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.

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