Nov 11 2021

Belgium Wins the Most Daring and Exciting edition of Copa Jerez

The 9th edition of the competition brought together eight teams from eight countries in a historic edition which featured a full program of complementary activities.

Every member of the jury at the 9th edition of the Copa Jerez, which was held on November 9th and 10th in Jerez de la Frontera, spoke about the passion and, above all, the risks that participating teams took. The Belgian team was confirmed as the winner of this award, which recognized fearless and daring proposals, at a competition which brings together sherry wines and avant-garde gastronomy and is organized by the Sherry Wine Regulatory Council, in collaboration with Fedejerez and with the support of ICEX and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, through its commercial offices in Brussels, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, The Hague, London, Moscow and New York, which coordinated the national competitions in their respective countries.

The FWS offices abroad also select trade journalists to travel to Spain to learn more about sherry wines and cover the international event.

The team from Belgium restaurant Paul de Pierre won the Copa Jerez in its country in order to participate in the final of Copa Jerez 2021.

The event was hosted at Villamarta Theater in Jerez de la Frontera, and this edition made history as soon as it began, when the curtain was literally pulled back on the first day to reveal the eight finalists cooking on stage. Each team presented a menu consisting of a starter, a main course and dessert paired with sherry wines. The Belgian team not only won the grand prize, but also the Best Chef and Best Sommelier distinctions.The team comprising sommelier Paul-Henri Cuvelier and chef Fabian Bail, from Paul de Pierre restaurant, won over the jury with a classic yet creative proposal. Their starter was made with mackerel, dashi, chorizo, artichoke, pak choi, and lovage oil, and was paired with Fino Viña Corrales from Bodegas San Francisco, Peter Sisseck's winery in Jerez. The main course was lamb, hazelnut, celeriac and sesame puree, zucchini flower stuffed with Manchego cheese and shiitake and rosemary potato confit, served with an Oloroso from Bodegas Gutierrez Colosía. The dessert selected as the best was pear in tobacco and spiced syrup, lemon cream and goat cheese ice cream, paired with Medium Old Harvest from Bodegas Ximénez-Spinola.

Several prizes were awarded, focused on each of the competition’s components. The award for the Best Pairing with a Starter went to the dish made with trout, vinegar, celery and mushrooms, paired with Fino En Rama from Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosía and prepared by the team from the Netherlands. The Best Pairing with a Main Dish came from the Danish team, for its pigeon, beetroot and blackberry, which was served with Oloroso Tradición VORS 30 Años by Bodegas Tradición. The award for Best Dessert Pairing went to the US team for its Payoyo cheesecake, served with Moscatel Dorado from Bodegas César Florido. Russia won the award for the Best Creative Pairing.

The Belgium team receives tha award of Copa Jerez from sommelier Josep Roca, member of the jury.

The countries that participated in this edition of the Copa Jerez and the restaurants that represented them were as follows: Belgium, Paul de Pierre; Germany, Klinker restaurant; Denmark, Esmée and also Connection by Alan Bates; Spain, Venta Moncalvillo (1 Michelin star, Daroca de Rioja); the United States, Mercado Little Spain; the Netherlands, Librije (3 Michelin stars); the UK, The River Café; and Russia, Selfie and also Straight Fire.

An exceptional jury

The jury at this year's Copa Jerez was comprised of six internationally-renowned professionals: Josep Roca, sommelier and co-owner of El Celler de Can Roca, who was chairman of the jury; Quique Dacosta, owner and chef of Quique Dacosta Restaurant and El Poblet; Andreas Larsson, World's Best Sommelier 2007; José Pizarro, from the Pizarro Restaurants Group; Peer Holm, president of the German Sommelier Association; and José Carlos Capel, food critic and director of Madrid Fusión.

For Josep Roca, one of the sommeliers most committed to sherry wines, "this was an extremely high-level competition" because of the "deep knowledge that all the participants have of the wineries, the history, and of everything that has to do with the current harmonies and trends in gastronomy and how they pair well with sherry wines." He also described the winning proposal: "Classic in style, but with a capacity to reinterpret the scenes on the plate and in the wine selection." 

According to chef Quique Dacosta, the winning proposal offers "Two points of view: a classic understanding of the world of wine from a culinary perspective; this is the foundation. At the same time, there is a didactic element and great knowledge that allows us not only to understand the proposal, but also to dream about it. That’s where a creative idea with imagination begins, where the sommelier and the chef work hand in hand, creating an extraordinary atmosphere that dignifies not only cuisine, but also the world of wine." Says the chef, we're living "a moment where the variety of the contestants in terms of culture and countries of origin suggests that there is surely a much broader view of the world of sherry."

'From Typical Spanish to Marca Spanish', a roundtable presenting Restaurants from Spain quality seal.

But the Copa Jerez was much more than a competition. The two-day event at Villamarta Theater included the Copa Jerez Forum, a series of conferences, roundtable discussions and talks, in which some of the leading figures in gastronomy deepened attendees' knowledge of sherry wines and the latest trends in haute cuisine through debates, exhibitions and tastings. María Naranjo, Food and Drink Industry Director at ICEX, participated in the roundtable discussion, "From Typical Spanish to Marca España," together with Quique Dacosta, José Pizarro and Nicolás López Pelaz, presenting the Restaurants From Spain quality seal. The first floor of the theater also hosted a lively showroom with representatives from all the wineries where a wide selection of sherries from the main bodegas in the region could be tasted.

This competition also served as a meeting point for chefs, sommeliers, winemakers and sherry aficionados in general. It was a unique event, which was even attended by chef José Andrés as a private citizen. That's the power of sherry: able to attract the most important people in the world of gastronomy to celebrate these unique wines, which have character and personality that excite everyone who tastes them.

The Copa Jerez is held every two years in Jerez, and national competitions take place on alternating years. The Foods&Wines from Spain offices in each country organize national competitions to which the best restaurants are invited to participate. A chef and sommelier from each participating restaurant prepare a recipe that includes sherry vinegar among its ingredients and a suggested pairing with sherry wines. The winners of each national competition travel to Jerez the following year for the international competition.

Author: Javier Sánchez/@ICEX