Andalucia's celluloid gold: Sherry and the Mystery of the Palo Cortado

We read a lot about budget cuts to cultural events and activities as part of the government's austerity measures these days, so it's good to see that celluloid culture in Andalucia continues to hold its own, despite these challenging times.
Cinema is already having a good year - three movies shot in the region have been nominated for an impressive amount of Goyas (the Spanish Oscars), with 28 nominations between them. El Niño and La Isla Minima are both police thrillers, set in the Campo de Gibraltar and the marshlands of the Guadalquivir in Seville province respectively, while Ocho Apellidos Vascos is a comedy set in Seville and the Basque Country. The ceremony will take place on 8 February, so we're rooting for locally-made films to scoop plenty of awards.

And a very different Andalucian film will be taking part in the Berlin Film Festival, which starts next week. The Culinary Cinema section, now in its tenth year, is showing Sherry y el Misterio de Palo Cortado (Sherry and The Mystery of Palo Cortado). This film is about the world of sherry wines, which is still unknown, and indeed unfathomable, to many. Sherry wines are only made in the "Sherry Triangle" of Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda, and are aged and blended using a system called solera.
The movie is produced by Antonio Saura, whose father Carlos is a renowned film director; his works include documentaries about dance such as Flamenco Flamenco, as well as a screen version of one of the most famous operas of all time, set in Seville: Carmen. The director, Jose Luis Lopez Linares, has won two Goyas, as cinematographer on Carlos Saura's dance film Iberia, and for best documentary for Una instante en la vida ajena which he directed.
Palo Cortado is one of the least well-known wines, and indeed is a rare type of sherry which used to be considered unsuitable for commercial use. Recently it was "rediscovered" and is now highly prized. Technically palo cortado is a fino or amontillado which has lost its layer of flor (yeast) and is now more similar to an oloroso, with the same alcohol content - 17-22%. The name (literally "cut stick") refers to a mark made on the barrel to denote this type of sherry, which comes about accidentally.

The 89-minute film was shot partly at Bodegas Tradicion in Jerez, as well as many other sherry wineries, and tells the story of sherry's history, starting in the 16th century. Sherry is one of the oldest wines in Europe - it has been popular in England since Shakespeare's day, who arrived in London "at a time when the taverns are full of this sherry brought by Frances Drake". You can see such culinary luminaries as Josep Roca, co-owner and sommelier of the legendary El Celler de San Roca in Girona, voted the world's best restaurant, and five-Michelin-starred chef Paco Perez.
Sherry y El Misterio de Palo Cortado will premiere at the Berlinale (Berlin Film Festival) on 11 February, as part of the Culinary Cinema programme, which features 20 productions from around the world. At the showing a menu will be prepared by Paco Perez, whose restaurant 5-Cinco is in Berlin: palo cortado will play a leading role.
You can see the trailer here.
Blog published on 29 January 2015