Oct 06 2023

Denmark Takes Home the X Copa Jerez

The competition has been held over two unforgettable days, during which Jerez wines have demonstrated more than ever their versatility for being paired with any food in the world

They say that Jerez wines are hard to understand. A competition like the Copa Jerez is fully capable of disproving this idea. The 10th edition of the most important gastronomic pairing challenge in the world exemplifies how Jerez is perhaps the most universal wine, the most capable of accompanying any type of food from any country. The Copa Jerez was held on October 3 and 4, 2023, at the Villamarta Theater in Jerez, which included an exciting live cooking final. This event is held every two years, making this edition its 20th anniversary. The Copa Jerez is organized by the Consejo Regulador de los Vinos de Jerez y Manzanilla (Sherry Wine Regulatory Council), in cooperation with Fedejerez. It also has the support of ICEX and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, through its commercial offices in Brussels, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, The Hague, London, and New York, which coordinated the national competitions in their respective countries.

"We cried with a Jerez wine," said this year's winners, the Danish team from Parsley Salon restaurant, chef Allan Schultz and sommelier Alexander Berntsen. The team managed to triumph over the remaining six teams—from Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, the UK, and Belgium—with a diverse and vibrant menu. Chef Allan Schultz also won the award for Best Chef. At the awards ceremony, held along with a dinner at the González Byass winery, the Danish team was ecstatic about the award, the culmination of a very conscientious effort.

"These have been a several months of hard work and we have been very focused on the competition, and we went all out: we definitely wanted to win and take the Copa Jerez back to Denmark. The presentation before the jury wasn't easy, but if there was one thing we knew for sure, it was that we had to express our way of working at home, to trust in our creations and decisions, and to show that Jerez plays a very important role in our restaurant," said the winners.

They also said that "The competition has become a compulsory event on the gastronomic scene (...). We have noticed a great evolution in the competition and also how the food and wine sectors have worked to make Jerez wines evolve and position themselves as the great wines they are."

A complete and complex challenge

The starter proposed by the Parsley Salon team was poached prawns seasoned with beurre blanc vinegar and marinated rye bread, green celery, sea lettuce and sisho, and paired with Manzanilla Soluqua from Bodegas Barón.

The main dish was poached and flambéed quail, dry-aged for two weeks, stuffed with veal sweetbreads, with a quail liver, bone, spices and caramelized garlic sauce, and pickled chestnuts, candied kumquats and orange. It was paired with an Oloroso from Bodega Rey Fernando Castilla.

For dessert, the team made ice cream served over caramelized ripe figs and brown butter, with peanut praline and sea salt, paired with a 20-year old Pedro Ximénez from Bodegas Tradición. "I have known about Jerez wines since I was a child; my great-grandmother used to serve them at family meals. They give me confidence because they're closely related to my childhood," commented Berntsen, the Danish team's sommelier. Can a glass of Fino be a Danish sommelier's madeleine de Proust? Indeed it can.      

The team from the United Kingdom (Dinings SW3 restaurant) was awarded the prize for Best Starter Pairing, the Netherlands (Vigor restaurant) won Best Main Course Pairing, the Best Dessert Pairing award went to Spain (Ambivium restaurant), and the Most Creative Pairing went to Germany (Ackermannshof & Mandarin Oriental Savoy restaurant). The Juli Soler Award for Best Sommelier went to Gianluca di Taranto, from the restaurant Cook & GTD, in Belgium.

The jury comprised five internationally renowned professionals: Jancis Robinson (writer, wine critic, and Master of Wine), Almudena Alberca (winemaker and Master of Wine), Melania Bellesini (sommelier at three-Michelin star The Fat Duck), Pascaline Lepeltier (writer and Best Sommelier in France 2018), and Josep Roca (sommelier and co-owner of three-Michelin stars El Celler de Can Roca).

The perfect mix of cuisine and spectacle

According to Josep Roca, "The Copa Jerez has grown exponentially since it began" and, during the awards ceremony, the sommelier from El Celler de Can Roca acknowledged that the 10th edition of Copa Jerez had been "the most hard-fought ever." He also added, "What happens in the Villamarta Theater in Jerez is an incredible synthesis of cuisine and spectacle." Jancis Robinson pointed out "The competition has a high level and it's great news that there are restaurants participating in the competition which, although they're not Spanish, have more than 20 Sherries on their menus." She also pointed out that the Copa Jerez is a competition that "focuses on the essence of Jerez wine, which is very gastronomic."

César Saldaña, president of the Consejo Regulador de los Vinos de Jerez y Manzanilla, agrees with Robinson that Jerez wines' "versatile and diverse" character gives them "a huge advantage in gastronomy" because "chefs love them."

Alongside this edition of the Copa Jerez there was an extensive program of activities, including one called "Meat & Jerez: Pairing the functional with the emotional," led by chef Luis Alberto Lera (Lera, Castroverde de Campos, Zamora, one Michelin star) and sommelier Rafael Sandoval (Coque, Madrid, two Michelin stars), and a surprising session entitled "Parallel emotions: Great arias for iconic wines," in which Josep Roca, with the help of tenor Ismael Jordi, carried out a perfect pairing between Jerez wines and music: another exciting harmony at an edition to remember.