The great sherry revival

24 November, 2016

Saldaña continues: “This is why there are denominations in Spain in which bag-in-box is authorised (Montilla, Valdepeñas or La Mancha, to name few) and others in which it is forbidden (Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Rias Baixas).

“In our case, the different versions of the regulation have always established that sherry (and manzanilla) can only be sold in glass bottles or – exceptionally – in containers made of other materials, if specifically authorised by the Consejo Regulador, and providing that these materials do not have a negative effect on the product.”

The reasons for not authorising bag-in-box, Saldaña says, are mainly related to image issues. He says the scientific community is not 100% in agreement about the technical advantages of this type of container to maintain the wine in good conditions, but concedes it is generally accepted that it performs better once open compared to an open glass bottle and that bag-in-box is easy to store and transport.

The main reason Consejos Reguladores in Jerez and Rioja and Ribera del Duero have decided not to authorise bag-in-box is related to the fact that this type of container is perceived – at least by the Spanish consumer – as inappropriate for quality wines and it would therefore damage the reputation of the DO as a whole, according to Saldaña.

Over the past 15 years some bodegas – mainly from Sanlúcar – have occasionally brought the issue to the Consejo, asking for the authorisation of bag-in-box for manzanilla. The board of the Consejo, formed by a representation of bodegas and growers, has consistently voted – by an overwhelming majority in all cases – not to authorise this kind of container for DO wines, neither manzanilla nor any style of sherry.

Saldaña says: “In 2014, a group of bodegas decided to defy the Consejo and announced they would produce and sell manzanilla in bag-in-box, no matter what the Consejo would say.”

Fermín Hidalgo García, of Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana, describes the dispute as a commercial war. He says his bodega is in favour of the use of bag-in-box for the on-trade business. He adds: “For decades, wineries have sold wine in bulk to bars and restaurants.”

He argues the garrafa, a crystal container that is returnable and looks like a 19th-century container, is very difficult to clean and transport. “It does not comply with the highest hygienic standards because it is really difficult to clean because of the shape of the container. We have been struggling with this issue for around two years. We want to deliver to our client the best manzanillas in the best containers, and for sure the garrafa is not an alternative.”

The decision earlier this year to allow bag in box for the on premise channel only stoked the fiery debate on both sides. “No one sees the bag-in-box on the bars or restaurant,” García says. “They are used for the tap and to refill barrels, so there is no one who can see them.

“The Consejo was pro-bag-in-box, at least about three years ago. It wrote a report saying that we should change the garrafas for the bag-in-box. Unfortunately, the Appellation of Origin is controlled by the big wineries,” he says.

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana has developed a tap for its Manzanilla La Gitana. The patented tap uses bag-in-box. “It seems the wineries that are against the use of bag-in-box have seen the tap as a threat,” García explains. “What would have happened if instead of us (a medium-sized winery), they were the ones that developed the tap?

“The reason behind all these issues is it’s a commercial war,” García says. “There are many small wineries that basically conduct all their sales in bulk. Therefore, not allowing the use of bag-in-box will make them close.”

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