Sherry can taste a new golden age. The president of the Consejo Regulador, Beltrán Domecq, experienced at first hand the much talked about sherryrevolution recently during the 'Grand Sherry Tour', an impassioned and intense itinerary on British soil from which he returned much encouraged.
The experience was more than gratifying as it had been a long time since Domecq had seen such excitement for the products of Jerez in what continues to be its largest overseas market, and more importantly, he had never before seen such interest among young consumers.
Beltrán Domecq feels flattered by the attention and interest aroused by his tour.
The dry and upmarket Sherries are really growing and attracting a consistently younger audience.
Recently returned from his trip, the Consejo president can affirm that Sherry has overcome the prolonged rough patch in the UK, where in little more than a decade sales almost halved, falling from 22 million bottles to the few more than 13 million sold there in 2016.
But the situation has changed completely. After closing the 2016 campaign at a similar level of volume to that of 2015, the Consejo believes that growth in volumes is a matter of time, but in terms of value it is a different matter as the bodegas are seeing increased demand for the higher quality wines, a trend which is gaining ground massively with the explosion of Spanish gastronomy and the proliferation of the “Sherry Bars”, and not only in the UK.
Spanish cuisine has become a world leader and its principal ambassadors, the great chefs who collect Michelin stars and international recognition, have a strong and contagious predilection for Sherry, which is considered as not only one of the best wines in the world, but unique, and this gives it a competitive edge, according to Domecq.
In his view other Spanish Denominaciones de Origen, like Rioja, are doing a good job in the UK, making the most of the fact that Spanish gastronomy is so 'cool', but while other wines such as reds and sparkling have the problem that they can be made anywhere in the world, Sherry can only be made in Jerez, and furthermore as a fortified wine, it competes in a much smaller field where Sherry and Port are the undisputed kings.
It is a propitious moment to lay the groundwork for the future, a moment which should not be missed, sustains Domecq, who laments that the budgetary constraints of the Consejo for the generic promotion of Sherry are limiting greater efforts.
We have to do more, and the bodegas have to do much more in the UK, where he felt flattered by the interest Sherry is arousing again and which he noticed at tastings, seminars and other events there during the Grand Sherry Tour. The Tour took in five British cities; London, Bristol, Brighton, Cambridge and Cardiff from the 8th to the 13th March, coinciding with the annual dinner of the Order of Caballeros del Vino which honours professionals from one or other country for their work in the promotion of Spanish wines in the UK.
The purpose of the tour, during which he was accompanied by the director of Sherry Wines UK, Angeline Bayly of the Bespoke communications agency, was to attract young consumers, those who are central to changing British consumption habits from the sweet wines consumed by elderly grandmothers to Finos and Manzanillas, particularly the en rama versions, as well as Amontillado.
The Sherry Bar trend extends throughout the UK, from London – where there are no fewer than seventeen specialist establishments are offering tapas and Sherry matching – to other English, Welsh and Scottish cities. Domecq was delighted that so many young people gather in these places where Sherry is served properly chilled and in a proper, larger glass, a sign that things are changing for the better in this Anglo-Saxon land.
Beltrán Domecq, who is also an oenologist, is very optimistic about the immediate future of Sherry in the UK despite the threat of Brexit, the negotiations for which will last at least two years. In his view “it is impossible to predict the impact of Britain leaving the EU, and although the most affected will be the British themselves with the devaluation of the pound, it will also be bad for us because there might be an increase in taxation.”
In any case he thinks it would be a great mistake to hold back Sherry promotion in the UK till the outcome of Brexit. “We can’t wait as the UK remains our main export market with a volume of ten or eleven million litres, and as competition is always growing we can’t afford to relax.”
Don Beltrán’s tasting and lecture tour took in the following places:
- Plumpton Viticulture and Oenology College near Brighton
- The annual Wines from Spain Fair, London
- Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
- Bell’s Dinner & Bar Rooms, Bristol
- Bordeaux Quay, Bristol Wine School
- Paco Tapas, Bristol
- Bar 44, Cardiff
- Curado Bar, Cardiff
Further reading on Beltáns recent tour:
05 April 2017