Monday 30 November 2015

30.11.15 Harveys, Terry, Fundador Sold

Beam Suntory has confirmed the sale of its entire Spanish operation which consists of Sherry brands Harveys and Terry and the brandies Fundador, Centenario and Tres Cepas. The deal includes the brands and the production facilities in Jerez and Tomelloso. The purchaser is Emperador, a spirits company based in the Philippines and the purchase price is €275 million.

A Harveys bodega (foto:coboscatering)
While it is not a surprise that a spirits company is off-loading a wine company, it is a surprise that another spirits company is buying it. As brandy specialists the obvious attraction to Emperador was the brandy, but we will see how long they keep the Sherry, in this corporate age firms buy what they really want and soon get rid of any inconveniences.

30.11.15 Sherry Goes to the Cinema

The Jerez academic and president of the Jerez Cinema Club José Luís Jiménez gave a lecture on the subject of “Sherry goes to the Cinema: Sherry seen in the cinema from Gone with the Wind (1939) to Mr Turner (2014)” as part of the Scientific Symposium celebrating the 80th anniversary of DO Jerez.

Gone with the wind: "Have a drink of Sherry"
Culture is what defines the human being above the basic necessities, what the mind and wits have created so that our passage through this world is more than a mere exercise in survival. Sherry is part of Western culture. Culture is created by means of art and for those of refined spirit, luxury becomes essential. The poet TS Eliot said, and quite rightly, that “all that a civilised person needs is one, or two, glasses of dry Sherry before dinner.”

"Elementary. A glass of Sherry?"
The influence of life on art and art on life is constant, and as soon as Sherry arrives on the tables of a country it begins to appear in the pages of its literature, its name is soon heard on the stage, and from there it becomes widespread among the people, and the very gesture of offering a glass of Sherry becomes a sacred rite. No art is independent of the people or the society which it sustains, so that when a new art form is born it must necessarily feed itself from the universal fund of culture. In this way the cinema feeds itself from Sherry.

Mr Turner
Sherry is one of the most cinematographic of wines. This conclusion - and many others - can be reached by the study of over 500 films where Sherry plays an active role in the stories brought to the big screen. This lets us understand fundamentally how the image of Sherry has been projected to the world, and yet certain institutions have devalued its potential with odd manipulations in the dubbing of the original soundtrack.

Sunday 29 November 2015

29.11.15 Lustau to Launch Vermouth

Madrid’s Botanic Garden is the venue for the launch of this interesting new product on 10 December. It is made from Amontillado and PX Sherry over 10 years old selected by oenologist Manuel Lozano. The vermouth is flavoured with over 10 botanicals including wormwood, gentian and orange peel, all of them macerated separately. The firm has revived one of their old formulas from the past when many Sherry firms made vermouth, a drink which has been seeing an enthusiastic revival recently.

29.11.15 César Saldaña Looks at Sherry’s Traditional Markets

The Director General of the Consejo Regulador, César Saldaña led a debate on the evolution of the traditional markets over the last 80 years in the Scientific Symosium marking the 80th anniversary of the Denimonación de Origen at the Consejo’s bodega San Ginés yesterday. He was joined by representatives of those markets: the UK, Holland and Germany.

In the mid XX century these three markets took 79% of exports between them. Fluctuations in these markets took place in three key periods over the last 80 years: the period of warfare between 1935 and 1960, the golden age of expansion between 1960 and 1986 during which time Spain joined the EU and Nato, and the period from 1986 till the present day when sales slumped and EU grants dried up.
Cesar Saldana (centre) at the debate (foto:diariodejerez)
The crises of the mid and late 1980s brought desperate measures including the lowering of costs and the reduction of advertising due to the lack of external grants, and the image of Sherry collapsed. The period between 1993 and 2008 saw things improve until the world banking crisis put a stop to that with exports and consumption falling dramatically, and young people turned away from wine which they saw as an alcoholic drink for old people at Christmas.

Despite it all, César confesses to seeing “signs of change” thanks to the growth in “experts and people interested in wine,” protagonists of “an aspiration towards a future of growth, not only in volume but also in image, prestige, price and profitability. I don’t know when, but I’m sure improvement will only come if we continue to sell Sherry for what it is, a great wine.”

29.11.15 Re-invention is the Key to the Future

A round table debated the future of Sherry on the closing day of the Scientific Symposium held at the Consejo Regulador in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the DO Sherry. The speakers were Fedejerez president Evaristo Babé, Equipo Navazos’ Jesús Barquín, Williams & Humbert MD Jesús Medina and Barbadillo MD Víctor Vélez, and the moderator was David Fernández, director of Diario de Cádiz.

Víctor Vélez opened the debate saying that “the future of Sherry is a complex question. The Consejo figures are disappointing so I would say that it is uncertain. There is a tremendous emotional distance with Sherry, it is associated with an Andalucian culture and high degrees of alcohol, yet on the other hand, a luxury-loving public is emerging which is interested in cuisine and which knows the oenological qualities of the wine. There is a revival, but our wine is difficult to understand and few really get it.” Jesús Medina made the point that “The number of wines included in the DO has been a fortress but now it has become our weakness. We need to focus on selling the wines which I consider the basics: Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso and Palo Cortado.”

Jesús Barquín said that the future starts with the Jerezanos themselves, who “should know their own wine. The locals should love the wine, but that is something that has disappeared for a variety of sociological and political reasons of which they are aware.” Evaristo Babé took a realistic view saying “We can’t keep making the same mistakes and say that Sherry is the best wine in the world and just leave it at that. We must be realistic, it is an excellent wine, but when you look at the figures the quality and the profitability don’t correspond. We must be optimistic but also consistent with what is said and done.”

Revival or rebirth of Sherry coming from increased consumption by young people occupied much of the debate. "I am not sure, I have heard that people are coming back to wine but I would like to see a study to endorse it,” said Víctor Vélez, and Jesús Medina agreed saying “there is a renewed interest but sales keep on falling. We need to take advantage of this interest and create an image far from that of traditional, and cheap, wine.”

