Today, in our “Amazing Sherry People” section, we share an interview with a person who is inextricably bound to the Sherry world: Jorge Pascual.
Presently he is the General Director of Delgado Zuleta S.L. Before, among others, he was the President of the Regulatory Authority for the Denominations of Origin for Sherry, Manzanilla, and Sherry vinegar; President of the Association of Wine and Brandy “Routes” for the Sherry producing region; he worked at the Sandeman winery, etc. I met him during a group visit to the Delgado Zuleta winery. After completing the Sherry Wine Educator course, I began trying to learn everything I could about our region´s wines. I approached Jorge and asked him what I could do to continue learning about Sherry. We began to talk and it turned out that he knew my father, who worked many years at the Gonzalez Byass winery. To me, Jorge is my mentor in this world of Sherry. He is an outstanding person and an extraordinary professional. He has guided me from the beginning, he has supported and helped in my efforts, and he is always there whenever I have a question. Thank you, Jorge. He allowed me to conduct this interview which relates to Sherry wines and is a little about himself, too.
If someone were to ask you: “Who are you and what do you do?” how would you answer that question?
I am Jorge Pascual, a person who loves the business world and, more particularly, the winery business. I have always dreamed of doing what I have done and what I am doing now.
How did you start working in the Sherry wine industry?
I started by helping my father, Tomás Pascual, gathering samples, tasting, and analyzing some wines while I was studying to be a Chemical Engineer. Later, I engaged in some apprenticeships with Gonzalez Byass while I was finishing up my studies. After gaining experience in the Sherry industy, I was hired by Sandeman Jerez in 1988 as their production manager, learning about the production process from top to bottom, and from there to the present.
I know that you are a lover of Sherry wines. How did you come to fall in love with them? Was it love at first sight or, better yet, at first taste?
I´m not one for love at first sight. I was influenced by my father, who was introduced into the winery world and became immersed in it, when he first arrived in Sanlúcar de Barrameda to manage the Labor Institute and began teaching the first professional enology courses given in Sanlúcar. He was able to transmit all of that enthusiasm to me, primarily in his presentations and educational tastings, where he would exhibit true passion with hope that the people would really get to know and love these very special wines. Later, having also become deeply immersed in this world in a more technical manner and with a more analytical and practical mentality, I began to understand, learn, experience, and I was pleasantly overwhelmed by it. Manzanilla and Jerez aren´t only wines, more than anything they are about people – the professionals who produce them, sell them, and educate the world about them. It is difficult not to fall in love with those people and the wines which they produce.
Which is the most exciting “Sherry moment” that you recall?
When I was unanimously named as President of the Regulatory Authority. Something which I had never even dreamt of and which was the culmination of all of my professional aspirations. From a personal point of view, though, I also remember the 1 o’clock sherry glass that I would drink with my parents, at their home in Sanlúcar, every summer and the discussions that followed.
Which is the most horrible or negative memory?
The industry labor strikes, and more specifically those that occurred in 1991. We all did each other a lot of harm, and we harmed the Sherry industry as well. It took a long time to recover from that and to heal our wounds.
What has been the biggest risk that you have taken in your life?
Getting married with my wife Nieves, while I was without a job and having just recently graduated from the university. Also, having three wonderful children before reaching the age of 30. Life later taught me that they weren´t risks at all but, rather, perfect decisions.
What talent would you like to have?
Being an entrepreneur. Coming up with an idea in which you truly believe, envisioning it, and converting it into a successful reality.
What is the state of the Sherry industry today?
It is in a state of growth and transformation, even though it is a wine, and an industry, that is very mature. We are re-discovering ourselves with visionary concepts, such as “en rama” and trying to return to the roots of our family-owned companies. We are doing so by making unique, quality wines and looking for a market niche which will allow us to continue and to survive. We have reacquainted ourselves with the vineyards, with the soil, and with the Palomino grape. That, in itself, has been a long process.
What are the major challenges which the Sherry industry faces?
First, to convince ourselves that we are a “wine” and, as such, the vineyard, soil, and grape are all fundamental considerations in our production and in our promotion of that wine. If we are to consider ourselves as a wine, and, in addition, a unique wine, then we must identify that uniqueness which cannot be created by mass production. We need to improve the marketing of our wine, correctly advertising it as a united industry. Our competitor is not the winery down the street, and not even the wine of another area, but it is that of other types of libations. We need to recover our place as a wine, both at the bar and at the table, and at restaurants and at home. We need to feel proud of something that is, and has been, uniquely ours given that it is part of our culture. It´s not easy, since the inertia towards other directions is strong, but with consistency and with a clear identification of what our goal is, we can attain it.
What would need immediate change in the Sherry Industry?
Some of those things I have already mentioned, so I won´t repeat them. The lack of unity is something that has to be done away with. Strength in numbers is a reality and not only a phrase that sounds good. Another issue is price: the profitability of our businesses has to start by valuing what we produce, from the vineyard to the shelf and that means to leap over barriers such as that of 6 Euros and, of course, not have a lower-end product line below that amount. Also we should strengthen our consumption throughout the year and not limit ourselves to fairs and pilgrimages, where the aggressive competitiveness takes its toll the rest of the year. We would sell less, but at better price.
Which person in history do you identify yourself with?
