to start organising yours!

Sunday, 8 July 2018

8.7.18 Prediction for the Harvest 2018

Asked for predictions for the 2018 harvest, Consejo Director César Saldaña said the following: “It is still too early to say but so far everything indicates that the harvest will not begin as early as last year, which was a historic record. The first grapes of 2017 were picked on the 1st of August, something quite exceptional. It is tempting to make predictions, but July and August are the key months. Things are still moving slowly in the vineyards and we don’t see a likelihood of grapes being picked until the middle of August in the interior vineyards, but as everyone knows, it is a lottery. Everything points to a larger crop because we have had plenty of rain. Rainfall is a key factor in the capacity of the vines, and this year we have had much more than the average of 620 litres per square metre in some areas, so the albarizas there are saturated. However, the Levante winds are yet to come and they reduce the water content of the grapes, but for the time being it looks like being a large harvest. In terms of quality, no problems have appeared other than the odd thing which has been dealt with quickly, but nothing like the problems we had in 2016 which were very serious. As always, we will find out for sure when we start to pick”.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Peach Brandy 28%, Bodegas Orleans Borbón

Very deep brown like a Cream Sherry with copper highlights, quite viscous.
Intense aromas of super ripe yet tangy peach with fruity background PX notes. It is very rich and full and the brandy used seems to be of very good quality. Naturally it smells sweet and there is a hint of caramel, yet despite the rich sweetness it smells very fresh and appealing.
Sweet up front with soft almost creamy, caramelly PX balancing with that tangy peach. The 20 year ageing has brought all the nuances into harmony giving a very sophisticated product which despite its sweetness finishes clean, and very long. Best enjoyed on its own either straight from the fridge or with some ice.
This delicious, different and highly regarded peach brandy comes from a recipe brought by Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Sanlúcar from England in 1943, the year the bodega was established. She was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and wife of Alfonso of Orleans Borbón, an Infante of Spain and unsuccessful pretender to the throne.The recipe was slightly adapted and improved to work well with the brandy from the Orleans Borbón soleras. Specially selected peaches are steeped in brandy before some sweet PX wine is added and the result is aged for 20 years. This liqueur has much greater colour and depth and a higher strength than most of the others, not to mention much greater age, which makes it far superior. Most after all are just white spirit with concentrated peach flavouring. This is real. Production is very small and interestingly, but oddly, the RE bottler code is that of Pedro Romero who went bust two years before this was bottled.
30 euros, Guerrita

Friday, 6 July 2018

6.7.18 Fiesta de la Vendimia 2018

The poster and programme for this year’s Fiesta de la Vendimia have been announced. The dates are 1st – 16th September and the Fiesta is dedicated to the town of Rota. The art of cooperage will be featured, with an art exhibition, guided visits, a round table and lectures. This ancient office has seen many ups and downs and has come from almost disappearing to huge growth thanks mainly to barrel seasoning for the spirits industry.

The press announcement at the city council's Bodeguita.

As always the first and most symbolic act will be the treading of the grapes at the Cathedral but there will be all sorts of other activities including concerts, flamenco, exhibitions, guided walks, bodega visits and activities for children such as learning to use a venencia. The popular De Copa En Copa tasting event will take place at the Claustros de Santo Domingo. Horses will also feature as the 9th September is the European Day of the Horse.

The full programme (in Spanish) can be found here:

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Palo Cortado Cardenal VORS 22%, Valdespino

Beautiful bright mahogany with coppery glints and a trace of green at the rim.
Aromatic, sophisticated and fresh with notes of polished antique furniture made from exotic woods, lots of toasted almonds and hazelnuts. The years have converted many nuances into a magnificent bouquet. It is hard to pick out individual aromas as they have all harmonised into an extremely elegant whole, not too powerful but very refined, a " vino de pañuelo" if ever there was.
It certainly has structure with its 22% alcohol, 8.5 g/l total acidity (expressed as tartaric), and there is naturally a certain level of volatile acidity, not to mention traces of oak tannin, but none of this can spoil such a joyful experience. Yes it is tangy but it has an elegant texture and while intense it is perfectly behaved with incredible balance and that lovely lingering exotic polished nutty flavour.
This absolute gem is made from vines of over 50 years of age in the pure albariza soils of a single vineyard in the pago Macharnudo Alto. Everything at Valdespino is about continuity and this wine started out either as Fino Inocente or AmontilladoTio Diego. Through extremely careful selection of butts, suitable candidates were selected for the first Palo Cortado, Viejo CP. After ageing there through 4 criaderas and the solera the wine comes out with some 25 years of age. The best butts then go through another 4 criaderas and a solera to finally emerge with over 50 years of age. Valdespino don't mess about; only the best will do, and this wine is magnificent. 99 Parker Points.
85 euros per half bottle, Licores Corredera