The debate in Bodega San Gines at the Consejo (foto:Miguel AngelGonzalez/diariojerez)
The production of quality up-market or premium wines was a subject much talked about during the Symposium. With this range of more up-market wines and the consequent increase in pricing, the experts would like to achieve, in the words of Jesús Barquín, “the lost prestige. In the XIX century natural Sherries were already sold at much higher prices and they were duly recognised. We should focus on the word “Jerez” meaning the whole area and reserve it for the natural wines and get rid of the baggage of everything linked to the idea of “Sherry.” Evaristo Babé said that while “these quality premium wines were fundamental they would not be enough for the survival of most bodegas.” Jesús Medina said “We need to be careful in this respect. The Marqués de Casa Domecq once spoke of laboratory-blended wines. To me Sherries are the basics I mentioned before, but that doesn’t mean to say that everybody should make premium wines as that would be reflected in the profits.”

Would this increase in prices recover the prestige of the wines, or would it just shock the local clientele? “The price is the consequence of factors relating to the past,” said Jesús Medina, “It is perfectly compatible to have both premium wines and others at a more accessible price, though the latter should be properly made and represent a fair profit.” Evaristo Babé didn’t see a problem with a young person drinking a glass of Sherry for just a euro or two, the worry comes “when that price is the result of an imbalance between supply and demand, although that is about right for now.”

The most positive thing about the situation according to the experts, is that Sherry’s position is understood, and from there it can go forward using tools such as communication and marketing. It is time to get to work and construct an image of excellence in line with the quality of the product because “Sherry clearly has a future. It only has to reinvent itself with a consequent change in the mentality of the trade,” as Evaristo Babé put it.

29.11.15 BIB: History is Repeating Itself

The High Court of Andalucía supported the Consejo’s case in April 2006 when it rejected an appeal by a Sanlúcar bodega against a fine imposed by the Consejo, with the approval of the Junta’s agriculture department, for selling Manzanilla in BIB. Armed with this legal precedent, the Consejo and Fedejerez are wondering how it is that the Junta, which supported the fine at the time, does not nip the current BIB affair in the bud.

Back in 2000 Gáspar Florido, later taken over by Pedro Romero, released a Manzanilla in BIB which was the first one ever. This rang alarm bells at the Consejo who acted without delay in initiatiating proceedings, opening Pandora’s Box in the process. The result was a fine of €28,086.50 plus €1,083.50 being the value of the just over 100 BIBs. After an inspection of the premises the Consejo confiscated another 1,560 BIBs which were ready to be sold so that they could be disqualified according to the court ruling.

Tabancos must use garrafas (foto:Jose Contreras, diariodejerez)

This High Court ruling shows that the prosecution was the result of four inspections carried out by the Consejo which found a quantity of wine in five litre BIBs labelled “Manzanilla en Rama.” The BIBs had stuck to them two strips with the Consejo Seal, one a guarantee of origin and the other stating the capacity of four litres, the latter being exclusively issued for glass containers. It seems that there were one litre strips added to balance up the stocks. The bodega’s appeal was dismissed.

The High Court’s case was that the rules of the Consejo Regulador are “special rules” which prevail over more general rules. The sentence stated: “Although national and EU regulations permit the use of BIB, the DO Sherry rules state that wine can only be sold by member bodegas in containers which do not prejudice its quality or prestige and are are approved by the Consejo Regulador.  Furthermore, the court pointed out that the bodega in question, which had a seat at the Consejo, knew that BIBs had been prohibited by a majority at a plenary meeting after another bodega had brought up the matter.  And at a plenary on 20 July 2000 BIBs were banned unanimously. Florido “knew this perfectly well .”

Last September the Consejo again rejected by majority a proposal by a Manzanilla representative to authorise BIBs. Despite this rejection, the Manzanilleros – with the exceptions of La Guita, Barbadillo and Delgado Zuleta – announced their decision to market Manzanilla in the forbidden container, claiming to have the support of the agriculture department of the Junta. The latter, which has the power to pronounce on matters such as this, has signally failed to do so. The Consejo therefore issued a statement denouncing the fact that the Manzanilleros seem to be behaving with impunity because of the lack of action to resolve the matter by the Junta.

Saturday 28 November 2015

28.11.15 “Sherry” a Term in Constant Crisis

Álvaro Girón Sierra, doctor of History at the University of Cádiz, gave a lecture on this subject in its historical and social context since 1935 at the Scientific Symposium in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the DO Sherry. He began by quoting the Marqués de Casa Domecq who said in 1875 “It is a mistake to export too much Sherry. It is a wine for the rich or the infirm which, like Burgundy or Champagne, should not be within the reach of everyone.”

Álvaro wanted to get down to the deep roots of the Sherry crisis, “the problems of which are still dragging Sherry down to this day.” He explained that the word “Sherry” was synonymous for many decades, not with Jerez but with a specific process of winemaking to which low quality alcohol was added to produce an adulterated drink for export.

Alvaro Giron (
The fact that exporters were more interested in quantity than quality ended up in compounding the problem. “Sherry is so expensive to produce that for the price for which it is sold the bodegas cannot usually make a profit. This is incompatible with quality.”

To add insult to injury, British and German doctors for many years branded Sherry as harmful to the health, declarations which, although they denied them, simply did more to damage the image which Sherry already had.

28.11.15 Harvesting from Knife to Machine

Carmelo García, professor of analytical chemistry and coordinator of the Master in Vitiviniculture at the University of Cádiz (UCA) gave a talk on technical innovation at the Scientific Symposium in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the DO Sherry titled “Oenological renovation and technological innovation in Jerez over the last 80 years.

Carmelo Garcia (foto:lavozdigital)
Carmelo listed in detail the evolution of all the processes required for the elaboration of wine right from the start: the harvest. One of the key aspects and which differentiates the process now from that of centuries ago has much to do with climate change, which has caused the advancement of the harvest from September to August.

Technological change goes hand in hand with the entire production process, from harvesting with the traditional knife to the use of machines which now pick nearly 85% of the grapes. The grapes are no longer brought in in canastas (traditional baskets), and few are sunned outside. Now there are acclimatised chambers devised by UCA, where humidity and temperature are controlled and the grapes can dry in perfect conditions in half the time and with guaranteed quality.

28.11.15 The Ins and Outs of the Bodega City Project

José Manuel Aladro Prieto, professor of architecture at the University of Sevilla, addressed the Scientific Symposium in celebration of the 80th anniversary of DO Jerez on “Renovation versus Tradition: Architecture and the city in the second half of the XX century.” He began by saying that “the dilemma between renovation and tradition is so present in Jerez that it affects its architecture, urban planning and everything symbolic.”

