XECO Wines is a ‘next generation’ sherry dedicated to bringing a modern edge to “uncle Monty’s tipple”, and encourages a new generation of discerning drinkers to give sherry a second look. They have created XECO Fino, which is a super refreshing and fantastically easy-going wine and XECO Amontillado, a rich and delightful sherry, with nutty and vanilla notes coming to the fore. We asked the founders of XECO Wines how their amazing brand was born and what makes XECO sherry so special.
Tell us how the idea of XECO was born? What does the name mean?
XECO was born in Hong Kong! An unlikely place, but we three founders were sitting on a ‘junk’ (a traditional boat) in the bay, sipping on a nondescript white wine and reflecting that what we really felt like was a crisp glass of Fino. At that time — and barring a handful of fabulous Spanish restaurants, notably two by Jason Atherton — Fino was almost impossible to find in Hong Kong, and it led to a broader discussion about the lack of demand for sherry among younger 20-something drinkers. We felt that someone needed to give this old world wine some new world treatment… and gradually the idea for XECO began to take more shape!
The name XECO derives from the protected Denomination of Origin (DO) ‘Xeres’ — the oldest in Spain — and a simple Spanish word: ‘seco’ meaning dry. We needed to move cleanly away from all the associations of sweet sherry living in the depths of the drinks cupboard — so we only sell two bone dry styles: Fino and Amontillado.
Do you think that sherry is an underrated and misunderstood drink? What do you like most about sherry?
Yes and no. In broad consumer terms it is not so much underrated, as simply overlooked. There is a plethora of drinking options out there, and a plethora of brands who are deeply connected to what consumers want, so millennial consumers don’t include sherry in their repertoire because they don’t see why they should! That’s where we come in. We wanted to bring a new perspective to the category — give it a fresh face! — and show consumers that it is deeply relevant to them and highly versatile.
By contrast, the bar and restaurant trade have enjoyed and respected sherry wines consistently (sherry cocktails have existed for over 200 years!) but without consumers coming in to ask for them, sherries have steadily fallen off the menu. Generally speaking, the on-trade has welcomed XECO with great enthusiasm and especially in light of the versatility: dry sherries are SUPER low in sugar and Fino is a fantastic substitute for gin or vodka in a refreshing low-alcohol highball.
Tell us about sherry production. How long does it take to produce a bottle of this wonderful wine?
The Solera-system which underpins all sherry wines is remarkable in that it produces a consistent non-vintage wine, year after year, by way of fractional blending (new wine is blended with slightly older wine, which is blended with slightly older wine, and so on), so in simple consumer terms, once you find your perfect sherry you can have complete confidence that every bottle of it will be equally delicious every time.
Our Fino is aged for an average of 4 years, under a veil of ‘flor’ which prevents the wine from oxidation (coming into contact with air). The Amontillado is aged for an average of 7 years, partially under flor and then ‘oxidatively’ which causes the wines to become darker and develop the richer, nutty character.
What is your favourite way to drink XECO?
Ah! There are so many options — that’s the beauty of it! Beanie is a purist with her Fino but is partial to an Amontillado-based cocktail; Lex likes her Fino long over ice with tonic (or one of the Sekforde mixers!); Polly is the Amontillado queen and regularly pairs hers with Ginger Ale when looking for something lighter in alcohol.
Your packaging is amazing! With neon graffiti art, this stylish design sets it apart from the traditional labelling of many sherries on the market. Tell us more about it.
Thank you! We worked with a fantastic, creative team who really got the brief: celebrate the incredible pedigree and history of sherry (we’ve been importing the stuff into the UK since the 12th Century!) but at the same time ensure the packaging and messaging is compelling — and moreover relevant — for a contemporary audience. We love our labels and have had so much fun exploding the graffiti concept into other areas across our website etc.
What do you do in your free time?
Well, truthfully, there isn’t a great deal of it! Since launching the business in 2017, all 3 of us have got married, and we’ve had 4 babies between us; we joke that the ‘sherry baby’ came first, so we’re as committed to XECO as we ever were!!
If you weren’t building your wine startup, what would you be doing?
We are actually all working on things in parallel to XECO, which complement it. Polly is actually the co-founder of an Asia-based agency called Nimbility, which assists drinks brands with building and executing market-opening/building strategies across Asia. Beanie is an Associate Director at a London strategy consultancy called Forward Thinking Inc. and Alexa is exploring the wellness space, which — contrary to what you might think — is of real relevance to XECO, since Fino wines have some of the lowest residual sugar content of all (less than 5g/litre) and combine beautifully with sodas and low sugar mixers to create a really refreshing yet authentic low-alcohol, low sugar serve.