Innovation in Sherry

Forty years ago, Sherry was a popular drink. Jamie Goode looks at what went wrong, and current efforts to revive the category.

Sherry barrel
Sherry barrel

The year 1979 was peak Sherry. A million cases of Harveys Bristol Cream were exported to the UK and Jerez was in the middle of a boom, with the UK and the Netherlands its key markets. Just two years later, the market collapsed.

Vineyard disconnect

The roots for this demise were sown in 1971. Times were good, and increased demand led to expansion. The existing vineyard area, based on specific vineyards known as pagos, grew rapidly. “Until 1971 we were working with the pago system,” says Willy Pérez of Bodegas Luis Pérez. “Because Spain was entering the European Union, some clever guy says that we needed three times the wine, so we planted with a new clone, Palomino California.” Yields rose by a factor of three; the vineyard area tripled. “Before, you could easily reach 15% alcohol naturally,” says Pérez. “With the new clone and high yields, this is very difficult. In that moment it was all messed up.” 

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