Jose Manuel Aladro Prieto
The revolution in mechanisation and technology which hit Jerez along with the rest of Europe during the second half of the last century provoked a transformation in the culture of wine, “with a dismantling of the model of architecture, city and land established since the XIX century. The change of land model brought some lagares from the vineyards to the city, but the change is more relevant in the opposite direction since at the start of the XX century mechanised transport made it possible for some companies to move their installations to the vineyard, meaning the wine was leaving the city.”

From then on the landscape of Jerez changed and bodegas started to establish themselves at the city’s perimeter at the new Carretera de Circunvalación (ring road) built as part of general urbanisation plans. At first these projects allowed the two big firms of the city to expand towards the Cuatro Caminos area, but the bodegas were growing so fast that the municipality could not satisfy their needs. The euphoria was short lived as there was no longer enough land for the immense bodega complexes being built at the time.

Huge bodegas with vineyards at the edge of the city

In parallel with the construction of these vast complexes, there were changes in building materials. Concrete and steel structures are now common as they can be made bigger to accommodate conveniently and efficiently all the functions of a bodega in one place. Most present externally the aesthetics of the traditional bodega but inside they are simply huge industrial spaces.

28.11.15 The Multinationals Were Never Interested in Sherry

An encyclopaedia could be written about the relationship between the multinationals (multis)and Sherry, and this was the theme of yesterday’s first round table debate at the Scientific Symposium in celebration of the 80th anniversary of DO Jerez. The debate centred on the role of the multis which arrived in Jerez and in the majority of cases fled when they realised Sherry was not going to fulfil their initial expectations. In fact there only remains one: Beam Suntory which represents Harveys and what is left of Domecq: Fundador brandy.

Rafael Navas, director of the Diario de Jerez, introduced the five speakers who were: Mauricio González Gordon (González Byass), Jorge Pascual (Delgado Zuleta), Beltrán Domecq (Consejo Regulador), Helena Rivero (Tradición) and Eduardo Ojeda (Estévez).

(L-R) Mauricio Gonzalez, Jorge Pascual, Beltran Domecq, Rafael Navas, Helena Rivero, Eduardo Ojeda (foto:vanesa lobos/diario jerez)

Sherry is not thinking these days in terms of multis and mergers. Opening the debate, Mauricio González Gordon, president of González Byass said: “Now is not the time for that, what is needed is for everybody to make an effort to reinvent the trade, and many companies are doing amazingly creative things.”

The multis were attracted to Jerez from the 1980s as a result of the boom in Sherry sales. These big companies saw a business opportunity in Sherry seeing it more as a liqueur than a wine, but they failed to see that margins were not what they had hoped for, and that wine does not offer an immediate return on investment. Of course not all multis saw Jerez for its wine and internationally recognised brands; some were interested in the brandy, but with similar results. Others still liked the distribution networks, precursors to worldwide exports, but by the end of the 1990s businesses were reverting to the family model.

The González family, had a long and fruitful relationship with the Byass family over 130 years, but reverted to 100% family ownership after buying out the Byass family in the 1980s and IDV and Benetton in 1997. Mauricio González said “The multis are more comfortable dealing with beer, liqueurs and spirits than wine, in which it is riskier and more difficult to develop a global brand.”
Jorge Pascual worked for over a decade at Sandeman which was sold by Pernod Ricard to the Portuguese multi Sogrape. Jorge, also an ex-president of the Consejo said that the great virtue of family businesses is the closeness and flexibility in decision making as opposed to the single minded management of the multis which, nonetheless brought other ways of doing things with a more global vision. Both models are valid because in the end, behind a multi or a family, there are always people.”

Beltrán Domecq spent 40 years at the old Domecq which, before the spiral of takeovers – Allied Lyons, Beam Global, Beam Suntory – had itself become a “mini-multi.” The main thing he takes from his personal experience is that “the multis were not interested in Sherry,” and the other speakers agreed with him when he stated that Sherry was relegated to the back in the huge portfolios of huge companies in the category “others.”

Eduardo Ojeda fulfilled his dream of working in a bodega at Croft, part of the British multi IDV. The firm had long had links with Jerez and decided to build its own bodega complex where Pale Cream was invented. “The wine was made in Jerez and the decisions were taken in England,” he said, continuing that “the 1990s saw a fundamental change in the mentality of the multis who began looking for more immediate profit, something which Sherry can’t provide.” Attracted by the building of a whole new bodega for Valdespino after its acquisition by José Estévez, Eduardo exchanged the multi for the family business with its commitment to the land, something which made the multis run.

It was roots in the land which led Juaquín Rivero to resuscitate the old family bodega of Rivero CZ which the bank had snatched from his forbears in the form of Bodegas Tradición. His daughter Helena, now bodega president, believes that having the roots and attachment to the land which the multis lack is the key to keeping family businesses going, as they think in the longer term. “Sherry can’t be squeezed in the way that some products can, something the multis take to the limit, and which brought Sherry to its latest crisis.”

A final question was “why have the Sherry bodegas not taken the plunge and become multis themselves?” Mauricio replied that Sherry was the precursor of world distribution in the XIX century but it was neither established with its own structure outside Spain nor through third companies. “We (González Byass) were strong in Spain where we began diversifying into other Dos, Rioja, Cava… but family firms have limited resources and lack a change in culture which is not easy.”

28.11.15 IWSC Awards for Sherry 2015

It is good to see that lots of Sherry was entered, but for brevity I have only included the top three categories.  As always one really wonders about the results when for (just one) example a supermarket Fino gets more points than a Lustau Almacenista Pata de Gallina. Perhaps there is just too much wine to taste, or not enough expertise in Sherry. Also one does tend to see the same wines year after year. I would love to see the Annual Sherry Awards, judged by peers, now THAT would be worth something!

