The south of Spain has long been associated with sherry; after all, this style of fortified wine is known in Spain as vinos de Jerez, for the Andalusian city whence it comes. When the sherry industry began to decline in the 1970s and ’80s, though, the region found itself in the shadows of tempranillo-producing Rioja and cava-making Catalonia. That is now beginning to change, as a new generation of winemakers is taking the grapes associated with sherry, such as Pedro Ximénez and palomino fino, and using them in fresh, distinct, drinkable table whites.
“It was clear to me from the beginning that we make wines with regional identity,” says Fátima Ceballos, who cofounded Córdoba’s Lagar de la Salud along with her husband, Miguel Puig, “even if it’s outside of the traditional processes or with a different vision.” Lagar de la Salud grows its grapes on an estate that dates to 1882, but it was only in 2015 that Ceballos and Puig began to experiment with Pedro Ximénez as a table wine. They expressed this shift in perspective on their labels as well, flipping “Salud” around to read “Dulas” and calling this line Dulas del Lagar de la Salud.
In addition to reinterpreting traditional sherry grapes, many of these wineries are farming organically or biodynamically in order to fully express the region’s terroir. At Bodegas y Viñedos Garay, located in the town of La Palma del Condado, about 35 miles west of Seville, co-owner Mario Garay makes natural wines out of a hyper-local grape, zalema, that’s historically used in bulk wine or in sherry blends. “We’re protecting classic wines and making changes also,” he says. “We’re the ones who can open this path, and larger wineries will follow. It’s creating a revolution.”
Of course, sherry remains widely consumed and produced in the south. But adding a new facet to the local industry could help reinvigorate and restore pride in the once thriving region, notes Alejandro Narváez, co-owner of Bodegas Forlong, which makes a variety of table wines at its facility not far from Jerez. “Our intention is to return to this identity,” he says, “and try and regain this idea people had of Jerez wines.”
“We’re simply adding value to what’s already in our region,” says Ceballos. “There’s so much space for everyone.”