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

La Encrucijada (the Crossroads) By Willy Pérez

This interesting article article by Willy Pérez appeared recently in the Diario de Jerez 

Jerez enjoyed one of its golden ages after the victory of Juan Haurie (over the Gremio de la Vinatería) in 1778. Increasing sales and prices of our wines during the XIX century enriched the city but inevitably ended in a period of overproduction and speculation which resulted in the crisis of 1870. Lower quality French sweet wines took over from ours which were accused of no longer having their former quality.

This poor image of Sherry led a group of varied personalities of the era, led by the Marqués de Casa Domecq, the Conde de Aldama and Gumersindo Fernández de la Rosa, to promote Sherry as not simply a sweet wine blended in the bodega with arrope or vino de color. They looked to the vineyard in search of inimitable products and launched their own crusade to promote styles of Sherry which were less well-known abroad but of the highest quality: Finos, Amontillados and Olorosos. Samples were sent to the big world wine exhibitions and these Sherries triumphed. In the 1920s Sherry at last began to grow again. The city had passed a crossroads and began to enjoy another golden age which would last until the end of the 1970s. You probably know the rest of the story.

Obviously there were different reasons and different people involved, but essentially what happened was the same as a century before: it all got too big, speculation was rife and in the end the vineyard was abandoned to make bodega wine. Now, almost 40 years later we are trying again to connect Sherry to the vineyard and to its albariza soil, a unique link with the wine of past generations. There are now many oenologists starting up very visible and expensive projects making wines with short ageing periods but with the unmistakeable identity of Jerez. These high quality white wines are not a substitute for the traditional fortified wines, like the Finos were for the old sweet wines. And they are being sold for a sensible price. Once these new wines have formed the base of the Jerez pyramid, the traditional fortified wines will be able to raise prices and find the position they deserve.

In the crisis of the XIX century it was not easy to get all parties to agree and it is not easy now. There are many parties involved in a denomination with such a long history, and we don’t yet know how this new crop of white wines will take shape. However I am certain we will be able to pass the crossroads again.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Oloroso en rama Añada 2009 19.5% Williams & Humbert

Bright polished antique chestnut to deep amber with bright brassy glints.
Full, assertive and quite rich with lots of walnut and toasted almond and traces of raisin, maple syrup and moist pipe tobacco along with a faint traces of cigar box, caramel and a distant orange note. It smells quite young still with that fruity note and not a great deal of wood, but it certainly has some elegance and complexity, which can only develop further.
Big at the start with a good firm structure, then it mellows and softens into a mouth-filling super smooth Oloroso, still quite young with its hints of dried fruit. There is also walnut and a hint of caramel and it has a really attractive texture aided by glycerine. It is a extremely satisfying wine, intensely flavoured and with terrific length.
This is essentially the same wine as that bottled in February 2016 and in my notes of September 2016. It is now just over 8 years old, this example having been bottled in October 2017, and has developed ½ degree more alcohol and further complexity. The grapes came from old vines in the firm’s vineyards in the pagos Añina and Carrascal and only mosto yema was used. The wine was fortified to 18° and aged statically – not in solera – and sealed by the Consejo Regulador in butts of both 500 and 600 litres capacity. It scored 90 Parker points, but might well earn more for a later saca or after a few years in bottle.
13,95 per 50cl, De Albariza

Monday, 2 July 2018

2.7.18 Independent Growers Forced to Join Cooperative

Independent growers are seeking refuge in the cooperatives as they find it increasingly hard to make a profit. The co-op Virgen de las Angustias (Covijerez) now has a waiting list of growers who have been selling their grapes directly to the bodegas but are now seeking to join the coop because of the desperate situation caused by the bodegas’ resistance to paying more for the grapes.

Last year Covijerez incorporated growers with 50 hectares of vineyard, and according to the co-op president Salvador Espinosa this year they are expecting growers with another 150 – 200 hectares owned by four or five growers who can no longer manage alone with the costs of cultivating a vineyard, especially in a year when more treatments are needed to keep the grapes healthy. The coop cannot take any more growers as it is almost at capacity.