Gold Outstanding:
Williams & Humbert PX 12 YO
Harveys Palo Cortado VORS
Harveys Fine Old Amontillado VORS

Fernando de Castilla Palo Cortado Antique
Williams & Humbert Dos Cortados Solera Especial VOS
Williams & Humbert Manzanilla Alegría
Morrisons Signature Palo Cortado (Lustau)

Silver Outstanding:
Osborne Oloroso Sibarita VORS
Osborne Amontillado 51-1a VORS
Osborne PX Venerable VORS
Williams & Humbert Colección Amontillado 12 YO
Lustau Oloroso Don Nuño
Lustau Oloroso VORS
Lustau Amontillado VORS
Lustau Amontillado Botaína
Morrisons Signature PX (Lustau)
Sainsburys Taste the Difference Fino (Lustau)
Lustau Palo Cortado Península
Morrisons Signature Manzanilla (Lustau)
González Byass Oloroso Dulce Matúsalem VORS

28.11.15 La Guita En Rama, Lacum Dulce and Vino en Rama Launched

The run-up to Christmas is always a good time to launch new products, and so La Guita has launched its first Manzanilla En Rama. It consists of a saca made in October, is a blend from the Misericordia and Pago Sanlúcar Viejo bodegas and the wine is 4.5 years old, being available in half bottles at €9.15. The label bears the image of the old XVIII century doorway of the Hospital de la Misericordia, entrance to the Bodega Misericordia. The grapes were mostly from the Pago Miraflores.

Lacum Listán Dulce has also just been launched. Gabriel Ángel Raya Fernández, a well- known Sanlúcar winemaker, has dedicated this first naturally sweet wine from Sanlúcar to his granddaughter Montse. It is made from super-ripe Listán grapes, otherwise known as Palomino, and fortified to 18ᴼ to retain the sweetness of the must. Available in a small release of 800 numbered 50cl. bottles, the wine costs €12.

Meanwhile over in El Puerto, Bodegas Cárdenas has launched its first bottled “Vino en Rama”. Vino rather than Fino because the bodega is not a member of the DO and therefore can’t use the name, it is nevertheless made from Palomino grapes and aged in a solera system. The bodega has hitherto only sold wine in bulk to local bars. This new wine is available locally at €6 per 75 cl. bottle.

Friday 27 November 2015

27.11.15 Gremio de la Vinatería v Consejo Regulador

In his lecture to the Scientific Symposium celebrating 80 years of the DO Jerez, the famous historian Javier Maldonado Rosso chose to talk about “From the Gremio de la Vinatería to the Consejo Regulador. From Protectionism to Liberalism.” He said that there is a widespread belief that the Gremio de la Vinatería/Cosecheros (Guild of Winegrowers) was the antecedent of the Consejo, but this is far from true.

While Denominaciones de Origen and Consejos Reguladores came about from the necessity for self-regulation and to combat fraud and imitation which were doing enormous damage at the beginning of the XX century, the growers’ guilds were revelling in privileges granted long ago by royalty which meant a straightjacket for the development of Sherry by holding back modernization. The Consejos are integrated entities; they unify growers, almacenistas and exporters to whom they offer judicial security while they represent a guarantee for consumers. In contrast the Gremios were exclusive – growers only – rabid localists and protectionists of their privileges.

The Gremio de la Vinatería de Jerez was established in the XVIII century, closely preceding those of Sanlúcar and El Puerto. It was constituted in response to the growth of exports and the consequent disparity of interests between growers and exporters. The exporters wanted to squeeze the growers to achieve better margins so the growers organised to protect themselves, but the Gremios tended to be run badly by oligarchies of growers. The system was corrupt from the start and by the end of the 1760s, the growers’ failure to comply with their own rules led to the development of the system we know today. In the case of Jerez the transformation was led by Juan Haurie – founder of what would become Domecq – together with a small band of growers who established the ageing of wine in the solera system for easy blending for British tastes which led to the construction of the great bodegas to store them.

Javier Maldonado Rosso (foto:gentedelpuerto)

This movement, whose objective was to recapture the added value of the wine from Britain so it remained in Jerez, led to the liberalisation of prices and the appearance of exporting houses with vertical integration – the bodegas de Crianza y Expedición which also owned vineyards. With the triumph of liberalism after the death of Fernando VII in 1834, the Gremios were abolished without the growers’ attempts to face down the exporters over the following decades ever coming to fruition.

27.11.15 Armando Guerra at Barbadillo

Bodegas Barbadillo, producers of almost half the wine of Sanlúcar, have appointed Armando Guerra to the newly created role known as director of “Alta Enología” or perhaps product development director.  In a press release the bodega said “he will dedicate himself to working with the range of old and special wines as well as the study of new wines which could complement the company’s current range. Well known in the wine trade for his work and experience in promoting Sherry and Manzanilla from the Taberna Er Guerrita, this 40 year old Sanluqueño will join a new professional project at one of the leading Sherry bodegas.”

Armando Guerra at Barbadillo (foto:elmundovino)
With no fewer than three relevant degrees, Armando is well qualified and has turned the bar established by his father into a reference point on the oenological map. He has put on all sorts of interesting tastings with immense enthusiasm, focussing particularly on innovative producers like Equipo Navazos, Willy Pérez and Ramiro Ibáñez, doing wonders in the process for the promotion and rebirth of Sherry. One of his new tasks will be to select exceptional butts from the oldest soleras and market them in the manner of Equipo Navazos and another is to propose new ideas in viticulture and winemaking like messrs. Pérez and Ibáñez. It is good to see Barbadillo joining other big bodegas with a growing interest in rebuilding Sherry, and hearty congratulations to them and to Armando.

27.11.15 Irene García Supports Sanlúcar

The president of the Junta in Cádiz and socialist ex-mayor of Sanlúcar, Irene García, who yesterday participated in the opening of the Scientific Symposium in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the DO Jerez, was not shy in standing up for the Sanlúcar rebels among the big guns in Jerez.

Irene Garcia and Beltran Domecq at the Symposium (foto:diario jerez)

She made a spirited defence of the bodegas of her birthplace saying the Consejo should keep up with the times and that the BIB suits consumer preferences. The said that there was obviously a problem and that it should be addressed by “sustained, sincere and necessary dialogue. The Consejo cannot forget that Manzanilla forms a part of it.”

For his part, and after Wednesday’s resounding vote at the Consejo plenary with 17 votes in favour, 2 abstentions and 1 against prosecuting the rebels, Beltrán Domecq said “the rules must be obeyed, and if some small bodega decides to do things illegally in breach of the rules, we will not allow it.”

27.11.15 It All Began With Fraud

The cause of the origin. With this premise Alberto Ramos Santana, doctor of contemporary history at the University of Cádiz, gave a lecture titled “The Genesis of Denominaciónes de Origen”, to those attending the symposium celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Consejo Regulador in Jerez yesterday.

