I have recently received review copies for two books on rather unfashionable (at least as far as the UK is concerned) wine areas – Sherry and Germany. Both areas inspire great passion from certain wine lovers while largely leaving the general drinking public either indifferent or actively hostile.
Firstly Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla by Peter Liem and Jesús Barquín published by Manutius offering 270 pages for $29.95. This is a serious and scholarly work with no distracting photos and just a few black and white sketch maps. Best to lubricate the reading with a glass or two of a fine dry Amontillado as pictured above.
This is both a celebration of Sherry, Manzanilla and Montilla but also a warning call that Sherry’s culture is under severe threat.
Peter Liem notes in his introduction:
‘I hardly fit the popular image of a stereotypical sherry drinker. American by nationality and East Asian by heritage, I am, as of this writing still under the age of forty. I prefer my sherry dry, and enjoy it most at table as an accompaniment to a wide variety of cuisines from all over the world. I don’t keep a decanter of sherry and a tray of biscuits on the sideboard to serve to my guests. In fact I don’t even own a sideboard.
Yet I have been an avid consumer of sherry for all of my adult life, and ever since my first visit to Jerez nearly fifteen years ago, I have been enamored with the region and its wines. I am deeply passionate about sherry – and in this I am not alone in either my age group or demographic. While sherry is often ignored by the larger wine-drinking populace, it is increasingly being acknowledged by wine connoisseurs around the world as a serious and noteworthy wine. Among the most progressive and avant-garde wine consumers and wine professionals in the United States, it has become downright fashionable.’
Despite Sherry’s fashionable status in the United States its future could still be parlous as Barquín and Liem warn when likening the urgent need for Sherry to rediscover and value its terroir as was similarly the case in Champagne.
‘The parallels with sherry here are striking, and we only hope that a similar movement can occur in Marco de Jerez. Sadly the abandonment of vineyard culture in the sherry region has been even more acute than it was in Champagne, making the process of rediscovery all the more difficult. Today, as a result of the utter disdain shown to the region’s vineyards, the struggle has become not just one of recognition but of sheer survival. Top quality parcels are being neglected or even uprooted, to make way for structures that could surely be located elsewhere: solar panels in Balbaína and Atalaya; real estate in Martin Miguel and Carrascal; wine turbines in Balbaína and Los Tercios. Worst of all too many winemakers and winery directors have simply given up, no longer believing that there is a solution to the problem in the near future.
All this means that any current approach to terroir and vineyards in the sherry district is largely built on memories, shadows and hopes, rather than on tangible reality. Much of this knowledge has been lost, and there appears to be little interest in reclaiming it. It is highly revealing, for example, that in the otherwise thorough and commendable collective volume entitled The Big Book of Sherry Wines, published by the Consejo Regulador, there is not a single article dedicated to terroir and vineyard classification. Sadly, one must accept that the local concern for terroir nowadays is dangerously close to being nonexistent.’
Freddy and Janet Price have long been great supporters of German wine – Freddy through his career as a wine importer and more lately as a writer, while Janet has captured the vineyards and the producers through her many fine photos.
The first edition of A Traveller’s Wine Guide to Germany was written by Kerry Brady Stewart and published in 1990. Freddy and Janet Price have produced a completely rewritten and revised edition (£14.99/$24). A Traveller’s Wine Guide to Germany provides advice on producers to visit, wine itineraries as well as places to stay and eat. Its 310 pages will fit happily into a glove compartment and should be an essential companion for anyone visiting wineland Germany.