“Sherry wines have the ability to defy time”, says César Saldaña, President of the DOs Jerez-Manzanilla Regulatory Council. The English edition of ‘The Book of Sherry Wines’ is published by Foods and Wines in Spain-ICEX and contains all the secrets to start learning about sherry
The subtitle for The Book of Sherry Wines is "A guide to understanding these unique wines." The book was written by César Saldaña, President of the Regulatory Council for the DOs Sherry, Manzanilla, and Vinagre de Jerez, and it will be presented on 20 March at ProWein, the important German wine event held from 19-21 March in Düsseldorf. We talked to Saldaña about his essential book -that won for the Best Wine Book in the 2022 International Wine Challenge Merchant Awards for Spain- for delving into an unparalleled universe in the wine world. We talk with the author about these surprising wines.
Let's start at the beginning. According to the prologue, this book was written with rigor but also with passion (for sherry). Are you looking to create passion among your readers?
The book is educational. It’s a manual and aims to answer questions like where they come from, how they're made, etc. I'm not interested in writing about the mystery behind sherry or the poetic side when talking about wines. I think people need the basic information to better understand sherry. Ideally, it should be a combination of data and information, and magic.
It's true that the passion I put into it is what allows reader to retain the information. I can't write about these wines in any other way because I'm wholeheartedly passionate about them and I have devoted my whole life to them... I believe that this part of passion is contagious. Sherry wines are more special and it's more difficult to get into them, but once you do they end up hooking you like few others. And that lasts a lifetime.
When it comes to understanding sherry wines, you also say in the book that they're a bit more challenging than others because it's difficult to establish parallels with other wines around the world...
That has to do with a characteristic that is inherent to these wines and that is the fact that they're truly authentic: what we have in Jerez we have been cultivating for the last 3,000 years, always with our own line of development. The globalization we have experienced in recent years has standardized processes and products, but sherry has remained on the sidelines, maintaining excellence without imitating or copying anyone or anything. As a result, these wines are a true discovery; moreover, they're a discovery that still has plenty of scope for growth.
Something that you emphasize in the book is the stability of sherry wines in terms of exports. Are they born survivors?
Sherry wines defy time. They are some of the oldest wines you can drink: 20, 30, 40 years old, and they're much more than "drinkable." It's difficult to find wines in other wine regions which are that old and such high quality: they tend to be expired. But there's another aspect linked to time. Sherry wine has always been exported, and it has been a challenge for its producers to maintain its qualities wherever it has been sent. Today, this may seem trivial because there's temperature control, stabilization, etc. but 500 years ago this was very difficult and the ability to control these factors made us pioneers. Therein lies winemakers' obsession to focus on the wine's origin and create a protected designation of origin, the first in Spain.
One of the fundamental questions for wine lovers who want to start drinking sherry is where to start.
In the book I include a user's guide where I help them begin. Fino and Manzanilla are a fantastic entry point because they're the most adaptable among the wines we make: a glass of chilled Fino or Manzanilla goes perfectly with Ibérico ham, olives, anchovies, seafood, etc. This allows someone who's not familiar with this type of wine to immediately see its possibilities because they make the food shine, cleansing the palate and enhancing aromas. It's important to note here: there are many ways to get started, but I always suggest that it should be paired with food. That's how sherry truly stands out. Beyond that, anyone can decide whether to start with wines that undergo biological or oxidative aging, with sweet wines, or even with cocktails, substituting vodka for Fino in a Bloody Mary, for example.
Speaking of gastronomy, has Spanish food played a decisive role in enhancing the value of sherry in recent years?
Chefs and sommeliers have played a very important role. The same people who turned Spanish gastronomy into a special force on the international stage, from Ferran Adrià and the Roca brothers to Juan Mari Arzak, are the ones who have helped us see that sherry wines' potential is tremendous. The discovery of sherry wine by sommeliers was a turning point. The idea that sherry wine was only to be enjoyed as an aperitif has changed, opening up enormous possibilities for both chefs and sommeliers.
It has also made a strong entry into the world of cocktails. There's no top-level mixologist in the world who doesn't use sherry in his or her creations.
Sherry offers the possibility of creating cocktails that aren't so strong because it can be used to replace distillates. For us, it's an important way to raise awareness about sherry in countries like the United States, where the cocktail culture is so deeply rooted, but also in Europe.
What does the future of sherry wine look like?
It depends a lot on what kind of sherry we're talking about. I'm a great believer in organic aging, one of sherry's great contributions to the world, and there's an opportunity to continue showing the world that our region is an example of this type of winemaking. Of course, in the future there will be a focus on higher quality and less volume. Additionally, beyond fortified wines, we have the new white wines from Jerez, which I believe will be important in the coming years because of their ability to hook wine lovers on this fascinating region.
Interested in this book? You can order it HERE