“To speak of Denominación de Origen is to speak of the classification and individualisation of what we produce,” he began. “One of the most widespread suppositions is to talk about what happens when wines are named after their place of origin. Another is that in taverns all over the province the wines were easily recognised by their provenance, the classics being those from Jerez, El Puerto and Sanlúcar.”

Alberto ramos Santana (foto:uca)
Nevertheless, during his talk Ramos emphasised two essential aspects. Firstly, with the arrival of Phylloxera in Europe in 1863, small winegrowers quickly went bust and the big ones were left to face up to the challenge. Secondly, in places like France and Jerez fraud and imitation took off since production by 1866 had plummeted to nearly half and there was no spare wine for export. In the case of Jerez wines were fortified with alcohol from Germany which did not originate from wine.

At the Congress of Intellectual property in Paris in 1878 people started discussing who had the property of each product. In this sense the Agreement of Madrid of 1891, to which very few subscribed, differentiated between indication of provenance, generic denomination and the denomination of origin – which it failed to define. It would not be until 1902 according to Ramos, when there began to appear “a clear precedent for denomination of origin” through a law promoted in May which regulated “the use of collective brands under the geographical name of the place of production.” In Jerez two great motivators stepped up who proposed to restore the winemaking culture: the ex-mayor of Jerez, Juan F Lassaletta and the Marqués de Casa-Domecq who, despite their good intentions, came up against an argument between growers and exporters about the Jerez denomination not accepting wines from elsewhere, or on the contrary that it was a collective brand for various producers.

The brand “Vino de Jerez” along with the territory which should be included in the denomination of origin went through as many stages as political changes. Particularly memorable is the date of January 1935 when the statutes of the Consejo Regulador were approved. The regulations established the zone of production as Jerez, El Puerto, Chipiona, Rota, Puerto Real, Chiclana and Sanlúcar. One year later the deputy Juan José Palomino suspended this clause and established that the production zone should include all the wine villages of Cádiz, Córdoba, Sevilla and Huelva, limiting the crianza zone to Jerez and El Puerto and legalising adulteration and fraud in the production of Sherry, thus pandering to the exporters.

This situation only lasted till the following year when the people of Jerez punished him by not voting for him in the 1936 elections. Then the demarcation returned to the original, but including Lebrija. Now the Consejo’s job was to get rid of fraud and imitation Sherries throughout the world. A real lesson from history.

27.11.15 Eight Decades of DO Jerez

The opening lecture at the Scientific Symposium  which forms part of the 80th anniversary of DO Sherry, was given yesterday by Luís García, a professor of constitutional law and past president of the Consejo. Since 80 years of history is a lot to cover in an hour and the lecture was so interesting, he was allowed to overrun.

The many regulations of the DO and their modifications formed the thread of the lecture. García felt the principal change during those 80 years came about from the Ley del Vino (Wine Law) 2003 which established the separation of the fuctions of control and management of DOs to avoid the conflict of Consejos being judge and jury. Curiously, the consequences of the transfer of powers of prosecution to the Junta can be seen in the current BIB conflict, in which some bodegas decided to sell Manzanilla in a prohibited container for which the Consejo is asking the Junta to prosecute, but without much response so far.

Luis Garcia with Cesar Saldana (foto: Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Diario Jerez)

García did not expand on this matter other than to say that the rivalry between Jerez and Sanlúcar is as old as the Consejo. Now that the Consejo no longer has the powers to prosecute, which it acquired in the regulations of 1941, it enjoys a friendlier and more agreeable countenance with fewer tensions, being responsible for matters such as sales quotas, prices or crop disqualifications, and is more centred on promotion of events like Venencia competitions and International Sherry Week. “Currently it is more glamorous but it is difficult to say if it is better or worse than what went before.” He alluded to the realities imposed on the Consejo, and with the loss of its legal powers the most it has been able to do is reduce the vineyard area from the 10,500 hectares of the recent past to the little over 6,000 of today to restore balance in supply and demand.

Regarding the love-hate relationship between Jerez and Sanlúcar, he said that Manzanilla used to find itself under the umbrella of Sherry at a time when it lacked its own identity; it was just another style of Sherry like Fino or Oloroso until the DO was split in 1964, which gave rise to dispute over the term “Manzanilla” after the ministry authorised its use for the product of the town in Huelva of the same name.

According to the professor the first regulations – and in 1935 there were at least three, the second of which excluded Sanlúcar from the ageing zone – set the foundations of a continuous adaption to a changing reality which was marked at the beginning by insufficient grape production, a situation which was correcting itself until the introduction of the regulation of 1964 which imposed order by limiting the entry of wine from outside the region with the exception of Vino de Color and Pedro Ximénez. Nevertheless, a sales quota was introduced that year of 40% which caused widespread discontent and threats of lawsuits, but this was settled by the regulations of 1969 which coincided with great expansion.

With the regulations of 1941, the zona de crianza was set as the towns of Jerez, Sanlúcar and El Puerto de Santa María, but Lebrija was excluded from the production zone causing a problem which would take 40 years to solve. The subzone Jerez Superior was introduced, along with the obligation to buy a percentage of grapes from it. These regulations were also modified on three occasions; in 1959 the Consejo was given the power to control unfair competition in price and quality, a ticking bomb which gave rise to not a few conflicts in relation to the drop in international markets. However in the records one could see confidence in the future of the trade, above all with the expansion of brandy sales at that time.

The Casa del Vino in Jerez
In 1956 the Consejo was able to celebrate the export of the 50,000th butt and was offered the site at the corner of Avenida Álvaro Domecq and Calle Paul on which was built the “Casa del Vino” the seat of the Consejo Regulador. During his run-through of the regulations, García related the ins and outs of the purchase of the site which had already been deemed necessary as early as 1938. Even so, it was a quarter of a century before the definitive site was chosen after consideration of one at Capuchinos and another at Sotoflores. Until construction of the new building was complete, the Consejo rented office space in a building in Calle Lealas, possibly at the site of the now disappeared Cine Lealas.

This important Symposium continues today with lectures by Carmelo García Barroso, Álvaro Girón, José Manuel Aladro and Enrique Montañés. There will be a debate on “Multinationals versus Family Businesses” in which such noteworthy people as Beltrán Domecq (Consejo president), Mauricio González Gordon MD of González Byass), Eduardo Ojeda (technical director of Grupo Estévez), Jorge Pascual (MD of Delgado Zuleta and ex Consejo president) and Helena Rivero López de Carrizosa (president of Bodegas Tradición).

