Vinoble – the sherry marathon I forgot to train for
Nobody told me I’d need to go into training for Vinoble. Actually, that’s not strictly true – friends said it was hard work but I honestly didn’t believe them. I’ve done trade shows before; surely this couldn’t THAT different, right? Wrong.
The difference was the number of people I already knew, and consequently the complete impossibility of walking from one area to another without meeting someone who wanted to put a glass in my hand. This was a far more sociable experience than other wine fairs I’ve been to. And then there’s my almost pathological unwillingness to spit out the good stuff, of which there was plenty.
This was the ninth edition of Vinoble, which takes place every two years in Jerez and brings together the finest Vinos Generosos, de Licor and Dulces Naturales of the world in one place for three days. And what a place. Vinoble is hosted in Jerez’s Alcazar – a gobsmacking setting with Moorish ramparts, gardens and patios and an elegant 17th century palace. The masterclass tastings took place in the Mezquita (former mosque). Seriously, the most incredible setting for an trade show that I’ve ever been to.
This was our first Vinoble, and we understand from regulars that there were far fewer international exhibitors than in previous years. The overwhelming majority of exhibitors were from the Sherry Triangle, closely followed by Montilla-Moriles. Other Spanish regions had a bit of a presence, along with a few makers from Portugal and France, and a delegation from Armenia. Whilst that was a bit disappointing, as it would be fabulous to truly have the world in the one place, sherry wines were my priority and, even so, three days was a bit of a squeeze.
For me, as well as catching up with a lot of old friends, the great thing about Vinoble was the chance to taste such a huge range of wines from the tiny producers as well as the big boys, and in many cases to do that in conversation with the winemaker. Our trips to the region are never long enough to visit every bodega we’re interested in, so this was a way to taste the highlights and decide who we want to visit and taste more with next time we’re in town.
Not every producer had their own stand, but all the producers were represented in the Consejo Regulador’s salon, and the Sanlucar producers had also clubbed together to share a salon of their own too. Larger producers also had their own stands or rooms. We didn’t make it to any of the masterclasses, as they filled up ridiculously quickly, and queues of longer than an hour to put your name down were the norm. This was probably the only downside of the venue – the spaces for masterclasses would never be big enough for the likely demand.
Product launches included the new Harvey’s range of sherries, following hard on the heels of the former Domecq portfolio being bought by Filipino company Emperador. It was great to see some energy behind one of Jerez’s fine old brands again, and these wines bode well for the future.
Valdespino were testing out two Añadas, to see what people thought of them. Watch this space for a blog later in the week, but in summary they were sensational.
It also seemed like everyone was on the Vermouth bandwagon. Lustau was the first to launch last year, but Gonzalez Byass and Rey Fernando de Castilla both had Vermouth on their stands too. Not my cup of tea really, but they were going down a storm.
Speaking of Lustau, they also were launching a new addition to their Almacenista range – a Palo Cortado from the star Palo specialist Cayetano Del Pino. The Lustau stand was majoring on the Almacenista range, and it was a great reminder of the late Manolo Lozano’s work to bring these special wines to a wider audience.
So here I sit on the plane, sad to be leaving but also ready for a rest! Vinoble’s intensity is on a par with Feria del Caballo, but dressed up as work! I see a lot of salad and water in my future for the next week or two, as I suspect my liver is more akin to paté right now than a functioning organ. But will I be back in 2018? Try and stop me.