Antonio Flores, Gonzalez Byass
It would seem that last week I may well have been following humbly in the footsteps of the great Marco by spending time in the magical region of Jerez with visits to bodegas in Sanluca de Barrameda, El Puerto de Santa Maria as well as Jerez itself.
Last week was the 4th anniversary of the founding of the #winelover group. This year the celebrations started in Jerez on the evening of Tuesday 9th February running through to Saturday with visits to seven bodegas – Gonzalez Byass, Lustau and Williams & Humbert in Jerez, Barbadillo and Delgado Zuleta in Sanluca de Barrameda and Gutiérrez Colosísa and Osborne in El Puerto de Santa Maria.
During our five days in the region we didn’t taste a bad Sherry – the quality was remarkably high with exemplary examples, which we were privileged to taste, in all styles whether they were Finos, Amontillados, Olorosos or Palo Cortados. The highlights of our sojourn in the Jerez region can be viewed here.
Although I would naturally be inclined to argue the case for Muscadet, I have no doubt that Sherry is the greatest bargain in the wine world with some of the low prices being quite insane. Given the cost of production the pricing of some sherries makes no sense – a minimum of four years production before bottling plus a significant loss of volume through evaporation. A number of the Finos we tried were between 5€ – 7€ with some excellent Amontillados, with further ageing, for less than 10€.
There are many white wines, Sancerre for example, that will be bottled and sold from February/March for significantly higher prices than a lovely Fino that costs a lot more to produce….
We talked to Pelayo García, export manager at Delgado Zuleta, whose labels we didn’t think properly reflect the quality of the wines. García took our rather frank comments in good part. He explained that the very prices for Sherry meant that it was difficult to spend money on changing the labels as well as the necessary promotion. Not forgetting that they had many traditional customers who would not welcome changes to the labels. One can see the bind that these producers are often in. The good Zuleta Amontillado (10 YO) sells for only around 7€ from the bodega, while the better, excellent Monteagudo (15 YO) is only around 12€.
There is no doubt that these exceptional wines deserve to cost more but how to push up their prices when Waitrose sell a very good Amontillado and Oloroso for less than £10! You have to worry that the economics do not stack up in the long term.
It was impressive that the #winelover group was so well received in Jerez. Formed four years ago by Luiz Alberto and André Ribeirinho, this Facebook group has now grown to just over 20,000 members. The criteria to join is simple – to love wine. Events (#winelover hang outs) are organised so members can meet up and share wine and usually good food as well as trips to wine regions. Every year on the anniversary of the group’s foundation there is a celebration in a wine region. In 2013 it was Umbria, followed by Friuli in 2014, Lisbon in 2015 and Jerez last week. The 2016 celebrations haven’t finished as there is also a celebratory trip in Greece now in progress. The #winelover group (#winelovers against cancer) campaigns to raise money to fight cancer.
The #winelover group and its success is a product of our times as the group would not exist if there was no social media. It would have been difficult to distinguish our #winelovers visit from a press trip, except that we paid a contribution to the visits, our hotels and transport to Jerez. As individuals most #winelovers may have little clout but as a group tweeting, posting on Facebook and Instagram etc. they have a collective reach that makes them interesting for a wine region to extend a warm welcome. Whether a myriad of social media buzz translates into increased sales remains a crucial question but so it does for more traditional press coverage….
#winelover barrel signed @Osborne