The Origins of the Consejo Regulador
The Regulatory Council of the "Jerez-Xeres-Sherry", "Manzanilla - Sanlucar de Barrameda" and "Vinagre de Jerez" Denominations of Origin was the first of its kind to be established in accordance with the Spanish wine Law of 1933 making it the oldest wine Regulatory Council in Spain. However, throughout history Jerez's local winegrowing industry has constantly sought ways of protecting, monitoring and promoting the quality of its wines.
One of the earliest known attempts at regulation dates back to August 12th 1483 when the Statutes of the Raisin and Grape-Harvesters' Guild of Jerez were passed. These statutes regulated the details of harvesting, the characteristics of the butts, the ageing systems and trading practices. The 19th Century saw Sherry become a universal wine. However, this fame inevitably attracted speculators and unscrupulous dealers. Imitations, fraudulent practices and the improper use of the name of Sherry for wines that were not produced in the Jerez Region became a major reason for concern for all Sherry producers.
Not only Sherry suffered from this problem; it affected other products in various European Regions. This led in 1878 to the celebration of the first International Conference on Trade Marks which was attended by a large group of Jerez winegrowers. One of the Conference's presentations prepared the ground for the establishment of the International League for the Protection of Industrial Property. Soon after, in 1883 the League held its first meeting in Paris where a large number of European countries reached agreements to protect specific geographical names for products. This might be said to be the birth of the Denomination of Origin concept.
But another eight years had to pass until, in 1891, the Jerez Denomination of Origin was completely protected. The exact date was April 14th when thanks to the Madrid Convention, the intentions and agreements declared in Paris finally became International Law. However, the concept of Denomination of Origin was still a new element in International Law and as a result its efficiency and application was very poor. Jerez winegrowers continued to work ceaselessly to protect the product name. In 1924 the Spanish government headed by General Primo de Rivera granted the town of Jerez ownership of the collective JEREZ trademark for the benefit of growers, producers and traders in fortified wines who were established in the city.
Finally, during the Spanish Second Republic, Article 34 of the Wine Law passed on May 26th 1933, gave legal status to what for centuries had been a goal for the entire Jerez Region: the Denomination of Origin "Jerez-Xeres-Sherry". Local winegrowers and bodegas immediately put this long-awaited law to work and so the Regulatory Council (Consejo Regulador) of the Denomination of Origin was established by Law on September 15th 1933, its first session being held on August 3rd 1934. The hard work of those involved as well as their expertise in the matter meant that the Denomination Council's first regulations were published on January 19th 1935. This text was the basis for many other Denominations created in Spain over the following years. Moreover as the Madrid Gazette clearly expressed in its issue dated April 29th 1935 (#119) The Regulatory Council of the Jerez-Xeres-Sherry Denomination of Origin "is the first [Regulatory Council] to be established in accordance with the provisions of the Wine Law " thus making it the Oldest Regulatory Council in Spain.
The Functions of the Regulatory Council
The Regulatory Council of the "Jerez-Xeres-Sherry", "Manzanilla - Sanlucar de Barrameda" and "Vinagre de Jerez" Denominations of Origin is a Public Law Corporation which acts as a decentralised body of the Andalusian Regional Government's Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Consejo Regulador is the highest form of representation for the Sherry Industry. The institution's plenary council is made up of 21 members, 18 of whom are elected by all of the individuals and companies registered in the Denomination of Origin every four years: nine "vocales" representative of the producers and nine of the "bodegas". Once they have been elected to the plenary council, the 18 "vocales" (members of the Consejo Regulador) elect a President, whose official nomination is made by the Junta de Andaluca -the Andalusian Regional Government. As well as the elected members, plenary meetings are also attended by representatives from the Regional Government and also by the Secretary General of the Regulatory Council. The different tasks undertaken by the Regulatory Council, as described in the Denomination´s
Regulations, fall into three fundamental categories:
1. - to guarantee the genuine origin and quality of the products protected by the Denomination of Origin
2. - to act as custodians of the Denomination of Origin, its name and heritage
3. - to promote and divulge the products of the Denomination of Origin.