Juan Sebastian Elcano, because he knew how to forge ahead resulting in his circumnavigation of the globe.
Who is your favorite science fiction hero?
The protagonist of the Lord of the Rings, the hobbit Frodo Bolson, who does not rest until he reaches his goal. In order to do so, he has to overcome many obstacles and temptations. He also allows others to help him in reaching his objective.
Who are your real-life heroes?
Every man and woman who, like me, gets up early every morning to go to work and gives every bit of energy that they have, and then, later, they know how to share that experience with their families and friends. And, of course, the business owner, who every day risks his money so that others, including me, can work.
What are your unfulfilled dreams and professional goals?
I´m the kind of person that lives in the present, life has taught me to be that way. So, even though I may have memories I don´t normally look towards the past. I am happy where I am, and with who I am, at the moment. That is what is important.
What is your normal work routine?
I get up at 6 a.m., work at the Delgado Zuleta winery from 7:15 a.m to 2 p.m. The rest of the day, I dedicate to my wife and whatever comes up.
Which is your favorite Sherry wine?
A Manzanilla wine that has been aged for a few years, but at the same time has matured, with color, aroma, and taste, as it should be.
Which is your least favorite Sherry wine?
I´m not much for natural sweet wines. I prefer to have them blended in Mediums or Creams. I think it is an art form how the wineries of the Sherry region are able to create those sweet wine blends that are so unique.
If you could, what would you change in the Sherry wine industry?
I have held positions of responsibility and I was not able to change anything. It would be incorrect, now that I am no longer in those positions, to say what I would do, if I didn´t do them then.
“Bag-in-box,” yes or no?
No, given the reason and the intention with which it is being introduced. I don´t have any negative comment on this point from a technical point of view, but unfortunately in this industry reductions in production costs and innovative improvements always signify a reduction in the market price, but never an improvement in the margin. If the wine “en rama” (Sherry wine with minimal filtering) movement continues to grow, especially internationally, this would be the most logical package to use in order to fill the barrels that are in the bars of faraway places.
How can we get people from the land of Sherry to drink more Sherry wines?
By getting them to recover their pride in their own wine. Such that they feel like it is something that is part of them, since it really is. Only in that way will we fill the land of Sherry production with our own wine. Our pride in our wines can be recaptured through knowledge and education, since you can only love and appreciate that which you know. Education, education, and education. Afterwards will then come the realization.
What are your short-term and long-term projects?
It has now been a few years that I live day to day and I find it invigorating. My only projects are to enjoy the time that I have with my wife and children and to enjoy my work at Delgado Zuleta. I believe that that is a lot.
What are the words which you most use?
Respect, education, team, consistency, effort, and willingness.
What is your most prized possession?
My life. Without it, I would not be able to answer your questions nor do what I am doing.
In today´s world, what do you consider to be the most over-valued virtue?
If it is truly a virtue, it can´t be over-valued. I wish that I were a bundle or wealth of virtues. I do believe, however, that riches are over-valued – the possession of things. In the long run, they are not really that important and, in addition, with our present economic crisis we have realized that they also lose their value.
Who would you have liked to have been?
Myself. I don´t regret anything.
Your favorite musicians?
Vivaldi. I never tire of the Four Seasons.
Your favorite poets?
I´m not much for poetry.
Do you drink Sherry wine every day?
If the occasion is right, yes. But, I´m not a solitary drinker. I need company.
Sherry wines made in Chiclana, Rota, Ecija, Chipiona…will they someday be part of the D.O.?
No. The regulations are very clear about that and they were created to be followed. What I do see is that they can use their names to create uniqueness, that is if they make wines that justify that uniqueness. I believe that the wine regulations are very broad and offer a variety of possibilities that do not require that they be disregarded.
Have your children inherited your love of Sherry wines?
They know that there is something special about these wines since they see their mother and father enjoy them, and enjoy their time with them. But they haven´t yet reached the right age or the right moment.
What do you like to read?
Simple novels, of the action/thriller type, but the truth is that I rarely read anything more than the publications that relate to the wine business and to management.
Are you going to write a book?
To date, I have written many informative articles and a chapter or two in wine books but I would love to gather everything that I have written into my own book. I´m working on it.
What makes you laugh?
Life itself and its funny moments.
What is your life´s slogan?
Don´t leave for tomorrow what you can do today. And, don´t fly like a sparrow when you can soar like an Eagle.
What is your favorite pairing?
A glass of Manzanilla with my wife and whatever we find in the refrigerator.
What advice would you give to the wineries?
None. They are mature enough. What I had to tell them, I told them when I was working for the Regulatory Authority.
What advice would you give to those who don´t drink Sherry?
That they try it at the direction of someone who understands about it and who will transmit all of the amazing facets which it contains.
What advice do you give to those fans, like me, of this world of Sherry?
That you continue. That you are more necessary than you think and that you have patience with the wineries. That we love you, even though we don´t know how to say it the many times that we should. You are who will return the pride, for their wines, to the people.
What do you think of a fino sherry that is not fortified but contains the 15 degrees alcohol content naturally?
First, that it can´t be called a fino sherry and second: that it is likely a magnificent white wine with a lot of personality.
To life,… that it may give us many opportunities to share a drink with another.
Interviewer: Virginia Miller, Sherry Wine Educator
Translator: Alberto Ávila, Miller Translation