Saturday, 15 March 2014

City of Bodegas

On Thursday 20th a series of cultural conferences begins in Jerez, organised by the Consejo Regulador for European City of Wine. The first conference will be led by Jose Manuel Aladro, who has a doctorate in architecture from Seville University and who is a winner of the Foundation for the Protection of Industrial Patrimony of Andalucia prize. The title of the conference, “The Construction of the City of Bodegas, Jerez in the XIX Century” is the same as that of his doctoral thesis, which won a prize as the best research project on industrial patrimony in Andalucia.

The economy and society of Jerez cannot be understood without the wine, one of the principal symbols of the identity of a city which grew from its bodega industry, the principal economic motor in the past and an essential part of its history and culture, on which it has left an indelible mark. By way of recognising this, and as one of the commemorative acts of the European City of Wine year, the Consejo Regulador has organised a cycle of conferences entitled “Jerez, Culture and Wine”. This cycle will cover, on a monthly basis, such diverse topics as history, anthropology and literature, all with the common thread of the wine.

This first conference will cover in particular the years 1830-1875, “the fundamental decades of the economic development of Sherry, which then accounted for about 20% of total Spanish exports”. It will also look at bodega architecture, its technical aspects and its extraordinary influence on the layout of the city. The wine business revolutionised the economy and society of the city, not only in terms of architecture, but also in terms of the huge cash flow of the bodegas, which led to Jerez being the first city in Andalucia with a railway and one of the first with street lighting. Jerez was transformed by its wine into a city at the vanguard.

Aladro says that although the bodega architecture was not particularly innovative technically, it has a traditional beauty, and despite many bodegas having been lost for ever, he supports the re-use of old bodegas for other purposes, for example galleries, supermarkets or restaurants, "because it allows us to remember what we once were".

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