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Thirst for Sherry drives Sherry Festival 2016

Published:  26 April, 2016

Sherry is no longer purely a "London phenomenon" - and merchants across the UK should take advantage of its growing popularity.

This is the message from Owen Morgan at Bar 44 in the run-up to this year's Sherry Festival - a two-week in-store campaign for wine merchants.

The festival takes place from June 13-26 and the three top merchants will win a trip to Jerez.

Morgan, who runs bars in Cardiff, Cowbridge and Penarth with his brother Tom, is excited to see what merchants will come up with for this year's celebration of all things Sherry.

And now is the best time to be involved, he says, as people of all ages are jumping on the Sherry bandwagon - and not just in London and Jerez.

He said: "The sector is changing hugely and has been for the last five years or so. Initially it was seen as a very London phenomenon, but the proof is in the pudding with companies such as ours and others in all the regional cities and larger towns within the UK, and not just in Spanish led outlets or restaurants."

Sherry FestivalSherry Festival

There is a view in the industry that current data sets on Sherry sales are skewed, as cream sherries are dominating sales.

There is excitement about the growth in premium dry sherry - which is where a younger audience is most active, especially in the on-trade - but these Sherry style categories are not visible in the export figures available.

Recently, Bar 44 has had three barrels seasoned for them in Jerez by González Byass, and pour from the cask in their three bars.

And it isn't just the way they pour their Sherry or serving Sherry in large wine glasses that's getting younger people's attention.

"Sherry plays a lead role in our cocktail list," Morgan added. "This really helps get the younger audience in through the 'Sherry door', and it's an easy way to then graduate them on to crisp chilled finos and on from there.

"The rise of en rama releases has also helped, creating a great buzz in the on and off trade I believe. For instance we are hosting a little 'Welsh launch party' for the latest Tio Pepe en Rama relsease tonight in the middle of Cardiff. That has attracted a full house on a Tuesday night out of holiday season.

"All in all I do see the younger market switching on to Sherry, asking lots of questions in the thirst for knowledge."

Over 40 independent wine merchants across the UK took part in the 2015 Sherry Festival which included food and Sherry matching dinners, tutored tastings and in-store sampling sessions.

To take part in 2016, merchants need to arrange their own promotion during the festival - Monday June 13 to Sunday June 26, 2016 - and to register their event online.

Up to 50 participating merchants will be able to select from a range of specially designed free Sherry Festival POS material including maps, posters, style guides, t-shirts, ice buckets and more.

Once registered, organisers will send participants a link to upload details of their Sherry Festival activity, promoting it across the Sherry Wines UK social platforms.

Morgan believes that a trip to Jerez in 2017 is the perfect prize for the winning merchants.

He said: "One of the things helping us in particular is taking young staff out to the Sherry producing towns. These are the people that are in front of customers every day and selling the wines, so for us it's imperative they understand and get a feel for what Sherry is and where it's from. What better way than to take them to the towns and to the bodegas. Like us, once you've stepped into a working bodega and taste the wine when in there, you're hooked - there's no going back."