The Consejo Regulador
The defence of the Denominations of Origin "Jerez-Xérès-Sherry" and "Manzanilla - Sanlúcar de Barrameda" is legally entrusted to the Consejo Regulador. From a legal point of view, the Consejo Regulador of the Denominations of Origin is a Public Law Corporation representing both economic and social interests which during the execution of specific public responsibilities acts as a decentralised body of the Andalusian Regional Government Council of Agricultural and Fisheries.
In more simple terms: the Consejo Regulador has a "private" dimension in that it represents the private interests of all the registered wine-growers and sherry firms; and a "public" dimension, acting as it does in the name of the Administration in a series of matters directly related to the management and defence of an asset which is public in nature, that of the Denomination of Origin itself.
The Consejo Regulador of the Denominations of Origin "Jerez-Xérès-Sherry" - "Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda" and "Vinagre de Jerez" was the first to be constituted according to the terms of the Spanish Wine Statute of 1933, which means that we are talking about the oldest Consejo in Spain.
We shall see below some aspects pertaining to our Consejo Regulador.
The Origins of the Consejo Regulador
Throughout history the local winegrowing industry has constantly sought formulas with which to govern the protection, monitoring and promotion of the quality of its wines. A concern which has always included the distinction of their origin. The Roman amphorae filled with "vinum ceretensis" (wines from Jerez) which were sent to Rome or any other part of the empire all bore a seal stating their origin. According to historians, however, Ceret was not a town as such, but a wider agricultural and wine-growing region which corresponded approximately to what is today known as the Jerez Region and whose principal settlement was the city of Asta Regia, close to where now stands the present city of Jerez.
Later, on the 12th of August 1483, the people of Jerez marked a historical milestone by establishing the Statutes of the Raisin and Grape-Harvester's Guild of Jerez. These statutes regulated all the details of the grape harvest, the characteristics of the butts, the aging system and trading practices.
The nineteenth century bore witness to the final consecration of Sherry as a universal wine. But this fame inevitably brought with it speculation, falsifications, fraudulent practices and the improper use of the name Sherry to refer to wines which had not been produced within the Jerez Region. This problem was not exclusive to Sherry, but also affected other quality products produced in different regions throughout Europe. This situation led chief industrialists from the old Continent to organise the International Trademark Congress in 1878, which was attended by a sizeable group of wine-growers from Jerez. One of the speeches at the Conference gave rise to the International Association for the Mutual Protection of Industrial Property.
The first meeting of the Association was held a few years later in Paris, in 1883, where several European countries reached specific agreements which would provide protection for specific geographical names for products, thus giving rise to the concept of a Denomination of Origin. It was, however, several years later in 1891 that the Denomination of Origin Sherry began to enjoy real protection and not until the Madrid Convention of 14th April 1891 did the agreements and statements of intent put forward during the Paris meeting finally become International Law.
Nevertheless, the concept of a Denomination of Origin still lacked any real force in international law, the efficiency and application of the same leaving much be desired. As a consequence the owners of the local sherry firms were ceaseless in their resolve to preserve the name and origin of their products. In 1924 the Government headed by General Primo de Rivera granted the town of Jerez ownership of the collective trademark JEREZ, to the benefit of all the growers, producers and traders of fortified wines then established in the town.
Finally, article 34 of the Wine Statute of 26th May 1933 promulgated by the Second Republic gave legal status to what had been for many centuries a reality within the Jerez region: the Denomination of Origin Jerez-Xérès-Sherry. Such a long awaited law immediately set the wine-growers and producers of the Jerez Region to work, and the Consejo Regulador of the Denomination of Origin was established by Law on 15th September 1933, its inaugural session being held on 3rd August 1934.
The good practice of the sherry firms, together with their skill and expertise in the matter, led to the first set of regulations for the Denomination being published on 19th January, 1935. This legal text served as the basis and as a model for many other denominations created in Spain during the following years. Moreover, as the Madrid Gazette for 29th April, 1935, clearly states (nº 119), the Consejo Regulador of the Denomination of Origin Jerez-Xérès-Sherry "is the first to be constituted under the terms of the Wine Statute", thus making it the Oldest Consejo in Spain.
The official recognition of the specificity of Manzanilla within the context of Sherry Wines came about in 1964 with the modification of the Regulations of the Denomination of Origin "Jerez-Xérès-Sherry" and the creation of the Denomination of Origin "Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda", both of which came under the protection of the same Consejo Regulador.
The Composition of the Consejo Regulador
In essence, the Consejo represents each and every one of the professional sectors within the Denomination of Origin: sherry firms, bottlers, vintners, independent wine-growers and members of cooperatives. The plenary council of the Institution is made up of twenty-one members, eighteen of whom are democratically elected every four years. By means of this electoral process nine members are elected to represent the production sector (wine-growers) three of whom must by necessity come from cooperatives and nine others from sherry firms, eight representatives from the Ageing and Shipping Bodegas and one from the Ageing and Maturing Bodegas.
