2013 is notable in history for being the year that Japan won the bid to host the 2020 Olympic games, the legendary Nelson Mandela passed away at at the ripe old age of 95, Yahoo bought Tumblr for a cool 1.1 billion dollars and on the tiny but mighty island of Hong Kong the XECO trio first met.
While these merry friendships were blooming in the hallowed streets of Lan Kwai Fong (and a few more salubrious places too) I confessed to the others to being a total Hispanophile and in particular extremely passionate about the wines of Jerez. Alexa and Polly were working in the wine industry at the time and both agreed that these beautiful wines were wholly underappreciated.
In an attempt to educate our friends who all said sherry was not for them, we hosted a 5-Course sherry pairing 'farewell' dinner, shortly before Alexa and I both returned to London for good. It was a resounding success with over 80% of the attendees arriving with a negative perception of these jewels of Andalucia and leaving as converts. Afterwards, as we sat about polishing off the bottles, we came up with the genesis of the idea which would later become XECO.
Fast forward to early 2016 and the vision 'Let's make sherry cool again' started to take shape, under the codename 'Project Seco'.
As we researched how this product should take shape, it became apparent that there were 3 main barriers to people's perception of sherry:
1) It is something granny drinks, and not for me: i.e. the brand needed to relevant and contemporary
2) Sherry is only drunk at Christmas or poured into trifle: i.e. we needed to focus on the crisp and refreshing dry style Fino since it is perfect for Spring/Summer and can be drunk straight or with a mixer… “Fin’tonic, anyone?”
3) Sherry is too sweet: i.e. it was critical to highlight a little known fact: both the driest and sweetest wines in the world are sherries, hence we chose a name that emphasizes the dry styles – XECO is a derivation of ‘seco’ which means dry in Spanish.
As we searched for inspiration and ideas to develop the brand we kept uncovering little snippets and stories about the history of sherry throughout the ages and how it played such a big part in defining the relations between Spain and the UK. The Great British Barter became our starting point, with the characters of Alfonso X and Henry I who initiated a trade of Spanish wine for English wool.
Since those early days, a host of incredibly famous people such as Will Shakespeare and his Spanish counterpart Miguel de Cervantes have talked or written about their love of the great sherry wines, and before long we had inadvertently drawn up a cast of characters through the ages who were all connected to sherry/Jerez. With a little help from an amazing design agency and a talented artist on the Norfolk coast our characters came to life.
By mirroring an English character with a Spanish one, we hold on to the essence of the original barter and we hope to extend this thread in time and bring our cast of characters up to date… bespoke commissions in future perhaps?
The hero of our new brand is XECO Fino. An incredibly crisp, refreshing, elegant wine this also has the naturally-occurring advantage of being incredibly low in calories as there is virtually no residual sugar (see PB's blog article, Dry vs. Cream sherry). Mix XECO Fino with a slimline tonic or your favourite lemonade, and you’ve got a delicious long-drink that is has the same ABV as a beer and is an awesome Summer sip! (None of this, ‘sherry is just for Christmas’ nonsense).
We also have an outstanding XECO AMONTILLADO (‘Monti’) that will be launching later in the year, and a lovely option as those cooler Autumn days draw in; drink it chilled or pour a generous measure into a Negroni for a delicious twist.
So, XECO is essentially all about breathing new life into an amazing and storied world of sherry; encouraging the trade to hero sherry wine as they would a spirit, and giving a new generation of consumers a brand of sherry that they can identify and have fun with.