The three Denominations
of Origin within the
The concept of a "denomination of origin" is one part of a binomial, the other part of which is the concept of "quality". Quality linked to origin in the strictest sense of the word, to a specific production method in a particular place or to a combination of both factors. Wines of a particular origin are thus perceived by the market as having added value, which is sometimes hard to quantify but has an unquestionably economic content, which is why we speak of property, albeit collective.
J. Luis García Ruiz
Former President of the Consejo Regulador
The concept of a Denomination of Origin alludes to the usage of specific terms, generally the names of places, cities or regions, in order to refer to a product which, due to its origin and specific production method, is especially valued by consumers. To a certain extent it may be considered to be a kind of "collective brand" applied to all products of a certain type which also come from a particular place.
In our specific case, those wines produced in the Jerez region in accordance with specific traditional processes and fulfilling specific conditions are legally protected by the Denominations of Origin "Jerez-Xérès-Sherry" and "Manzanilla - Sanlúcar de Barrameda". In addition, another agro-food product also exists within the Jerez region, one which in the year 1994 achieved the status of a Denomination of Origin: "Vinagre de Jerez" (Sherry Vinegar).
Not all the wines and vinegar produced in the region enjoy the protection of these Denominations: there are companies in the region which produce table wines - mostly white wines but in recent years also reds. However, as neither the methods used nor the types of wine obtained meet the strict requirements of the Regulations, these wines are unable to belong to the Denominations of Origin.
Equally, although other wine-growing areas produce wines which are similar in style to those of the Jerez region and use methods which are also comparable, the fact that they do not originate in the region defined by the Denomination of Origin means that they are unable to make use of terms such as Jerez, Sherry or Manzanilla.
If we are to speak of products as having a Denomination of Origin, then two different elements must coincide: the origin and production process. We shall go on to analyse these aspects with regard to wines protected by the Denominations of Origin "Jerez-Xérès-Sherry" and "Manzanilla - Sanlúcar de Barrameda".
The Origin. The Geographic Delimitation
The Production Zone of those wines protected under the Denominations of Origin "Jerez-Xérès-Sherry" and "Manzanilla - Sanlúcar de Barrameda" is located in the extreme south of the Iberian peninsular. Only those vineyards located within the municipal boundaries of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Trebujena, Chipiona, Rota, Puerto Real, Chiclana de la Frontera and Lebrija, and situated on land which the Consejo Regulador considers suitable, may grow grapes for the production of Sherry and Manzanilla. The Production Zone currently occupies an area of just over 10,000 hectares.
The area traditionally known as "Jerez Superior" is a subdivision within the Production Zone consisting of vineyards planted in alberiza soil, the physico-chemical composition of which, together with their geographical location and climatological conditions make them ideal for the production of superior quality wines. Currently 80% of the vineyards within the Production Zone are classified as belonging to the Jerez Superior region.
Another important geographical delimitation is referred to as the "Ageing and Maturing Zone" - also known as the Sherry Triangle. The ageing of wines protected by the Denomination of Origin "Jerez-Xérès-Sherry" may only take place in the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda and the Ageing Bodegas are therefore all located in these towns.
In the case of the Denomination of Origin "Manzanilla - Sanlúcar de Barrameda", the corresponding Ageing Zone is limited exclusively to the town itself. Although the raw material (grapes and/or base wine) for Manzanilla may originate from anywhere within the production Zone, the ageing process must take place in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
The unique conditions created by the micro-climate which surrounds the town, standing as it does at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River just a short distance across from the wetlands of Coto Doñana, confer particular characteristics upon the wine produced in its bodegas, aged beneath a fine layer of yeast, which differentiates it from all other types of Sherry Wine.
Those bodegas situated in the rest of the Production Zone produce musts and wines which are then taken to bodegas within the Ageing Zone to be aged. They may however produce and sell their own wine under the name of town where they are located.
The set of rules by which the Denomination of Origin is governed are set out in a document known as the "Regulations". In the regulations of each Denomination of Origin we are able to find all the relevant details concerning the delimitation of the production zone, the authorised varieties and cultivation techniques, and basic aspects concerning the production and ageing of Sherry wines. The regulations also specify the composition and functions of the Consejo Regulador: the institution entrusted with the management and protection of each Denomination of Origin.
In the case of Sherry Wines two existing denominations are to be found in the regulations, both governed by the same norms, the "Regulations of the Denominations of Origin Jerez-Xérès-Sherry and Manzanilla - Sanlúcar de Barrameda and of their Consejo Regulador". The most recent version of this text dates from the year 1977 (by order of the Ministry of Agriculture issued on May2nd 1977) and is currently being updated as a consequence of the recently published Law Governing the Protection of Origin and Quality of Wines from Andalusia.
The Operators of the Denomination of Origin
A Denomination of Origin does not just refer to a place and a set of rules, but also the operators: the wine-growers and owners of the sherry firms who create the wine and who are therefore responsible for the Denomination successfully achieving and maintaining its prestige as perceived by the consumer.
2,800 winegrowers are currently listed in the corresponding registers of the Denomination of Origin. The majority are owners of small holdings, grouped together to form one of the seven transformation cooperatives which exist in the Jerez Region. These cooperatives account for 40% of the total area of registered vineyards. The cooperatives convert the grape into base wine which is then sold on to sherry firms throughout the course of the year.
The Sherry Firms are also the owners of part of the vineyards within the production Zone, in the order of 35%. Finally we have the independent wine-growers who sell their grapes each year to different sherry firms, accounting for 25% of the total Jerez vineyard area.
As far as the Sherry Firms are concerned, there are currently a hundred different companies who produce and age sherry and manzanilla wines. Of these sixty are listed in the Ageing and Shipping Bodega Register, sixteen in the Ageing and Maturing Bodega Register and the rest in the Production Zone Bodega Register.
Note: in order to see exact data regarding the number of operators we suggest a visit to the section entitled "Annual Report".