Thursday 26 November 2015

Carne de Retinto

Everyone has heard of the famous Spanish jamón (even though they muddle Ibérico with Serrano) but few seem to have heard of the wonderful Retinto beef. It comes from a breed of cattle of that name which lives mostly in Andalucía and is named after the dark colour of its hide. An important number of these magnificent beasts are reared in the beautiful dehesas (pastureland) in the sierras and forests of Cádiz, where they live freely and form a part of the ecosystem, feeding on a diet of grass, acorns, shrubs and branches. Feed is rarely needed here.

Magnificent Retinto cattle in the dehesa
The quality of the meat is such that in 1993 a national association of Retinto breeders (ACRE) was established and thereafter the official Carne de Retinto brand was recognised by the government and the European Union. There are Rutas del Retinto in Zahara de los Atunes (September) and Conil de la Frontera (December) in which one can try all sorts of Retinto dishes. The most popular Retinto beef is añojo, from an animal of between one and two years of age which provides tender, juicy and tasty meat with 50% more protein and a less insipid colour. While the beef is delicious in any recipe, it is perhaps at its delicious best straight from the barbecue – with a glass of good Oloroso.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

25.11.15 Consejo Urges Junta to Act

After a plenary meeting yesterday the Consejo issued a statement approved by a large majority in which it categorically rejects accusations of harassment and discriminatory treatment which certain bodegas in Sanlúcar have accused it of in the press. The statement “deeply regrets the deliberately disobedient attitude towards the regulations and the media misinformation they are emitting with declarations which are not only totally false but which also gravely damage the image of our DO.” The Consejo reiterated “the need for all producers who form a part of our DO to respect the rules as any infractions known to the Consejo will continue to be pursued and prosecuted in fulfilment of its legal function.

A note released at the end of the meeting the Consejo “urges the Junta de Andalucía to urgently exercise its legal powers in defence of the DO and insist on compliance with the law, prosecuting infractors and thus putting an end to this lamentable situation of judicial insecurity.” The BIB conflict took up most of the last plenary of the year and there was no lack of tension resulting from not only the open confrontation of the rebels with their decisions to use a prohibited container and to use it to sell Manzanilla, but also the initiation of prosecutions by the Junta, but whose lack of pronouncement on the roots of the issue is only further stoking things up.

Argüeso Manzanilla La "E" is only available in bulk
The Consejo tried yesterday but without success to get some kind of explanation from the Junta vice president of the judicial insecurity caused by the BIB used illegally by Sanlúcar bodegas, who claim to have its support. Evaristo Babé, president of Fedejerez referred at the end of the meeting to the text of the statement and said he had confidence in the Junta’s decision.

At the meeting a professor of applied economics considered expert in such matters had been commissioned to give his opinion which was that use of BIB exclusively in the catering trade cannot be considered “direct consumption” as the rebels interpret the regulations. The rebels say that the catering trade acts as an intermediary between the bodega and the consumer and that is not direct consumption - which would require glass containers. The expert agreed with the Consejo and Fedejerez that direct consumption is the opposite of indirect consumption in which the product might be used in cooking for example.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Manzanilla 5/41 15%, Alexander Jules

Deepish strawy brassy gold with the faintest copper tints and moderate legs.
Forthcoming and attractive with pronounced damp, dank flor notes, a distinct slightly salty maritime character and early hints at autolysis: a well aged Manzanilla not quite pasada but heading that way. There is a suspicion of savouriness in the form of light oily butteriness, sourdough and olive brine. Lovely.
Bone dry and clean with a decent acidity which gives length. Plenty of bitterness from the flor and a certain weight which combines with that tangy oily almost fishy savouriness to produce a serious, characterful, nuanced and delicious wine which could only come from Sanlúcar. It has a strong appetising effect and I could drink this all night!
Not unlike Equipo Navazos, Alexander Jules Russan seeks out seriously interesting parcels of Sherry and has them bottled en rama in small quantities for sale mostly in the USA. This wine is made from grapes from the Pago Hornillo near Sanlúcar and comes from Juan Piñero's bodega Playilla de la Red. It is a selection of 5 butts from a solera containing 41 and there are 8 crideras. Bottled in May 2015, the wine is 8-9 years old and was aged in the traditional dynamic sanluqueño way with 8-10 sacas per year which gives the wine terrific freshness. The bottle is the heavy "Jerezana" and is sealed with a 2 inch driven Diam (guaranteed no taint) cork, offering a good opportunity to give the wine some ageing - if you can resist it that long.
20 Euros - and well worth it.

Monday 23 November 2015

23.11.15 BIB War Hots Up; Consejo Event in Madrid

After a visit by Consejo control and certification inspectors to rebel bodegas in Sanlúcar last week reports of misdeeds are accumulating. It appears that some Manzanilleros have been using official Consejo seals issued for garrafas on BIBs. The only permitted vessel for bulk sale is the garrafa which comes in three capacities: 4, 8 and 16 litres, and that capacity is printed on the official DO seal.

BIBs come in different capacities: 5, 10 and 15 litres. So what one Manzanillero has allegedly done is to crudely cross out the 15 litre capacity printed on the BIB and attach an official garrafa sticker with the 16 litre capacity. The rebels have already been denounced by the Consejo and Fedejerez and if proceedings are brought by the Junta they stand to face fines of between 3,000 and 50,000 euros.

The Junta vice president to whom the rebels had appealed for support met them last Friday, but he merely asked for dialogue without getting down to the roots of the problem. The Junta is the Consejo’s higher authority and should really pronounce on the issue, but has so far failed to do so.

The 80th birthday cake presented at the event (foto:diariodejerez)

 Sherry, gastronomy and flamenco got together at the famous Madrid flamenco club El Corral de la Morería the other night for the penultimate celebration the 80th anniversary of the DO Jerez and establishment of the Consejo. Among those invited were sommeliers, restaurateurs, wine journalists, distributors and those behind the film El Misterio del Palo Cortado. A special tasting menu to highlight the Sherries chosen for the 80th celebrations was greatly enjoyed, and each pairing was accompanied by specially chosen flamenco. 

