The historic heart of sherry country in southern Spain will be ruined by a wind turbine park, according to wine producers who say that its construction has destroyed vineyards and spoilt the landscape.
Diggers have begun clearing the ground for the wind farm northwest of Jerez, which is one of the points of the so-called Sherry Triangle along with the port cities of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María. The project at the site has stoked fierce opposition from ecologists as well as sherry producers.
“The area is the most emblematic part of the sherry producing region, one of the oldest vineyard areas in the world. But the wind turbine park affects the whole countryside and all the sherry producers of Jerez,” Alberto Orte, a vineyard owner and winemaker, said. “Civil society, ecologists and some politicians are also against it. It’s an atrocity.
“Small farmers have sold land to the wind farm company and others will have land taken to make way for the construction of pylons. This is a protected area and should not be allowed. We have to fight it.”
Peter Sisseck, a renowned Danish winemaker, owns two vineyards in the region and one of them, in the Macharnudo district, will be directly affected by the turbines. He described the project as “horrendous”. He said: “Of all the vineyards of Spain, Jerez is the most international and the most prestigious and so now the most important vineyard holding in Jerez will be impacted by wind turbines. We are in favour of alternative energy but the placement of them is ridiculous.”
Sisseck, who moved into the region in 2017 and is credited with helping efforts to revive sherry’s fortunes, added: “If I had known that there was going to be a wind turbine park built next to our vineyard I would not have invested.”
The projected wind energy park, which includes five 120-metre turbines, high voltage pylons and an electricity plant, is being built between the Macharnudo and Añina vineyard areas. Although the plans are longstanding, vineyard owners said that they did not know they were going ahead until they saw the works start in recent weeks. Sisseck fears that the project will be hard to stop because it is backed by Andalusia’s regional government.
He was more hopeful, however, after the sherry region’s regulating body came out forcefully against it this week. Saying it was “extremely worrying for us”, César Saldaña, the body’s director-general, added: “The vineyard landscapes that surround the town of Jerez are an essential part of our heritage. We consider that this common patrimony needs to be respected and protected.”
The sherry region’s efforts to bolster its flagging fortunes with wine tours would also be affected, he said. The site “will not only constitute a very severe damage to the landscape, but a definitive impediment for the development of those wine tourism projects”.
The vineyards are thought to date back to Phoenician times almost 3,000 years ago. Although most of the British and Irish sherry companies have disappeared since the drink’s decline from its heyday in the 1970s, some Anglo-Spanish sherry families still work in a trade whose links with Britain go back at least 500 years.
Capital Energy, the wind farm company developing the site, said the project was legal and that it had properly consulted with local groups and the authorities. “The wine producers have no argument to make about it damaging the vineyard area,” a spokesman said. “Their objections are purely visual.”
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