Friday, 24 August 2018

On the Possibility of a Distillery in Jerez

In recent years the Sherry world has been focusing more on the importance of the origin - the vineyards, and naturally the question of the origin of the alcohol used for fortification and brandy production has cropped up. Currently all spirit for fortification or for brandy (except Lepanto), liqueurs etc. is distilled in La Mancha, and a little in Extremadura, as there is a plentiful supply of grapes, mostly Airén, since the approximately 7,000 hectares of Jerez vineyards can’t produce nearly enough to supply Sherry and brandy. Once, most of the bodegas had their own small distilleries, but as sales of brandy boomed neither the vineyards nor the distilleries could cope with the quantities needed.

For a while now the idea of a distillery in Jerez has been discussed, and everybody, except the bodegas which own distilleries in La Mancha, is in agreement. While funding would appear to be reasonably straightforward with money available from the Junta de Andalucía and the EU, there would still be considerable problems.  New vineyards would need to be planted - some 5,000 hectares according to estimates based on current sales - and it would take at least four years for them to come into production. There are worries also that the price of the Jerez spirit could not be competitive with that of La Mancha.

Then there is the question of who would run the distillery. The obvious choice would be a cooperative, and the ideal choice would have been Aecovi, a grouping of four Jerez coops, but it went bust three years ago. So far none of the individual coops has expressed interest. It is to be hoped that something can be worked out however, as the project could provide 500 jobs in the vineyards alone, and more in the distillery itself and further down the line. Sherry could be 100% Jerez, and eligible for the DOC it richly deserves and the brandy could change from being a Denoninación Específica to a Denominación de Origen, all of which would add to the prestige, and hopefully profitability of all concerned.

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