Sunday 22 November 2015

Eva Cream 19%, Barbadillo

Bright deep amber with hints of red mahogany, legs.
Interesting. The sweetness doesn't jump out at you, rather a slightly savoury, saline note which dominates the aroma of PX which is certainly there but in the background. There's are traces of oak, caramel, turrón yema tostada and milky coffee then pasas, yet the nose is drier than many a Cream with an attractive balance and complexity.
Sweeter than it smells, it is fairly viscous and sweet on entry with obvious pasas, quite intensely flavoured but fairly light. As it develops more dryness comes through and that savoury note returns along with a trace of bitter orange peel milk chocolate and raisin. It leaves a fairly long clean finish with a bit of character.
From 30 year old vines in Barbadillo's own vineyards, this attractive Cream comes from soleras of over 100 years of age with 10 criaderas, giving complexity to a wine with an average age of  over 5 years. It has around 120 grams per litre of sugars, all natural from sunned PX. The brand was first introduced in 1923.
7 Euros. UK importer: Fells

Saturday 21 November 2015

21.11.15 Junta Appeals for Dialogue

Junta vice president Manuel Jiménez Barrios who recently met the BIB rebels has appealed for dialogue and says that the confrontation will damage the image of the DO. He is not keen to take sides but the Junta will help bring the warring parties together round a table and assist with any dialogue. Only this way will the problem be solved and the achievements of the last 80 years be preserved.
The meeting in Sanlucar (
While the Junta’s agriculture department is the higher authority, just proposing dialogue is not enough, and the BIB rebels feel they have some sort of legal support for launching Manzanilla in BIB. Fedejerez and the Consejo have asked for clarification of what they consider illegal. The rebels’ interpretation of the reglamento is that it is legal to sell Manzanilla in BIB to the hotel and catering trade, but Fedejerez disagrees and hasn’t the slightest intention of sitting down to discuss what it considers a breach of the rules of the DO.

Friday 20 November 2015

20.11.15 Brandy Cheese; More on BIB

Get your tastebuds around this latest gourmet idea: top quality cheese steeped in top quality Jerez brandy!  Cheese producer Reny Picot and Williams & Humbert have got together to create this wonderfully tasty limited edition product which will be promoted throughout the Christmas period.

Master cheesemakers Reny Picot, based at Fresno de la Ribera (Zamora) have produced a traditional ewes milk cheese called Señorío de Montelarreina Gran Reserva to a centuries old formula, which  was the winner of a silver medal at last year’s World Cheese Awards among many other accolades. The quality of the cheese is due, like that of Jerez, to climate, soil and location both of the sheep and the dairy, which are in a mountainous area.

The cheese has been steeped in Gran Duque de Alba Gran Reserva brandy giving it an even more intense flavour. It is available whole or in 250g.packs and they recommend it with fine table wine, but it sounds to me to be the perfect partner for a good old Sherry, which can so easily deal with that intensity of flavour.

The artisan BIB bodegas in Sanlúcar say they are being “persecuted” by the Consejo. They are soliciting the help of the Junta vice president, Manuel Jiménez Barrios who visited Sanlúcar on Wednesday, to get more power of decision making on affairs which exclusively affect Sanlúcar wine, including the possibility of an independent decision making body. They are defending the sale of bulk wine in general and especially in BIB rather than garrafa, a measure which they say was endorsed a while ago in a Consejo report, a copy of which they have sent to the Junta.

After the meeting the Manzanilleros complained to Jiménez Barrios about the “total and absolute” lack of decision making power in the DO Manzanilla which is actually controlled by Fedejerez. In order to rectify this and prevent “the continued loss of bodegas, vineyards and jobs” the group reminded him that the rules of the Consejo contemplate decision making on Manzanilla affairs in Sanlúcar. Certainly the rules include the possibility of setting up a commission to deal with the specific affairs of any of the DOs, but any decisions would still have to go before a plenary at the Consejo which has the final say.

For the moment the rebels have not requested such a commission because they know that Manzanilla only has one representative out of twenty in a plenary which would make it extremely difficult to make any headway. They are not proposing a separate DO but rather to have a separate parallel plenary relating specifically to Manzanilla. As far as their complaints about the “harassment” they claim to suffer from the Consejo are concerned, and which they reported to Jiménez Barrios, they denounced the fact that the day following their meeting with him, an unannounced visit took place by inspectors from the Consejo’s Control and Certification department, a most unusual event according to a spokesperson.

The Consejo has emphatically denied this accusation, saying it would be difficult to do their job if they gave notice and thus give any lawbreaker the chance to conceal their activities. All members are treated equally and it is the purpose of the Consejo to ensure that rules are obeyed and not to look the other way when people explicitly say they are going to break them (alluding to the rebels’ plans to sell BIB Manzanilla). Despite their disapproval of the inspectors’ unannounced visit they claim they have nothing to hide and that the quality of their wine is infinitely higher than that of those who would wish harm (meaning Fedejerez) to those working in an ever more concentrated business in which the interests of a few are imposed on the rest.

Thursday 19 November 2015

19.11.15 Vega Sicilia Wanted Sherry

Pablo Álvarez, managing director of bodegas Vega Sicilia, one of Spain’s most iconic and expensive wines based in the Ribera del Duero, has revealed that his expansion plans included investigating buying a bodega in Jerez. The firm has already expanded into Rioja, Toro and Tokaj but unfortunately no agreement could be reached on Sherry. This is a real pity as such a quality minded firm would have undoubtedly helped to promote Sherry in which there is certainly a need for investment.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

17.11.15 González Byass Palmas 2015 Released

The 2015 selection of the fantastic Palma range from González Byass is available from today. This is the 5th annual release, all bottled en rama, and consists of 4 Palma wines of increasing age from 6 years old (Una Palma), 8 years old (Dos Palmas), 10 years old and virtually flor free (Tres Palmas) to over 40 (Cuatro Palmas), selected from an original selection of 30 butts in the Tio Pepe soleras. Palma is Fino but of exceptional finesse, and in this range one can see the development of the wine as it ages into Amontillado. Every year a leading wine journalist is chosen to help Antonio Flores with the selection, and this year it was Michael Schachner, Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Hispanic wine editor based in New York. Only 6,000 bottles of this stunning and rare Sherry will be released so you had better bet your skates on!

