Lustau may be one of the most historic Sherry bodegas in Spain, however they have also been at the forefront of modernizing this historic beverage for today’s wine consumer – no small feat in the face of the many challenges the modern wine industry faces.
Determined to ensure that Sherry enjoys a constant evolution “with a vision well beyond its time,” their innovative approach and outside-the-box thinking have set them apart in the industry. Thanks to a razor-sharp focus on education, creative strategic collaborations, and innovations in the vineyard and cellar, Lustau is moving mountains when it comes to building and maintaining excitement for this intriguing beverage category. “Lustau’s ownership has, from inception, thought outside of the box – or you may say the ‘cask’,” says Lustau’s global ambassador, Federico Sanchez-Pece. “The search for a turning point or that game-changing moment has been a constant for the company, and is its principal motivator.”
Knowing Your ABCs… of Sherry
Believing that knowledge gives way to confidence, and ultimately influences consumer tastes and preferences, one of Lustau’s primary endeavors has been educating both the trade and the consumer about the diversity of styles and expressions found in the sherry category. To that end, Lustau has developed a robust suite of tools and resources geared toward all levels of wine proficiency.
Most notable is Lustau’s Sherry Journey, a one-stop online platform dedicated to all things sherry, including information – and inspiration – on how to serve sherry and the range of occasions to which the beverage is suited. “When visiting the Sherry Journey site, learning about sherry wines becomes an experiential journey, and you determine where it takes you,” says Sanchez-Pece. “It offers cocktail recipes, food pairings and culturally rich recipes…some surprising and unusual!”
The Sherry Journey also connects trade and consumers to important educational tools for casual and in-depth discovery, like the Sherry Explorer, an interactive onboarding experience to explore the world of sherry wines; and their unique Certified Sherry Wine Specialist (CSWS) program, created in partnership with the Sherry Regulatory Council. “The CSWS offers an in-depth guided theory class on the region and wines, with a tasting and test that can culminate when passing in the achievement of a Specialist in sherry designation,” explains Sanchez-Pece.
This certification also earns recipients one year of access to a personalized online concierge service powered by Lustau’s team of educators. “The mission of both programs is to work the pillar of education, taking sherry wines’ diverse and complex nature, and transforming it into an enjoyable, entertaining experience,” says Sanchez-Pece. Lustau’s extensive video library also showcases collaborations with renowned American chefs in its Sherries & Chefs series, demonstrating the limitless pairing possibilities of sherry with diverse cuisines.
Strength in Numbers
Education is only one component to growing the number of sherry enthusiasts worldwide. Knowing that these tools can only take the brand and category so far, Lustau has ventured into exciting projects and partnerships to expand the reach of sherry. “Lustau, if you ask those that know the Brand well, is characterized by strong close relationships, and many of these have been enthusiastic about partnering in innovative projects to produce beverages with a ‘hint’ of Sherry,” says Sanchez-Pece. “Some of these are not related to wine at all,” he adds with a smile.
For example, whiskey lovers will delight in Lustau’s collaboration with three renowned brands from three distinct whiskey regions – Redbreast (Ireland), The Glenrothes (Scotland), and Chichibu (Japan). While this partnership may not surprise anyone due to the long-standing love affair between sherry casks and whisky, Sanchez-Pece nevertheless believes in its potential to introduce a new beverage category to whisky drinkers and give them “the opportunity to discover the influence that Lustau’s excellent wines make to the casks aging their favorite whiskeys.”
In addition to whisky collaborations, Lustau has formed some unexpected partnerships, including one Chicago-based Dark Matter Coffee. Dark Matter chose specific styles of Lustau sherry for a House of Lustau special release of coffee beans. The result was a delicately PX-infused coffee with a sweet and velvety, distinctly PX Sherry finish. The Dark Matter collaboration has also included a Thanksgiving release of a sherry-cask-conditioned iced coffee in a black glass bottle reminiscent of Lustau’s signature bottle. Lastly, Lustau has entered the world of craft beer, partnering with Brooklyn Brewery to launch a beer called “Capataz,” a quadruple Belgium style draft beer aged in Amontillado and PX casks.
“Collaborations with brands and professionals from non-related wine businesses are valuable to Lustau,” says Sanchez-Pece. “Besides being prospective consumers themselves, they, on their own, become sherry promoters, increasing the awareness and curiosity towards our category. Much of our consumer base has been introduced to the diverse world of sherry through acquaintances, friends, and family members.”
Back home in Spain, Lustau’s collaborations have focused on gastronomical opportunities. The Bodega provides rare amontillado-seasoned casks to prestigious olive oil producer Castillo de Canena in which to age their Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and partners with Salsas Quietud to produce a chili pepper and oloroso-based hot sauce as well as a decadent duck foie gras macerated in PX.
“The culinary world is a next of kin to sherry,” says Sanchez-Pece. “The wine offers unsurpassable pairing options to a vast macrocosm of choices, and Lustau holds a formidable array of styles and selections…Partnerships have also taught us to search for new frontiers; to envision how these can advance or build on our efforts to increase awareness.”
Pulling Back the Curtain
While consumer-facing efforts like educational tools and brand collaborations are obvious initiatives for cultivating and engaging sherry lovers, there are many, perhaps more important efforts going on behind the scenes that keep Lustau at the forefront of innovation in the sherry category. And these efforts are deeply important to the modern wine consumer. “Being in tune with the preferences and commitments of our consumers and those of our environment is a vital practice today,” notes Sanchez-Pece. “We can then see issues and opportunities for our category where others not closely connected to it cannot. The studies and research conducted allow us to be proactive, to understand our products better within the evolving landscape, and come up with innovations to stay in the forefront by applying this new knowledge.”
This effort to stay at the heart of what matters to consumers includes producing wines that are vegetarian and vegan, as well as maintaining a demonstrable commitment to sustainability and the environment. For example, Lustau has redesigned its iconic bottle shape to make it lighter in weight while also offering a considerable reduction to the logistical carbon footprint. The Bodega also generates 100% of the energy required by their facilities through solar power. “Lustau continues to be involved in technological research with the purpose of returning the Bodega to its original state,” says Sanchez-Pece. “Completely independent from fossil energy.”
For Lustau, this drive to stay modern and relevant isn’t just a marketing play. Much like the role of the Capataz, it’s central to their entire identity. “Innovations are important to evolving. We must cultivate the world around us, avoid remaining stagnant, and gaining dust in a shelf remembered by a limited group,” muses Sanchez-Pece. “We look to be a wine for all. This is achievable by the remarkable spectrum of styles, that, once tasted by the glass and paired with a wide array of foods, wins over palates and enlists a growing following of new sherry lovers.”
The Future of Sherry
Looking ahead, the world of sherry is faced with some regulatory changes that may shape its future and keep the Lustau team “occupied for decades to come.” The DO(s) of Jerez-Xérez-Sherry and Manzanilla de Sanlúcar are working on recovering pre-phylloxera varieties and regulating existing yet unrestricted sherry subcategories, like “En Rama” and “Single Cask” wines. These changes will expand the diversity of sherry even further, providing consumers with more intriguing options to explore.
For Lustau, the future involves becoming an integral part of consumers’ wine journeys, whether at home, at the bar or restaurant, or their favorite spots within their communities. They want the world to know that sherry is not only a special occasion wine, but should also be considered as an everyday option. “There is no other drink that brings people together as wine does, and the versatility of use that comes from the many styles of sherry allows for an even broader range of enjoyment, says Sanchez-Pece, “We will continue to build connections, to amplify the charm of the wine by introducing its boundless attributes, and vow to always be receptive to innovate on the sherry experience.”