Published on November 11th, 2021 | by Ruben0
Belgium wins Copa Jerez 2021
The 9th edition of the Copa Jerez, the prestigious biennial sherry food pairing competition for chefs and sommeliers, was heldheld on November 9 with a ceremony the day after. As in previous editions, there was a series of pre-selections in different countries in order to select one restaurant that represents the country. The competition is always part of a bigger conference called Copa Jerez Forum, with a series of keynote speakers and debates (including Josep Roca, Ferrán Centelles, Quique Dacosta, Luis Gutiérrez, José Pizarro, Peter Sisseck and others), tastings and dinners, as well as a small wine fair with the represented bodegas. The organisation calls it the most groundbreaking and revolutionary edition of Copa Jerez Competition.
In the cooking and wine pairing contest, each team (chef + sommelier) creates a starter, main course and dessert, accompanied by specific sherries. Here’s a full list of the finalists:
- Klinker, Germany
- Paul De Pierre, Belgium
- Esmée and Connection by Alan Bates, Denmark
- Venta Moncalvillo *, Spain
- Mercado Little Spain, United States
- Librije ***, Netherlands
- The River Café *, United Kingdom
- Selfie * and Straight Fire, Russia
It’s not often that we’re seeing a 3-star Michelin restaurant in the competition, but in the past more stars haven’t always been a guarantee for success.
Hattrick for Paul De Pierre
Restaurant Paul De Pierre near Oudenaarde (Flanders) in Belgium, with chef Fabian Bail and sommelier Paul-Henri Cuvelier, is the overall winner for 2021. The also won the Juli Soler award for best sommelier and the one for best chef. Not only is it the first time that Belgium is able to take home the top prize, it’s also the first time that any country wins all three major prizes at the same time. Quite a hattrick!
Their first course was a composition of mackerel, dashi, chorizo, artichoke, pak choi and lavas oil, paired to the Fino Viña Corrales Balbaína 2020 from Bodegas San Francisco. The main course included lamb, hazelnut, a celeriac and sesame puree and stuffed zucchini flower with manchego. It was paired to the Oloroso from Bodegas Gutierrez Colosía. Their dessert was pear, poached in tobacco and spices, with lemon accents and goat cheese ice cream. This came with the Medium Old Harvest from Ximénez-Spínola. The dishes and pairings are rather on the classic side, but they were nonetheless creative and applauded by the jury for their ability to reinterpret the scenes on the plate and in the proposal of the wines.
The slow effect of Copa Jerez
After a few misses in the past few years (just my opinion) the Belgian pre-selections are well on track again with an improved organisation and support behind the scenes. The 2021 result proves that this effort really pays off. On the other hand I can’t help noticing that Belgium – a country with a great gastronomic vibe and a long-standing tradition with dry sherry – has zero events for Sherry Week this year, much like its neighbouring countries Germany, France and The Netherlands by the way, most of which are still considered major sherry markets. This is especially surprising in The Netherlands where earlier this year a big budget marketing campaign was launched with European funding.
It is also my personal observation that prestigious awards like the Copa Jerez rarely lead to an ongoing commitment to sherry wines in the participating restaurants. The reality is that Sherry (Week) remains popular in a handful of countries but it is still struggling to get off the ground in the rest of the world. Targeting high gastronomy with Copa Jerez is certainly a necessary task for the Consejo Regulador, but the effect on the consumer market and sales seems to be slow and a little indefinite.