The first place to start a sherry tour at the London International Wine Fair is at the official stand. This year, the Sherry Institute had set up a long bar-style stand. Lined up along this bar were about 50 bottles, possibly more, of all styles and from many producers. I thought this made for a very fine sight! I wish there was a shop somewhere, where a range of sherries similar to this could be had…
The Sherry Institute now has Graham Hines back at the helm. Graham used to run the Institute until its work was outsourced to a PR agencyÂ for a number of years. This switch back to Graham is fairly recent so he was not in a position to talk about what future strategy for marketing sherry might be. Organising the stand had probably kept Graham busy from the off anyway, and judging by the number of people around the stand whenever I went by there will be a lot of following-up after the fair.
The brisk “trade” being done at the Sherry Institute stand was satisfying to see and I hope this interest is a sign of things to come.
Next to the Sherry Institue was Garvey, who were also showing wines from their Valdivia bodega. Here I met Tim Holt for the first time and we spoke about some of the challenges the sherry trade is facing. Particularly the overstock situation and one thing Tim mentioned, which stood out for me, is that most of this stock is actually very good quality wine. What a terrible frustration sitting on excellent product, which no-one seems to want. What could the solution be? Answers below in the comments section below please.
Not long ago just-drinks.com posted a story implying that Gonzalez Byass were giving up on the UK sherry sector. There was strong reaction to the contrary to that story by Martin Skelton, GM, and Jeremy Rockett, their Marketing Director, and judging by their large stand at LIWF their commitment seems to be as strong as ever. OK, I know sherry was sharing the stand with their other wines, but it was certainly not playing the role of wallflower. Every time I passed by, the GB stand was busy. Incidentally, reacting to the just-drinks.com story there was a very upbeat comment (about the UK sherry market) from Peter Sandstrom, Marketing Director at Maxxium UK who look after the Harveys’ brand.
At the swish-looking Metzendorff stand Javier Hidalgo, from Hidalgo-La Gitana, showed me his new book, “La Manzanilla: El vino de Sanlucar“, co-authored with Christopher Fielden. The book is published in Spanish byÂ Editorial Almuzara, but does not seem to be available online. He only had one copy, so I will have to visit the Bodega to get myself a copy – and write up a Bodega review for Catavino at the same time! Apparently there will be an English version of the book in the future. Javier had a broken foot (fell off a horse), so could not have been very comfortable standing at the fair all day! Hidalgo had an interesting, single-pago 1986 añada oloroso to try. It’s not very often that you see an age-dated, single estate sherry…
Alvaro Domecq sherries, controlled by AV+, are looked after by Alex Francis, who seemed pleased with the interest their sherries were generating, especially since earlier in the show we talked about how some importers and distributors shun sherry because it’s perceived to be a difficult sell.
Boutinot were making a bit of a fuss over the Fernando de Castilla Antique Oloroso, which had been “Gold Critics Choice” in the 2009 Sommelier Wine Awards. I had a short talk with Boutinot’s Jean Wareing MW, who said their sales were steady and that Fino (for aperitifs) and PX (for pudding) were doing well with their off-trade customers.
As far as I could make out, nobody from the sherry trade turned up for the Social Media industry briefing given by our own Ryan from Catavino Internet Marketing, Robert McIntosh from Wine Conversation and Dan Coward from Bibendum; Graham Hines from the Sherry Institute knew what we were on about (Andre Ribeirinho talked to him about Adegga) and he had even heard of Twitter!
The general impression I took away is despite all the challenges and issues, there is quiet confidence about the future of sherry in the UK.
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