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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Neil Beckett in Jerez

The Spanish government's proposals for the expansion of the DO system, and the revision of the regulatory role of consejos reguladores, have been criticised by Csar Saldaa, director general of the Consejo Regulador for Sherry, Manzanilla and Sherry Vinegar, the oldest such institution in Spain. He told Harpers that the concept of DO has been taken too far', and that applications for new DOs are being granted too readily. The proliferation of DOs is devaluing the system,' he said. He also defended the effectiveness of the consejos reguladores, whose regulatory role may be privatised. Most of them are serious institutions which have added tremendous value to the names they represent. We're critical because we don't see the alternative. If we need to adapt, let's do it. If we need to improve, let's do it. But let's not say that because some don't work well, the whole concept is wrong. Or if we do say that, what's the alternative? The idea is to make it more independent,' he continued. But how can you have auditors say, "Yes, this is Sherry"? All of the companies would have their own auditors, but if they paid their own regulators, the system would be difficult to defend. The Consejo is more independent than they would be. We have a staff of 30, and half of them are inspectors, checking everything from grapes to inventories. If the system is privatised, who will check all of these things?' The question mark over the role of the consejos reguladores has been raised at a time when many in the Sherry and Manzanilla industry have been expressing new confidence in its governing body. Saldaa's appointment has been applauded, partly because his 15 years' commercial experience gives him insights into the problems producers face. *Allied Domecq Spirits & Wine UK's (ADUK) managing director, Chris Heath, has been appointed managing director for Allied Domecq Spain, the group's largest European market. Heath's replacement has yet to be confirmed, but Neil Everitt, the group's European president, will lead the UK team in the interim.