Sunday, 8 June 2014

Will Sherry Get a DOC?

The news that Jose Ramon Estevez thinks Sherry should be a DOC wine is a hugely interesting and very attractive idea. But there would be far-reaching implications, which he is obviously aware of.

Spain, like Italy, has a higher tier of quality than the standard Denominacion de Origen (DO): Denominacion de Origen Calificada (DOC). Only two Spanish wine regions currently have a DOC: Rioja and Priorato. There is certainly a good argument to be made for more, and Sherry would be an excellent candidate.

The regulations for DOC are tighter, however, and certain perfectly legal practices in Jerez would need to be changed. As things stand, fortification alcohol nearly all comes from huge distilleries in Tomelloso (La Mancha), and is made from the local Airen grape. Presumably the spirit would need to come from Jerez for a DOC wine. Grape concentrates and Pedro Ximenez also often come from outside the region. To make these changes would inevitably incur large increases in cost, but it would create jobs locally.

Jose Ramon Estevez (Foto Diario Jerez)
Currently, 46% of the vineyards belong to grower cooperatives, and Estevez feels there are too many coops with too much capacity, and they depend all too easily on selling grapes or must to bodegas and on government grants. They should take more pride in their vines and produce better grapes and musts in lower volumes, and more precisely what is required by the bodegas and charge accordingly.

The bodegas too, would have to change their ways. Instead of pleading low margins for their lack of promotion, they should be increasing those margins. It doesn't matter how good your wine is: if people don't know about it , they won't buy it. The trade has to get off its proverbial and get cracking, especially now, when the whole world is looking on at this European City of Wine. Jerez should be dictating its price, not its customers.

There is another DO in the Spanish system which is one for a single vineyard: Vino de Pago. There are quite a few of these, where the quality of the wine from a single vineyard is deemed outstanding. Jerez has plenty of pagos, albeit rather large, such as Macharnudo, but within that is Inocente, a single vineyard which produces the excellent Fino of that name. Another example would be Pastrana in the Pago Miraflores. These vineyards would need to be certified, however, and that would take time, but a DO Vino de Pago could surely never harm sales.

So will Sherry get a DOC? Only if everyone gets together and sees past institutional interests towards a glorious future. It is good to know that at least one bodeguero can.

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