Is Sherry­­ the New Face of By-the-Glass Wine Programs? | Wine Enthusiast
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Is Sherry­­ the New Face of By-the-Glass Wine Programs?

From Los Angeles to Tokyo and Cardiff, on-premise entrepreneurs have found Sherry plays a starring role in by-the-glass (BTG) programs.

Sommelier Ryan Bailey wanted to make a splash when he arrived at NoMad LA, so the first thing he did was bring Sherry to the BTG program. As he told the wine and food experts at the Copa Jerez Forum & Competition in Spain, “For us, the guest’s experience is from the first sip to the last sip.”

Bailey brought four Sherries to show four different styles, forgoing the traditional copita glasses in favor of larger white wine glasses. He also increased the pour from 2 ½ to 3 ounces. He sees offering Manzanilla, amontillado, oloroso and Pedro Ximénez as a hand-sells, or recommendations directly tailored to individual consumers.

Sherry remains somewhat esoteric. But Bailey says, “For me, it’s really about allowing our guests to try something that is different, that is well curated, and our staff is very knowledgeable, so they can have a conversation about it.”

Bailey, along with NoMad Chef John Taube IV, made up the U.S. team at Copa Jerez, an international gastronomic competition in which teams of chefs and sommeliers present the best marriage of wine and food from the Jérez region in southern Spain. Competing on Wednesday against teams from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Spain and the United Kingdom, Bailey and Taube took home the award for “Most Creative Pairing.”

Location, Location, Location

In a seminar on Sherry and business models, Owen Morgan, co-owner of the UK’s Bar 44 Group, partnered with Momoko Izumi, founder of Sherry Club Ginza in Kyoto, Japan to speak about how the wines rewarded their respective passions.

Morgan, along with his brother, Tom, and sister, Natalie Isaac, opened a small tapas bar in the town of Cowbridge, Wales in 2002. “So quite remote, strange part of the world to start up a Sherry bar,” he says. “Since then, we’ve grown organically, by ourselves with no outside influence” to reach five restaurants. This includes a location in Bristol, a city which has its own strong ties to Sherry: Bristol Cream.

“People thought we were crazy to open a tapas bar and serve Sherry,” Morgan said. But to lure the pints-and-Pinot crowd, he offered different flights of Sherry at various price points to coax customers to try a sip.

“We wanted them to have fun with it, and it has given us a USP—a unique selling point. We’re known as the guys that love Sherry. Yes, it is important to make money and the margins, but Sherry has given us an identity and people know that for us it’s not just a business, but a passion.” He serves all of the Sherries by the glass, “because I don’t think many people would buy a Palo Cortado by the bottle unless they were great aficionados.”

The result is that 17 years later, Bar 44 Group has grown organically, “by ourselves with no outside influence or investors.”

Having a Sherry bar in a small Welsh town is one thing, but opening one in Japan?

Sherry in Japan

Momoko Izumi began the Sherry Club Ginza in 1986, and it almost collapsed in its early years due to lack of sales—under 500 bottle annually. But as interest grew in Spanish culture and cuisine, due in part the Seville Expo and Barcelona Olympics in 1992, so did her club.

Izumi says she now sells about 8,000 bottles generating more than 400,000 euros ($446,000) in annual revenue from her club. Her inventory is Sherry exclusively, with about 300 different bottlings on hand at any time. Izumi’s staff consumes about 550 liters (or about one Butt, as the traditional Sherry barrel is called) each year for educational purposes “so that they can speak knowingly about the wines and food pairings.”

Over her more than 30 years in business, Izumi amassed a database of 10,000 customers, complete with their names, addresses and birthdays. “When they come in, we hand them back their record which also lists the Sherries they have tried and offer them a trial taste of a different one,” Izumi said.

And on their birthdays, she sends them a card with a gift—the offer of a free paella.