Published on June 11th, 2021 | by Ruben0
The most misplaced picture of a sherry bodega
Let’s start with some good news: I think the knowledge about sherry is generally improving in the wine world. There was a time when you could find articles that completely failed to understand or explain the different types of sherry wines or the production methods of sherry. But nowadays people are more informed about the wines of Andalucía, thanks to some great educational efforts of the Consejo Regulador as well as programmes by Lustau and González Byass.
However a couple of days ago I – once more – came across a picture that peaked my interest for many years. I keep seeing it in articles about sherry, especially in the general press or on tourism oriented websites, where it is used to illustrate a sherry bodega or the solera system. Despite the numerous associations with articles about sherry, it always seemed weirdly out of place to me. I never really examined until now.
The same ‘sherry barrels’ on dozens of websites
Here are just a few of the websites that use this picture. I found dozens really.
- Rough Guides: Things not to miss in Spain #24
- ANWB.nl: Bezienswaardigheden in Andalusië
- Vinepair: Sherry essential info
- Wine Wise Benelux: Sherry week on Instagram
- Ape to Gentleman: Warming whiskies for the winter months
- Pura Aventura: What is Sherry and where does it come from?
- The Wine ABC of a well-known drinks retailer in Belgium
- and so on…
It is not surprising that so many websites use the same picture. It was made by a Russian photographer who travels the world taking pictures and selling them through multiple stock image libraries like Shutterstock or Dreamtime. A few euros will get you a license – you can even get it for free if you sign up to certain websites. If you look at the description of the picture, it says Sherry barrels in Jerez bodega, Spain. An editor will easily end up here and think it’s the perfect image for an article about sherry.
Clues that these photos are not taking the sherry region
However with a bit of sherry knowledge, you’ll notice a couple of weird elements in this image, things that don’t really match the classic idea of a sherry bodega. The low ceiling and abundance of raw concrete seem out of place in a sherry bodega. The barrels do mention flor which may trick you into thinking they are Manzanilla or Fino barrels, but it doesn’t refer to yeast development in this case (explanation below).
At the same time they also mention things that are totally unrelated to sherry, like White and Dry White, or RSV (Reserve), or Seco. There are no White Sherries, and while there are dry sherries, bodegas don’t put this on a barrel. Instead they would use the traditional barrel marks like the palmas, the cut stick of a Palo Cortado, the A for Amontillado… all of which indicate the type of sherry. Last but not least, there’s a huge wooden vat in the background. This is not common in Jerez but often found in Porto for instance.
To me it is clear that these barrels don’t contain sherry wine.
Churchill’s Port barrels
While trying to prove my instinct, I did a reverse image search on Google. I found out that this picture was taken in Vilanova da Gaia, across the river from Porto and the place where all the Port shippers are housed. This other stock library confirms that the picture was taken in Porto and if you look at this other picture from the same series, you’ll notice similar barrels in the same space that have RSV Tawny all over. Later I found the picture above, clearly taken in the same cellar, you’ll recognize the same RSV barrels and the same large vat to the left. The boxes on pallets were pointing to Churchill’s Port and Quinta da Gricha, one of their estates.
Mystery solved. Editors and wine writers, please do some research and don’t go for the first (free) image that claims to show sherry casks. There are thousands of wonderful pictures taken in sherry bodegas. Just not this one.
Update: I’ve been in touch with the photographer and he has already updated the description of the image on a couple of stock image websites.
Update: When I asked Churchill’s Port and a couple of Portuguese wine experts about the ‘flor’ mention on Twitter, they reacted with this tweet: