Sherry Wine News

Copa Jerez - just a coincidence?

Written by Juan Luis García: Best Sommelier – Juli Soler Prize, Copa Jerez 2017 and winner of the VII Edition of the Copa Jerez.

The journey of Casa Marcial to the Copa Jerez began back in April or May 2016…

Matteo Pierazzolli is originally from Italy where he studied at the “Pellegrino Artusi” hotel and catering school in Riolo (Terme). He is head chef at Casa Marcial**, manager and organiser of the kitchens of the restaurants owned by the Manzano brothers. He is responsible for the appointment and training of chefs in the group. Before joining Casa Marcial**he worked in the kitchens of the restaurants Alboroque and Viavélez in Madrid and the Atrio restaurant ** in Cáceres.

Juan Luis García, sommelier of Casa Marcial**is responsible for wine buying and creation of the wine lists for the Manzano brothers’ restaurants and the training of staff in wine service. He was president of the Association of Sommeliers in Murcia between 2071 and 2011. He was Champion Sommelier for Murcia in 2003 and 2004 and was in the international final of the IV Copa Jerez in 2011. He was a speaker and Spanish wine tastings organiser at the VII edition of the Copa Jerez.

When Matteo suggested we enter this edition, I said “no”. I explained to him that I didn’t want to do it because I had already won the IV edition representing Spain, the only time the Spanish team has won. If he wanted, we could train someone from the team, I would have done it with pleasure, but I didn’t want to participate myself. Matteo was not convinced and after a few days, he tried again. I gave in.
After saying “yes”, it was down to work! 

The selection of teams took place during the summer and the Spanish final of the Copa Jerez on the 7th November. We worked on our pairings basing them on the concept we apply at Casa Marcial: our land - sea, mountain and river – something which is vital to Nacho Manzano in his cuisine.

Among the seasonal products we were using in the restaurant at the time were woodcock and maple, and moreover, we thought we had a geographical similarity with the Sherry area, so we wanted to represent Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Puerto de Santa María and Jerez de la Frontera. Therefore we decided to set out the woodcock dish in three versions: the head and toast with the woodcock livers accompanied by Amontillado Sacristía AB 2015 selection from Sanlúcar de Barrameda; the woodcock breast marinated in seaweed with sea urchin sauce accompanied by Palo Cortado Reserva de Familia from Gutiérrez Colosía in Puerto de Santa María; and a confit of the woodcock thigh with mushrooms accompanied by Oloroso Villapanés from Bodegas Hidalgo in Jerez de la Frontera. With these three versions and much hope we created the dish.

What about the dessert?
We thought the ideal wine would be Pedro Ximénez so we chose the PX Urium VORS. It has so much complexity and sweetness it is a dessert in itself: 35 years old, 400g/l sugar, but fresh and elegant at the same time. Continuing with this geographical similarity, what one can see from the dessert area window is mountains. It was this Asturian countryside which we wanted to represent in the dish in the form of chocolate mousse resembling the mountain which we bathed in the same PX, adding spices which we are fond of to this liquid dessert. We covered our little mountain with moss consisting of green tea powder and added a few orange shoots to help it match the age of the wine. We intended it to be a fresh and pleasant dessert and we called it Chocolate, Mint and Passion.

Continuing the theme of the land we had the sea and the mountain, so for the starter, we wanted to stick to the concept and decided on Pheasant Tortellini with Seaweed in the juice of the pheasant itself clarified with oysters. We accompanied this pairing with a wine which had been stored in a corner of the Casa Marcial cellar since 2014 and is the last release of this wine by Delgado Zuleta in 2011. It is an old Amontillado from the bodega in the Calle Cuartel in the Barrio Bajo of Sanlúcar where the salinity is more potent but with the oxidation as well it harmonised perfectly with the strength of flavour of the pheasant, and as Josep Roca (member of the international judging panel for the VII Copa Jerez) put it “ the wine seems made for the dish”. 

So that was our menu which was selected by the judges along with those of El Cenador de Amós (Cantabria), Atrio (Cáceres) and La Curiosidad de Mauro (Cádiz) to compete in the national final on November 7th, 2016.

The Spanish final of the Copa Jerez
We went to the final full of hopes and respect for our fellow competitors, for the Sherry wines and for the judges: Alberto Luccini, Carlos Maribona, Custodio López Zamarra and Beltrán Domecq. When the day arrived we wanted to surprise everyone with a homage to Manuel Lozano (oenologist of Bodegas Lustau who died in April 2016) by presenting the Lustau Red Vermouth as an aperitif. We wanted to make the formula he left behind a little saltier for the occasion by applying dried powdered tuna to the rim of the glass and seaweed at the bottom, even adding a touch of Manzanilla Los Caireles. That is how we began our presentation to the judges that day.
After a whole morning examining and deliberating over the participants’ menus, the result was announced. The judges declared Casa Marcial the winner of the national leg of the VII edition of the Copa Jerez. We felt enormous satisfaction and pride. 