One of the tasks of any Regulatory Council is to monitor quality control and to guarantee the origin of the protected products. Therefore the Regulations of the Consejo Regulador provide for a series of obligatory rules that regulate every aspect in the production process, beginning in the vineyards and only finishing when the wine is delivered to the consumers. In order to guarantee the product's Origin and quality, the Council has a system of stepped control procedures in place.
-First, a wide range of rules concerning vineyards and cultivation practices.
-Second, a system for monitoring the production, ageing and dispatch bodegas.
-Finally, there is a series of rules concerning the product itself.
The first link in our production chain is the earth, the vineyards and cultivation practices.
In order for the grapes and their resulting must (grape juice before or during fermentation) to qualify as suitable for the production of Sherry, the vineyard must first be entered in the Regulatory Council's Register. This Register subdivides the Region into two areas as a function of where the vineyards are located, the soil's physical and chemical composition and its climatological characteristics. Those areas whose conditions are ideal for producing superior quality wines make up "Jerez Superior" which at present make up 80% of the total area of registered vineyards.
The varieties of grapes used must be Palomino de Jerez, Palomino Fino and Pedro Ximenez. Moscatel, or Muscat, grapes are allowed, but only to produce Moscatel wine.
Cultivation Practice Controls
As well as defining the types of grapes used for the production of Sherry and Manzanilla, the Regulations specify that cultivation practices must be "those which favour the highest quality." These practices stipulate that pruning must be carried out in the traditional Jerez "stick and thumb" method. Moreover, they also detail and control the harvest, under the specific Harvesting Rules. These Rules establish everything from the chemical parameters that the grapes have to meet to the way in which they are picked, transported, and pressed as well as the production level per hectare. Not only do these regulations guarantee the grapes' origin but also their quality and the quality of the resulting must.
During the harvest, the Regulatory Council organises a wide range of monitoring and overseeing activities including the checking of each and every grape transport going to the Denomination-registered wine presses. Grape deliveries are quantified and their degree of maturity and health are checked to ensure that they fulfil the Council's Regulations and Harvesting Rules. Once the harvest is over, the corresponding measurements and qualification of the musts as being suitable for producing Sherry wine are carried out. As in the registration of vineyards, there are two well-defined areas in the production of wines.
The Ageing Area
The towns of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda constitute the "Zona de Crianza" of the Denomination of Origin. Only in these three towns can Sherry be aged and only from bodegas located in any of these towns can Sherry be shipped. In the case of the Denomination "Manzanilla - Sanlucar de Barrameda" the ageing of the wine needs to take place in the town of Sanlucar. All firms included in the Consejo´s registers of Bodegas de Crianza y Expedicion and Bodegas de Crianza y Almacenado are therefore located in the so-called "Ageing Area".
The Production Area
The remaining territory in the Jerez Region not included in the Ageing Area is called the Production Area ("Zona de Produccian"). Those bodegas located in this area produce must which is then transferred to the bodegas in the Ageing Area, where it sprinkled gently into the nursery butts. They can also produce their own wines using the name of the place where they are located. The Consejo Regulador permanently monitors all movements of must, wines, grape spirit and other wine products that are used by the different registered companies. Moreover each and every bodega undergoes periodical inventory controls in order to guarantee that the stocks declared by the companies tally with the real volumes of wine in the nurseries. Finally, the Regulatory Council also plays an important role at the end of the winemaking process, guaranteeing the quality of the wines before they arrive in the marketplace. The Council's inspectors take samples of wines and vinegars from each registered bodega and they are analysed in the Estacian de Viticultura y Enologia de Jerez laboratory as well as being sampled in the daily tasting which takes place in the Regulatory Council's tasting rooms. Only after passing all of these exhaustive tests can the origin of each product be guaranteed and the Regulatory Council's stamp be awarded [below].