Wines From Spain took the opportunity to speak with César Saldaña, General Manager of the Consejo Regulador on all the latest happening in the world of sherry. The Consejo oversees three different Denominations of Origin: Jerez-Xérès-Sherry – the oldest DO in Spain and one of the pioneers of name protection in Europe – Manzanilla and Vinagre de Jerez (The first Vinegar D.O. in Spain).
Sherry is known for its long history and tradition, but what has changed about Sherry that is exciting to you?
Sherry is living a sort of renaissance in some of its traditional markets, such as the United Kingdom and Spain, being re-discovered as one of the great wines of the World and a particularly versatile one with all kinds of food. We can see that this is going on in the US too, with a change in overall perception and a special response by wine connoisseurs to the many new developments by the producers in Jerez: “en rama” finos and manzanillas, single vineyards sherries, VORS & VOS, vintages…
What do you think of Sherry cocktails?
I love Sherry cocktails. Mixing Sherry has been a long tradition in some markets -like the US- and the recuperation of this tradition is a key part of the re-descovery of Sherry by consumers. Besides, the cocktail culture is spreading around the World and arriving into countries with little tradition for mixology. In the case of Spain, besides its primary use as a wine for food (particularly tapas) Sherry has been traditionally used as a summer drink too, mixed on the rocks with lime-soda (rebujito).
Can you talk to us about the Solera System?
The Solera System is a dynamic method that we have used in Jerez for the aging of our wines for centuries. As opposed to static methods in which the wine ages always in the same barrel, in the case of the solera system the wines are methodically transferred and blended inside different barrels until they reach the perfect degree of maturation. A Solera system consist on various stages of maturation (from 3 to 10 or even more) formed each of them by a given number of barrels. Only a fraction of the wines in the barrels that form the last stage (called the “solera”) are to be bottled. This is called the “saca”. This wine that we have extracted (never more that 1/3 of the content in each barrel) is then replaced inside the barrels with wine from the barrels in the previous stage of maturation. And this blending goes on stage by stage, refiling the barrels with slightly youngest wines in every step, until we reach the the first (youngest) scale of maturation, in which barrels the wines from the most recent vintage are introduced.
What do you think is Sherry’s future for US wine drinkers?
I think Sherry has a great future, as the US wine drinkers are increasing their knowledge and widening their assortment of wines to enjoy regularly. It is a fact that Sherry is a unique wine that requires a certain degree of education, but our experience is that once you get into the World of Sherry, you are caught forever. There are some many different styles and amazing matching possibilities with so many different kinds of food… You never stop discovering a new angle of these extraordinary wine. And then we have cocktails!
What styles of Sherry are seeing the most growth in the United States and why?
The nice thing about the US market is that we see developments in all styles. In the past, Cream (sweet) sherries used to be the bulk of our exports to the US, but we see a growing interest in finos, manzanillas and other dry styles, including amontillado, oloroso and palo cortado. And particularly for top-of-the-range wines: age-dated sherries and special editions.