Published on May 18th, 2021 | by Ruben2
Towards new regulations for the D.O. Jerez-Xérès-Sherry
You may remember the recent Fino vs Manzanilla conflict, which was actually a wider struggle between Jerez and Sanlúcar which lasted for several years. There were discussions about the technical differences between Fino and Manzanilla, the production of Fino de Sanlúcar, the representation of Manzanilla within the institutes of the denomination of origin and other matters. Over the years numerous debates and confrontations even led to threats about Sanlúcar blowing up the current D.O. structure and starting an entirely separate Consejo Regulador altogether.
The confrontations seem to have ended last week (10 May 2021) when an agreement was signed which should unblock the issues that have been hindering the evolution of the regulations for sherry wines. We can break down the agreement into four major developments.
A single production and ageing zone
Currently the vineyards and pressing houses of the D.O. Jerez-Xérès-Sherry are spread out over nine municipalities. Young base wines can be produced within the boundaries of this production zone, but the maturation of sherry wines is restricted to the so-called sherry triangle, i.e. the three cities Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María. See my article about the three types of sherry bodegas for more information on this historic differentiation.
By changing this, sherry wines can also be aged and dispatched in other localities of the Marco like Trebujena, Chipiona, Chiclana, Rota… (if they comply with all other regulations of course). This is quite a big change because it basically ends one of the most symbolic elements of sherry, its famous ageing triangle.
Fino de Sanlúcar
A Fino de Sanlúcar is a full-bodied biologically aged wine that is called Fino while it’s produced in a bodega in Sanlúcar, where it would logically be called Manzanilla. Especially Barbadillo is known for producing Fino de Sanlúcar, e.g. the Fino Mil Pesetas. It was the European Commission which put a finger on this old inconsistency: if you claim Manzanilla is unique to Sanlúcar, then how can you also use the name Fino for a wine that is made in the same place, with the same technical specifications?
The new agreement defines that Fino can only come from Jerez or El Puerto (and the new municipalities of the former production zone, I guess) while Manzanilla can only come from Sanlúcar. A transitional period will be defined to phase out the name but after that, all of Sanlúcar’s biologically aged wines will be regulated by the D.O. Manzanilla de Sanlúcar alone.
Tabancos, despachos and bulk sales
The third pillar of the agreement defines the sales of wines in bulk. There is a long-standing tradition to sell wines directly from the barrel, either in bodega shops (the so-called despachos) or in taverns and tabancos. You can just walk in with a five-liter plastic container and they will fill it with the wine of your choice, at a very low cost, without a label or any official information. Now all parties agreed they will develop a specific regulation for this kind of traditional and very local supply chain and bring it out of the grey zone.
Manzanilla commission / Vineyard commission
Within the Consejo Regulador it has been agreed to create a specific Manzanilla Commission which will have greater competence and independence in shaping its own regulations, as well as managing the budget for promoting the uniqueness of Manzanilla, as a specific element within the larger budget of the sector.
Likewise a special Vineyard Commission will be set up. It will be responsible for studying and proposing new production policies to the Plenary Commission. One of the ideas is to allow some old grape varietals again (Mantua Pilas, Uva Rey, Perruno, …) that were common in the past but largely lost after the Phylloxera plague.
This agreement should end a long and bumpy road and inject the sector with an important dose of optimism. At the same time it should give a green light to some essential changes in the regulations of the D.O. Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, allowing it to evolve and prepare for the future.
César Saldaña, the president of the Consejo Regulador, commented on this agreement: “Despite the enormous heterogeneity that defines the Marco’s wine and vinegar sector, in which not only different subsectors converge but also companies of different sizes and approaches, the organizations agree on the need to align all interests in contention, to materialize the long-awaited recovery after the pandemic and to be able to confront the challenges that the future poses.“