Once elected, the eighteen members of the Consejo in turn elect a President, who is put forward to be officially named by the Andalusian Regional Government, the Junta de Andalucia. Plenary meetings are also attended by representatives from the Junta de Andalucia, who may speak but not vote, and by the General Secretary of the Consejo Regulador.
Organization Chart of the Consejo Regulador
Irrespective of the Plenary Council the permanent structure of the Consejo Regulador is made up of fifteen members, as may be seen in the following organization chart:
The functions of the President are clearly defined in article 42.1 of the Regulations, but may be summarised as being: the institutional representation of the Consejo Regulador, to safeguard legality, administration of the budget, to convene and chair plenary sessions as well as carry out their agreements; the organization of the internal regime of the Consejo, and to inform higher institutions of any incidents occurring during production or in the market. An additional function of the president is to set the political and general goals of the Consejo in accordance with the Annual Objectives and budgetary criteria.
The General Management looks after the organization, management and supervision of all the departments under their charge, including outsourced services. Under the supervision of the President they take charge of executing the policies and goals approved by the Plenary Council; drawing up budget proposals and controlling their execution, including the planning and follow up of promotional campaigns. At an internal level the Quality Committee of the Consejo Regualdor presides, approving any new management procedures. In addition the General Manager assumes the functions established in article 44 of the Regulations corresponding to the General Secretary's Office, preparing work for the Plenary sessions, attending the same but without the right to vote, convening meetings, drawing up the minutes and keeping the books and documents of the Consejo. The General Secretary's Office is also responsible for authorising and issuing certificates of origin.
The Control and Inspection Committee plans and executes all control and inspection procedures which involve the verification in the field of data concerning those operators listed in the Consejo Regulador Registers. A team of eight "overseers" are employed to this end and their duties include taking samples of products, raw material and other materials, making inventories of those wines and vinegars being aged, along with a whole range of more specific activities such as the "marking" of wines suitable for the production of vinegar, or checking the ripeness of the grape and the grape delivery accompanying documents during the harvest. The Control and Inspection Committee is also responsible for verifying the suitability of the facilities and equipment, wine-pressing plants, and both the production and ageing bodegas of the registered sherry firms. At certain points during the harvest additional temporary inspectors will join the team of overseers from the Consejo, following instructions issued by the Chief of the Control and Inspection Committee. During the harvest time between forty and fifty temporary inspectors are hired, depending upon the number of pressing plants that have been authorised and are operative at any one time. However.
The important Registry section is divided into two departments. The Vineyard Registry keeps a permanently updated data base listing all the registered vineyards: their surface area, location and details of ownership; the character of the same in terms of age and soil type, varieties and grafted root vines used; as well as a record of past production and classification. Over the last few years an important cartographic register has been compiled, enabling the registered vineyard owners to acquire not only documents in text form but also graphic representations of the growing areas included in the Denomination of Origin. The accuracy and permanent updating of data of such an important register requires frequent action on the part of the inspectors from the Control and Inspection Committee, as well as from specialists assigned to the department.
The Bodega Registry department assures the permanent updating of all data bases related to the activities of production, ageing and trading of all protected products, this data appearing in the different bodega registers (wine and vinegar production, production zone bodegas, ageing and maturing bodegas, ageing and shipping bodegas and vinegar ageing bodegas), as well as registers pertaining to labels and brand names. In order to do this they are responsible for registering new bodegas and eliminating those who have withdrawn, as well as controlling the documentation and verification of products entering and leaving bodegas. This department is also a huge source of information related to protected products, drawing up sales statistics and all types of reports required by the Plenary Council.
The activities of the Promotion department are divided into two main groups: those corresponding to the Institutional Promotion of the Consejo Regulador and those products under its protection (sponsorships, institutional collaboration, training and awareness campaigns) and those derived from specific generic promotion campaigns in specific markets (sectorial campaigns). In the first case, the planning and execution, supervision and assessment of the actions are carried out by the department itself. In the case of sectorial campaigns the Consejo Regulador carries out a labour of financing, supervision and control of activities, although the management of their execution is delegated to the Shippers Association, the object of this being a total alignment of generic promotion with the requirements and priorities of the trading companies in each market.
Finally, there are two departments which support those already described above: Administration and General Services and Quality Control. The former provides the necessary means for the internal organization of the activities of the Consejo Regulador, controlling budgets and carrying out the economic management of the organization; ensuring such auxiliary services as couriers, communications, cleaning and maintenance etc...
The Quality Control Department is responsible for supervising the set up, maintenance of and any modifications to the Integrated Quality System which governs the internal management of the Consejo Regulador, as well as proposing corrective action should any deviation occur. It supervises all activity directly related to Quality, and all requirements generated by the same, coordinating the operation of the Quality Committee.