Towards the International final of the Copa Jerez

We immediately began thinking about the international final and about changes we would have to make to the main dish because of the seasonality of the produce. We thought that if the final were to be in May or June 2017… a great option would be to use wild salmon. That’s what to do. 

One of the hardest and most important decisions in this situation was the choice of the wine. Salmon are born in the river before going out to sea and returning to lay their eggs in their birthplace… so I chose the Palo Cortado of Gutiérrez Colosía Reserva de Familia. The bodega is right on the sea front on the Guadalquivir estuary, and the Palo Cortado is tight, fine, delicate and electric with a complexity I believe must be from another galaxy. With these changes, we faced the international final. We had two very seasonal products – the woodcock and the salmon – which were very difficult to obtain as it had not been cold in Asturias. But as Nacho says,

you need to compete at the limit, or there will be no emotion. 

With every passing day, both Matteo and I felt growing hopes and respect for the competition which was to take place on the 12 and 13 June 2017: the VII International Edition of the Copa Jerez and the I Copa Jerez Forum. In this expanded edition there were lectures, tastings and talks by important chefs and sommeliers like Josep Roca, Ricard Camarena, Ángel León and Juan Ruiz, Andoni Luis Aduriz and Guillermo Cruz, Ferrán Centelles among others. This edition was reaching another dimension. 

We knew it was going to be very difficult, but we wanted to take the risk to the limit.

We decided to prepare the salmon in front of the judges, and although we were toiling for time, we wanted this group of experts to smell the aromas of the river like when a fisherman gets started in the morning. We called the dish El Salmón y sus Destrozos and first, we served a sashimi of the fish’s belly while we cooked the loin in a broth of river water and fern. 

There was a healthy tension during the competition because all the competitors went with the intention of winning and doing the best possible in front of the judges: Josep Roca, Andoni Luis Aduriz, Jan Van Lissum, François Chartier, Madeleine Jakits and Beltrán Domecq. Once the competition was over… all we could do was wait, and try to stay calm for the result. At this level, the devil’s in the detail, but we like emotion.

So it was off for a cold shower and then make our way to the cloisters of Santo Domingo for the prize giving and the finale of this edition of the competition. 

Tortellini de faisán y algas & Amontillado Viejo Zuleta / Bodegas Delgado Zuleta 1 of 3
Salmón en destrozo & Palo Cortado Guitiérrez Colosía Solera Familiar / Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosía 2 of 3
Chocolate, menta y pasión & Pedro Ximénez Urium VORS / Bodegas Urium 3 of 3

And the moment finally arrived…

The prizes for the Copa Jerez 2017

  • Best Starter Pairing – Oysters in texture, crisp cabbage and walnuts & Fino Antique from Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla (Falsled Kro and Sortebro Kro, Denmark)
  • Best Main Dish Pairing – Stewed beef cheek with creamy polenta & Oloroso Don Gonzalo VOS from Bodegas Valdespino (Ödenturm, Germany)
  • Best Dessert Pairing – Demifroid of hazelnuts and figs & Pedro Ximénez Noé from Bodegas González Byass (The Ritz London, United Kingdom)
  • Most Creative Pairing – Dead heat between En Rama (United States) and Humphrey (Belgium)
  • Best Chef – Leon Mazairac (Podium onder de Dom (Holland)

The prizes were steadily being awarded and there were only two left to award: Best Sommelier – the first Juli Soler Prize, and the overall winner of the Copa Jerez. This was the moment of surprises.  The man charged with presenting the Best Sommelier prize was Pepe Ferrer (Sherry wine ambassador) who, according to what he told us later, had been named for the job in honour of Juli Soler (who died a few years ago) as a surprise by the Consejo Regulador. Juli Soler was a world level sommelier who promoted the Copa Jerez and took the restaurant El Bulli to the top along with Ferrán Adriá.
Pepe didn’t know who would award the prize nor to whom. 

The look of surprise on opening the envelope gave it away, they had given the prize to me: Juan Luis García – Spanish sommelier of the restaurant Casa Marcial. What a surprise; I was so proud in two ways: the prize itself and in the name of the great Juli Soler, my teacher.

Finally, the winners of the VII Copa Jerez Prize were the restaurant Podium onder de Dom and its chef Leon Mazairac and sommelier Goos van den Berg. A triumph in every detail and much deserved. My sincere congratulations.
That is the end of the VII edition of the Copa Jerez.

I have related all the foregoing from my personal experience which, for me, only has one conclusion: that every day the wines of Jerez are attracting more #sherrylovers and the excitement and passion surrounding them is incredible. I would like to thank the Consejo Regulador for the titanic effort they are putting into promoting these wines with a genuine soul and for the great Copa Jerez competition which they organise. We can’t wait for the VIII edition to get underway.

As William Shakespeare said:
If I had a thousand sons the first humane principle I would teach them is to forswear thin potations and addict themselves to sack (Sherry).

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Sherry Wines
International news, events, recipes, culture and history, brought to you by the Sherry Wines Council (El Consejo Regulador Jerez-Xeres-Sherry & Manzanilla ).
Sherry Wines @sherrywines
30 June 2017
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