Why do Marco wines always get such good scores?

18 January 2024

It has become a tradition that at the closing of the Peñín Guide, when we calculate the average scores of the Spanish producing areas, two different appellations of origin that we group together in the Guide are the highest rated of the entire handbook. Such is the case of Jerez and Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda and this is the case every year, without fail and invariably.

Why is this so? The wines of the Marco have a certain degree of invariability in their DNA, at least in their last period of life, the modern era of Sherry wine. It is not really an absolute invariability, because the wines and their production areas evolve. They do it so slowly that to the eye of the beholder it appears to remain static, in its grandeur, but static. It is not the only aspect that seems unchanged by the passage of time. The struggle to convey the quality and uniqueness of these wines to the general consumer is still alive and equally unalterable. In spite of the changes that have taken place, not minor on the other hand; the return to the importance of the vineyard and its identities after decades of oblivion, the proliferation of wines with a formative vocation in terms of ageing and crianza, and in spite of the rescue of wine treasures hidden in the recesses of historic cellars, the consumption of sherry wine and Manzanilla de Sanlúcar is still not where it should be. And this has been the case for far too long.

The method in Jerez, an additional tool

We always have defended the importance and determination of the method in the wines of the Marco. Traditional winemaking methods, an immense and fascinating cultural legacy, which indelibly marks the style of the wines of this corner of Spain. However, it is not the only modelling factor. Soils are also an important part, and their imprint is increasingly noticeable in those wines in which the method and the nuances it provides are not abused. This is where a wine taster can see more clearly the influence of the soil and its multiple typologies, through more grainy, enveloping, vertical or horizontal textures. However, it is essential that the method is controlled in such a way that it does not blur this vision, which is there, although sometimes we cannot see it.

We are talking about dynamic ageing, blends of vintages, biological and oxidative ageing, which pass through the sieve of the barrel scale to find a "homogeneous" product in terms of the house style, and as big as itself in terms of its capacity to speak to us about time.

Its success is based on the dialogue that the wine maintains with time, in an everlasting, expressive and very complex relationship.

This is how we witness how the solera that is bottled every year by a certain winery, and which is regularly fed, shines again with its own light in each new tasting of the Peñín Guide. What will be the limit of these wines?

Turning point

The magic of Jerez is, indeed, alive year after year. It is hard to grow in quality in the classic wines of Jerez and Manzanilla, although not impossible. And that is not where we expect the region to make a turning point. The way to grow will be through still wines, wines with the character of the south engraved on their bottles, which will take us to this spot through less dominant biological and oxidative ageing, or even without it, seeking to highlight the saline character of the wines and their sharp, chalky background.

The soil has to speak more clearly, and this dialogue that we are witnessing in some wines will serve as a revulsive for the area, both in the price of grapes and in the production of wines with a characteristic local style and chalky character.

All this will allow the consumer to enjoy a wine without the old sensations that may be a deterrent for the younger consumer to enter into these styles. The search to attract new audiences has begun and the starting point will be these wines and the Denomination of Origin which, if all goes well, we will discover in 2025 and which will finally allow this type of production to be protected territorially.

Tasting Southern Wines

This week we are tasting some of the great wines of the South, both the wines of the appellations of origin Jerez and Manzanilla, as well as the Vinos de la Tierra and Vinos de Mesa that have embarked on the production of these special vintage wines. Our next post will try to bring them closer to you in a precise way the way of working that these "rupturist" winemakers have, who are managing to mark the course of two appellations with as much historical transcendence as those that have brought us here today, but that due to the legal twists and turns and the laziness of having to change regulations in historical appellations of origin work in an isolated and unipersonal way under generic seals of indications of origin.

Next post: The great opportunity to create a dream DO in the Marco de Jerez region

    Written by Carlos González, director de la Guía Peñín
    Written by Javier Luengo, director editorial de Peñín