With chalk and venencia in hand, they strolled the aisles which make up the Lustau solera ageing system together, marking each butt carefully and watching its evolution.
“I feel so blessed for having had Manuel’s guidance in my career,” Sergio said. “He was a great teacher and an extraordinary person. Always generous, creative and visionary. Thanks, Manolo, for showing me the way!”
Sergio, who started as a trainee at the famous Sherry house in 2003, learned his lessons well. This year he became the IWC Fortified Winemaker of the Year for the second time, after Lustau Sherries won one trophy, 19 gold medals – more than any other winery in the contest – as well as 19 silver and five bronze medals.
“This is the result of the daily hard work from a great team. This award is for each and every one of us that work in Lustau. We continue moving forward,” Sergio stated after receiving the title.
Luis Caballero, president of Bodegas Lustau, added: “The results of these last two years have endorsed the appointment of Sergio as the head of the Lustau team. There is no one better than him that is able to maintain the quality and style that Lustau has always been defined with.”
When Sergio joined Lustau 15 years ago, he had not yet finished his degree – but he fell in love with Sherry wines and moved from Bahía de Cádiz to Jerez de la Frontera to start at the bottom.
A few months after he joined the company, the production manager retired. So Sergio was offered the opportunity of replacing him. Similarly, in 2016, when Manuel Lozano passed away, Sergio was trusted to lead the winemaking team.
Sergio has risen to the challenge. He knows what lies behind the greatness and exceptionality of these Sherries. He puts it down to:
- The unique geographical situation of the ‘Sherry Triangle’;
- The ageing method (‘soleras y criaderas’);
- Experience in determining when the wine is ready to drink and
- How much to take from the barrels (number of extractions – ‘saca’ – per year).
Two modern methods are used to ensure optimum conditions for the development of the flor (the yeast layer that covers the surface of the wine, isolating it from the air and protecting it from oxidation):
- Moisture sensors monitor the humidity in the cellar. The immaculate sand floors (‘suelo de albero’) can be dampened periodically to give the wines the best temperature and humidity.
- Increased precision and control for the saca (extraction) and rocío (refilling) stages. As Lustau increases production, it doesn’t want to lose the wines’ flavours and aromas (its identity and quality).
The important thing is to make the saca and rocío under the flor and to be able to control the speed.
The old system at Lustau involved more people and time. They needed two people at least, long hoses and scaffolding. The new system is more automated: with a joystick they can manage an automated scaffold and the pumps are motorised.
“The worker has to make less effort and is easier to control but, of course, the decision on how much rocío is pumped in order to avoid damaging the yeast is made by our experts,” Sergio told Canopy.
“Our biggest challenge is to continue increasing production to fulfil market demands without compromising the quality of our fine products. This constant evolution of techniques and references makes the passion of our jobs grow.”