Have you seen the Pillars of Jerez YouTube series yet?! My conversation with co-host Christopher Canale-Parola continues! Before talking a bit about the soil and varietals, I wanted to know more about Christopher and his role with González Byass.
Seana – How did you become the “face” of these videos?
Christopher – That’s a funny story! Basically before I moved to the US, I was the only native English speaker based out of Jerez in a sales role. Over time, I ended up interpreting tastings for Antonio Flores and we built up a rapport.
Then we’d do trips together: Sherryfest in New York and Toronto in 2013, then again together in San Francisco 2014. Then this year he wanted to do it again, so I went to New York. People were really enjoying the tastings we were doing.
So, the reason these videos came about was we had one of our Canadian agents come over on a trip with about 15 others. Antonio and I did a tasting and they had a good time. Somebody that came with them said, “wouldn’t this be really great if you could record this tasting? It would be a really informative, thorough sherry tasting in English from Antonio through translation.”
We thought about it. But we can’t really record an hour and a half tasting. That would be SO boring! So we thought, how can we take that concept, transmit the same information without so much technical detail, and make it effective? The way to do it is to break it down into little chunks and give each video a very obvious purpose and focus and then just record them, edit them and see how it goes right?
S – Are you considered an ambassador?
C – I think my official title is something like Regional Sales Manager. I handle the whole portfolio in Canada – Atlantic Provinces right through British Columbia, and a zig-zag cut through the US from the west coast to the south. My colleague in New York handles the east coast and a little bit in the mid-west. Basically, it revolves around the distributors we work with. People often say that’s a really big territory, but for sherry, normally you have like one or two people to do the whole world! So we’re incredibly privileged to be able to send two people to just do North America.
S – When I watched the First Pillar video of the soil, my husband remarked “it’s so dry and crumbly,” and he’s never been. Even for me, when I went to Jerez in May, I was shocked by how absorbent it is.
C – Exactly – it’s visual! The idea is to just give a sense or an impression of what it is and what this wine region is all about. I think we put something together that would communicate to people who already knew a lot about it – you know things like the asepiado – the steps put in the soil – which even people who are very familiar with sherry, may have never seen that process put into action.
S – I saw that for the first time when I visited. I was shocked to learn that vineyards aren’t watered, which is why those steps are there to collect the winter rains. I was amazed to see how fine the roots are that can go digging in the soil searching for water seven meters deep and up to sixteen meters across!
S – Most bodegas [or sherry wineries] purchase their grapes elsewhere, but González Byass has their own vineyards?
C – We have a large vineyard area where we get our grapes from. We have about 10% of the Jerez Superior. We have an important nursery, as well, where we’re growing vines up, one of the very few to have our own Pedro Ximenez. It’s very rare. At the moment, we do purchase grapes like everybody else from a region in Montilla, but we also have our own vineyards and are increasing that production. Antonio and the team hope in a few years time to be 100% self-sufficient for our own PX.
S – I loved seeing them sun-drying the PX grapes in the video. Can Palomino Fino even grow in Oregon or elsewhere?
C – There is some in California and Argentina. My dad was drinking some dry PX from Argentina the other day, he told me about it. There are a few experiments going around, but not an awful lot. It’s just such a unique growing region like any other in the world, you just can’t really reproduce the style, and neither should you. You should perhaps maybe take inspiration from it and do something cool. I’d love to see what comes out of it. But you can’t really reproduce exactly the same thing, you know?
Tune in for more from our conversation as we discuss the remaining videos of the Pillars of Jerez series, the creativity of Antonio Flores and the future of sherry!