Here’s a great opportunity for front and back of house teams in restaurants to get working together – even if their doors remain closed. The Copa Jerez competition invites sommeliers and chefs to come together and create their own three-course menus where each dish can be served with a different style of sherry. The event is being run in eight countries around the world, with the UK winners joining the best sommeliers and chefs from the other competing nations in a global final later this year.
The Copa Jerez competition is a great way for sommeliers and chefs to demonstrate their knowledge of sherry in the best way possible – how it pairs with food. Here UK competition organiser, Angeline Bayly, explains how it works.
For those that don’t know the Copa Jerez competition – can you tell us all about it?
Copa Jerez is an international competition for chefs and sommelier teams to create their ultimate three-course sherry pairing menu – not only that but the chef has to include sherry as an ingredient in at least one dish – not difficult given sherry is often lauded as the most gastronomic wine and is a long-time favourite secret ingredient.
Over the years it has attracted big name entrants from some of the world’s best restaurants including: Casa Marcial** (Spain); The Ritz (UK)*; Clou (Denmark); NoMad (California, US; Texture* (UK) and many more.
How long has it been going for and why was it introduced?
2021 will be the ninth edition of the competition, which takes place nationally every other year and then the international final is held the following year – except this year of course.
You are looking for chefs and sommeliers to devise a three course menu – can you give more details on what it is you are looking for in those dishes/sherry matches?
The menu needs to be complete and balanced in terms of flavours, something that has variety of ingredients and showcases as full a range flavours as possible, both on the plate and in the glass. The judges are looking for a menu that offers something new or different, maybe a new or on-trend cooking method or seasonal ingredients. The dishes have to excite the palate and elevate the wine.
It’s a great opportunity for sommeliers to really showcase their knowledge of sherry, the region and different styles? Who is able to enter?
Yes, exactly, showcasing in-depth understanding of sherry is the key and that could be from a junior or senior sommelier. The only proviso is that the chef and sommelier team that submit a menu are working together at the same restaurant – it’s all about teamwork between both sides of the pass.
What sort of chef and sommelier teams have entered and done well in previous competitions?
The best teams have been a real partnership, two people who want to win and know they need to work together and who complement each other. The teams need to present their menu and wine selections to the judges, so they have to talk confidently and present their menu harmoniously.
Who do you have on the judging panel?
This year we have confirmed two highly respected judges from their respective fields of expertise: Sarah Jane Evans MW, who is a renowned sherry expert and has judged the international final of Copa Jerez in 2019; she will be joined by Matthieu Longuere, a master sommelier and wine director at Le Cordon Bleu School in London, where we will be hosting the UK final in May. Next month we will announce the chef judge who will be joining them both.
Can you explain how the finals are going to work?
Taking place at the newly opened CORD restaurant in central London, three teams will prepare their three-course meal and present each dish and sherry to the judges, who will select the winning menu to go forward and represent the UK at the international final in Jerez later this year.
CORD restaurant – a new venue opened by Le Cordon Bleu wine and gastronomy school in London – has excellent facilities for hosting the competition as it has a specially designed demonstration kitchen where the judges can also watch the chefs preparing the dishes.
What prize is available?
The UK finalists will each receive a cash prize on the day; first place £500; £300 for second and £200 for third. In addition, the winners will receive a trip to Jerez to tour the bodegas, sample the regional cuisine and represent the UK at the International final alongside teams from seven other countries: Belgium; Denmark; the Netherlands; Spain; Russia; United States and Germany.
How is the overall sherry category performing in the UK market?
Of course this year the on-trade has been severely impacted for everyone but sherry has been reporting a turnaround in the off-trade with sales at Majestic up 17.6% in the 12 weeks to 5 December 5 (Nielsen); also in December the Co-Op reported it had a 70% increase in sales; and, earlier this month Tío Pepe announced a 21% year on year growth.
How important is the on-trade to the sherry category?
As this competition shows, the on-trade is extremely important for sherry. It is a gastronomic wine and we believe its success in restaurants, when we all return to enjoying eating out, will be key to growth.
How else do you work with the on-trade to promote sherry?
There are now over 30 different UK sherry importers who are all working with their on-trade customers to ensure high quality education, tasting opportunities and consumer promotions – not least during the award-winning International Sherry Week promotion that takes place each year in November.
- To find out more about the event go to the competition website here.
- For more information on the competition and how to enter then email Angeline Bayly on firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Copa Jerez is run by ICEX/Wines from Spain and Consejo Regulador Jerez y Manzanilla, funded by European Regional Development Fund.