The association of independent growers Asevi-Asaja has long been complaining about the complicated situation which growers are suffering because of low grape prices in one of the few areas where they are still paid by weight rather than quality leaving growers to abandon the vineyard or join a cooperative as their only possible alternatives.

“More and more growers are joining the cooperatives which can defend themselves better than individuals” says Asevi president Francisco Guerrero, pointing out the advantage of transforming the grapes into must instead of delivering grapes directly due to their perishability, and offers co-op members more room for manoeuvre when negotiating prices. Currenly the price is a ridiculous 0.35€ per kilo where in Champagne it is 6€ per kilo, and there, unlike Jerez, they have a quality scale according to vineyard classification.

The independent grower makes a contract with the bodega before the harvest in case of losing the crop and is handicapped by the severe sanctions imposed by the Competition Commission some years ago on the practice, then widespread, of fixing the price of grapes and must.

The Consejo Regulador has declared itself on repeated occasions to be in favour of the now longstanding claim of the growers to determine the grape price in terms of quality and not the weight so that standards could be established in function of sugar content, ripeness, acidity etc. But with few exceptions, the bodegas are not in favour of paying extra for the quality offered by a particular pago or parcel, and are thus running against the current trend highlighting the importance of the soil, which some say is just hot air saying that the wine is made in the bodega and the origin of the raw material is of no importance.

Some oenologists openly admit that these wines “in white lab coats” along with other practices which have done so much damage to the trade have not been produced for some time and many well –known Sherry winemakers are saying that the vineyard and the bodega are equally important in the singularity of these wines.

When playing to the gallery, all the bodegueros of the area sing the praises of the wonderful quality of their wines, but behind closed doors the quality seems to matter little when they argue that the wine is born in the bodega and that the origin of the grapes doesn’t matter too much as they stick to the custom of quantity over quality.

The paradox, according to Guerrero, is that the few bodegas which buy grapes continue to insist on quality despite being unwilling to pay for it. And then there are the firms with interests in the BOB market, the own brands which can be found on the supermarket shelves sometimes for less than two euros. These represent the worst of the legacy of the times when the area backed volume sales at the expense of the price and prestige which is costing so much to restore.

Salvador Espinosa says that the bodegas must take note that the vineyards have to be profitable, “not so that the growers can grow rich, but so that they can offer quality and afford the necessary investment in their vineyards”. In his judgement the problem is that “we have to arrive at a price for the wine on the shelf with the price of the grapes already built in”, something which simply doesn’t happen in the area where the grower looks for volume as the lesser evil to make the most of the harvest and keep going.

Paradoxically, the wines from the historic pagos of Jerez where the soil is the philosopher’s stone, are contributing decisively to the recuperation of prestige and the increase in the price of Sherry. Flying the flag for this new movement are the young winemakers and a few small and large bodegas, and the possibility of changes to the regulations to accommodate these practices which bring value and prestige to the DO is at last being debated.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

The Satellite that was too expensive for Jerez

Since the recent defeat of Mariano Rajoy’s government we now have a new one under Pedro Sánchez. The new minister for science and technology, Pedro Duque, was perhaps an obvious choice as he was Spain’s first astronaut. Back in 2007 he visited Jerez where he signed a butt at Fundador “Tecnología espacial para un vino especial” (space technology for a special wine – it works better in Spanish). The reason for his visit, at the behest of the Consejo Regulador, was that he was promoting Deimos Imaging, a company specialising in observing Earth from a satellite with multiple applications to benefit agriculture and vineyards by monitoring things like disease, ripeness and soil humidity. He gave a presentation to bodegueros and growers at the Consejo, but the cost of using the system was, well, exorbitant, and nobody could afford it at a time when Sherry was still enduring its long crisis and the world financial crisis was just beginning.

The Deimos 2 satellite launched 2014

The project was never going to work in Jerez. It cost 30 million euros for the satellite, its launch and a reception station on earth, so for a vineyard of between 20 and 100 hectares the price for a report varied between 3-5,000 euros - and two were needed per season. Despite a special introductory offer price none of the bodegas signed up. The satellite was eventually launched in 2009 and provided information for other wine regions and crops. In 2014 a second satellite was launched which had to offer a more comprehensive range of services as by now drones were available at much more affordable prices. Pedro Duque left the company in 2011.