The Last of the Esparteros

Manuel Becerra runs the last espartería remaining in Jerez. It is a workshop at the end of the Calle Porvera where he makes things out of esparto grass, like his father before him. It is an ancient trade, and he makes an incredibly diverse range of products: chair seats from rope, rattan or bullrush, brushes from palm fronds, baskets, panniers, hats, wickerwork for garrafas (huge round bottles) and all sorts of persianas (blinds) and mats. He made the blinds for Lola Flores’ house in Madrid.

The Sherry producers are among his best customers. Bodega windows have esparto blinds to diffuse the sunlight, and when moistened, cool the air entering the bodega. The “esterillas” or “redores”, the mats which are used to sun and press the Moscatel and PX grapes, are made from esparto and need to be replaced every now and then. He has recently done work for Sánchez Romate and Estévez.

A typical domestic persiana
His extensive range of products reflects changing times for an ancient trade, and he has suffered during the crisis like everyone else and had to reduce prices, but working with his brother Juan Luís who buys the esparto and sells the products outside the shop has helped. Another worry is if anyone will want to carry on such a traditional trade after he has retired.

Monday 16 November 2015

La Bota de Manzanilla Pasada 59 "Capataz Rivas" 16%, Equipo Navazos

Mid depth yellowy gold fading to pale rim, legs.
Full and very briny, pronounced dry bitter flor then a real doughy humidity and a faint oxidative note and a minerally salinity, the smell you get from rope on a fishing boat, slightest traces of oak, old straw, seaweed on a beach, tight, complex and interesting with a flourish of flor at the end.
Tangy with a decent acidity, full-flavoured with distant Amontillado notes, but definitely still not. A classic example of Manzanilla Pasada - in between but still racy, the balance is still definitely on the Manzanilla side and has really rewarded the work which went into it. This is lovely, there is a tension between flor trying to hold out against the inevitable oxidation. It has terrific length too.
This beauty is from a saca drawn in June 2015 and comes from La Guita. It is somewhere around 15 years old and comes from butts which had to be filled almost full (instead of the usual 5/6) in order that the very thin layer of flor had a chance to cover the wine's surface, especially at a strength of 16% and with infrequent sacas and rocios. Rafael Rivas was for many years the capataz at La Guita and in 1986 he began building a 15 butt solera selecting the finest old Manzanillas with the intention of using it to give a boost if necessary to the standard La Guita. This was never deemed necessary, so to maintain its character and to avoid it turning into an Amontillado he took out tiny occasional sacas - only 4 or 5 arrobas - and topped it up with wine from the best butts in the La Guita solera.
31 Euros in Spain (Coalla Gourmet). Try Alliance Wine in the UK

Sunday 15 November 2015

The Earl of Chatham’s Cellar

The Pitt family made their fortune in India and were actively involved in British politics. William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham was twice Prime Minister during the XVIII century. His second son William also became Prime Minister aged only 24, being known as “Pitt the Younger” while the elder son, John (b. 1756) inherited the title. While John was a soldier in earlier life, he filled various government posts including First Lord of the Admiralty. He was not over-successful in these posts and in 1820 he was appointed Governor of Gibraltar until his death in 1835.

John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham
The Pitts were fond of a drink, and John the 2nd. Earl was no exception. No doubt important government business was conducted under the influence, and he was famous for his hospitality in Gibraltar. Here he discovered the merits of Sherry and when his executors looked into his estate they found a cellar full of it at his London residence. They called in a leading wine merchant, Charles Bertram, to list and value the wine, which came to the sum of £599/19/0 (five hundred and ninety-nine pounds and nineteen shillings) – or the equivalent today of £52,000. That was a lot of wine for a widower with no children.

Over 2,000 bottles of wine, of which half was Sherry, were laid in over 25 bins in the cellar, in bottles and pints. Much of it came from Haurie and Cadoza except 46 bottles of Pajarete which Chatham had shipped himself. There was a fair quantity of Madeira which had been given to him, some Málaga, Port, Constantia and some liqueurs and other table wines. The Earl’s preference however was undoubtedly Sherry, generally sweet Sherry.

Information from alwayswantedtobeareiter.wordpress and Jose Luis Jimenez

Saturday 14 November 2015

14.11.15 Sherry Week; Rumasa

The II International Sherry Week celebrations were a huge success with more than 1,500 events taking place in 25 countries on 5 continents. The hashtag #Sherryweek reached some 20 million people. There were 200 events in China alone and Britain and the USA tripled the number of events. All sorts of events took place at bodegas, bars, restaurants, universities, wine clubs and hotels. Most notably there were live online tastings and food matching which proved that there is a Sherry for any food anywhere. The Consejo Regulador and the many others involved with making this wonderful event possible are to be wholeheartedly congratulated.

An event in Holland
Thirty two years after the government expropriation of Rumasa the council of ministers has approved the dissolution of the company. The state nationalised the holding company and sold off its constituent companies to the private sector individually because the sheer size of Rumasa made it impossible to sell as a unit. There were so many shareholder claims against the companies that legal history was made, but they have now been dealt with. Rumasa was founded in 1961 by José María Ruiz Mateos who died last September, and the government wants to “close the chapter for good”. While the state stands to receive €160 million from the dissolution of Rumasa, there is still a multitude of claims against Nueva Rumasa, mainly from purchasers of bonds which turned out to be worthless. The state does not own Nueva Rumasa, however.

The Rumasa logo

Friday 13 November 2015

Manzanilla 15%, Pérez Megía

Pale bright lemony gold, some legs.
Quite forthcoming, salty with a slightly savoury edge to the flor, hints of the seaside: seaweed on the beach and ropes on a fishing boat, all that but fairly young with a trace of fruit still perceptible.
The tanginess and bitter flor bite balance out the fruit note at first but it recurs towards the end. Fresh with a savouriness which imparts character and the acidity provides length. It really provokes an appetite - both for food - and more of this Manzanilla!
Quite an interesting wine for the price. Bodegas Pérez Megía was established in 1821 and remained in family hands till 1979 when it was bought by José Medina through their subsidiary Luis Páez. The Medina brothers eventually bought Williams & Humbert and the bodega acts as their base in Sanlúcar where the better-known Manzanilla Alegría is produced. The Pérez Megía brand is more of a sous-marque nowadays, but there is some good wine in there.
4.37 Euros in Spain. Not available UK