Sherry And The Mystery Of Palo Cortado

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Sherry And The Mystery Of Palo Cortado
"The sunshine of southern Spain, the often deep colours of sherry and the dusty environs of cool cellars with light shafting through them all lend atmosphere to José Luis López-Linares' documentary"

The sunshine of southern Spain, the often deep colours of sherry and the dusty environs of cool cellars with light shafting through them all lend atmosphere to José Luis López-Linares' documentary about the drink. Originally a cinematographer by trade, he has a keen eye for a good shot and it is interludes of pouring sherry and the quirky use of illustrative film clips - such as Joan Hickson's Miss Marple enjoying a tipple - that lift his film and stop it becoming bogged down in a series of talking heads.

This is no mere primer on the life of sherry. He may start with a basic discussion of how it is made, the types of grape and what gives each type of drink its distinctive qualities - from oloroso through to that mysterious cortado of the title - but Linares is also interested in setting sherry in an historical context. The result is a meeting of the emotional and the factual. On the one hand, he is told "the wine will tell you what it wants to be", particularly cortado, in its complex ambiguity which makes a sudden appearance among the fino and amontillado. On the other, he captures the hard graft that goes into the production of the drink, which has become firmly rooted in families down the generations.

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There are shades of a lament as well as celebration, as the decline of sherry's importance on the world stage is discussed and the sadness of an elderly member of the Domecq family is outlined as he recalls being able to even walk past the distillery without crying once it had been sold to a conglomerate. Linares' film aims to be as rich and complex as the drink it discusses, diving into the social history of working at a sherry firm - a job also often taken by successive generations, many of whom enjoyed the free gasto barrel that was available to the workers to take a tipple from - while also pulling back to consider the macro-economics of its success and struggle. Concentration is required but there is plenty here to savour.

Reviewed on: 10 Aug 2015
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A look at the fortified wine.

Director: José Luis López-Linares

Year: 2015

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Spain

Festivals:

EIFF 2015

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