In addition to the functions covered by its own personnel, the Consejo Regulador also hires external staff to carry out any specific duties which may be required by means of agreements signed with companies or professionals specialised in specific field such as: specialised legal services, registry and inspection of brands or media services amongst others.
The Functions of the Consejo Regulador
The different tasks undertaken by the Consejo Regulador, as set out in the Denomination Regulations, may be reduced to three main categories
Control and Certification
One of the functions common to any Consejo Regulador is that of controlling quality and guaranteeing the origin of those products under its protection. Bearing this in mind the Consejo Regulador of Jerez includes within its Regulations a set of obligatory rules regarding every stage of the production process which begins in the vineyard and ends when the wine is purchased by the consumer.
In order to guarantee the quality of the product the Consejo Regulador has set up a stepped control procedure.
1- Vineyards and growing techniques.
The registration of vineyards in the Register of the Consejo Regulador is an essential requirement if the grapes and must produced are to be classified for the production of Sherry. This registration involves the verification by the Consejo Regulador of the suitability of the soil as well as the use of authorised varieties. Throughout the year the services of the Consejo will verify fulfilment of the norms laid down in the Regulations concerning growing, pruning, irrigation control, etc... They also monitor the ripeness of the grape prior to harvesting.
2- The Harvest
The Consejo Regulador puts a wide range of monitoring and inspection procedures into action during the harvest, which include the control of each and every load of grape sent to those wine presses registered under the Denomination. Every year the Consejo issues a set of specific rules ("Campaign Rules") in which it lays down everything from the chemical parameters which must be present before the grapes can be harvested, to the way in which they must be picked, transported and pressed; as well as the maximum production per hectare. These norms guarantee not only the origin of the grapes, but also the quality of the same and of the must they produce.
Inspectors from the Consejo Regulador are stationed at each of the pressing plants in order to record the quantities of grapes delivered, as well as checking that the degree of ripeness and general health of the grapes comply with the requirements laid down in the regulations and with the norms of that specific campaign. Once the harvest is over the amount of must produced is measured and samples are taken and checked prior to the musts being classified as suitable for the production of Sherry Wines.
3 - The Bodegas
The Control and Inspection Service of the Consejo Regulador likewise maintains a permanent control on the movements of must and wine between bodegas, as well as wine alcohol and other authorised oenological products which are occasionally used by the registered firms.
In addition, each and every one of the bodegas are subject to periodical inventory checks to ensure that the stocks declared by the company tally with the volume of wine actually being aged on the premises.
4 - The Product
Finally, the Consejo Regualdor also has an important role to play in the final stages of the production process, that of guaranteeing the quality of those products governed by the Denomination of Origin before they reach the final consumer. In order to do this, inspectors from the Consejo take wine samples from each of the registered sherry firms which are then analysed at a laboratory in the Estación de Viticultura y Enología in Jerez. All this in addition to the daily tasting sessions which take place in the tasting room at the Consejo Regulador.
Only wine which has undergone and successfully completed this exhaustive control process is granted the certifying stamp of the Consejo Regulador and the corresponding guarantee of origin.
Defence of a Common Heritage
It also falls to the Consejo Regulador to act as custodian and defender of the interests of the Denomination of Origin, both at a national and international level. Unfortunately, even today, it is not unusual to come across cases where imitators in search of easy profit make unlawful use of names belonging to our Denominations of Origin in an attempt to capitalise on their fine reputation and the centuries of hard work and dedication of the wine producers in the Jerez Region.
Sherry is a classic wine which has existed for centuries, long before the introduction of any legal mechanisms to protect industrial property, and has constantly had to fight several attempts to usurp its name. In fact many other countries have tried to equate the name Jerez and its English version Sherry with a type of wine rather than recognise it as a denomination of origin. As a result genuine sherry has been forced to co-exist alongside other "sherries" of spurious origin and fabrication: British, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, Californian, South African, etc...
Currently, and to a great extent thanks to the work of the Consejo Regulador, international recognition of the Denomination of Origin has been achieved in the most important markets, although there are still certain exceptions which keep the Consejo busy initiating administrative or legal action in defence of the Denomination.
Manzanilla has also had to be safeguarded against attempts, this time by other Spanish wine growing areas, to usurp its name as an indication of wine type rather than being unquestionably linked to a specific origin, even though the European Union legal regulations categorically state that the name Manzanilla exclusively identifies the characteristic wines produced in Sanlucar de Barrameda and are protected by the Consejo Regulador.
A Denomination of Origin is a collective property, one whose current value is the consequence of a historic past and whose future value depends upon preserving its code of practice in the present day whilst maintaining the impetus given to the sale of its products.
Promotion of the collective brand Sherry and its products forms a major part of the activity of the Consejo Regulador. In this sense the work of the institution is especially important from an educational and informative point of view. The Consejo has for several years now pioneered the use of part of its budget for generic promotional campaigns in those markets where its protected products are sold.