Blog: Olly WehringPostcard from sherry country

Olly Wehring | 8 July 2007

Greetings from the very hot – and very beautiful – sherry region of Jerez in southern Spain. Apologies for the haphazard timing of recent blogs on just-drinks: You’ll be relieved to hear that the sunshine down here has fully recharged my batteries, and normal service has now been resumed. That’s presuming that I come through this weekend unscathed – a day’s rugby against the winemakers of the Languedoc would be a good way to go, after all, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, back to sherry. I’m in Jerez as a guest of Beam Global Spirits & Wine, who are keen to show off their Harveys sherry operations. Sherry has never been my tipple of choice, to be frank, struggling as it has done with an image of grandmother’s decanter and Christmas.

Speaking last night to Beltran Domecq, Harveys’ winemaker and master of sherry, however, I discovered that the category has other troubles to deal with, namely pricing. As Domecq showed me, the process of making sherry is not an easy one – complex, time-consuming and labour intensive, the mystery is why the fruits of his labours are widely available in the UK, for example, at around GBP7.49 (US$15.10) per bottle.

Domecq blames competitive forces, in particularly ‘Buyers’ Own Brand’ (BOB) sherry. “They (retailers) sell their BOB sherry at incredibly low prices,” he told me. “Around 38% of all the sherry consumed in the UK is BOB. The image of sherry suffers – that’s the most negative impact of this cheap pricing.” In the Netherlands and Germany, Domecq noted, the situation is equally tough.

So, how to turn this all around? “We’re trying to change the concept of how people should drink sherry- for example, over ice. We’re also trying to ‘de-seasonalise’ the category. People need to be educated as to what sherry wine is. Once they understand what goes into making the product, they will be prepared to spend more.”

I for one wish Domecq and, indeed, the whole sherry industry the best of luck with their future efforts. A region as delightful as this deserves as much success as its work warrants.

And who knows, maybe even I might start drinking it outside of Christmas Eve.


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