Saturday, 6 September 2014

Bodegas: Hijos de Jimenez Varela

This firm, now lost, was established in 1850 in El Puerto de Santa Maria. In 1863, Ramon Jimenez Varela, who was 33 years old, bought various small vineyards called the Vina Belludo Bajo with a vineyardd house in the Pago Balbaina between El Puerto and Jerez, and a bodega “La Rosa” on the corner of Calle Victoria (now Alboreda) and Calle Espiritu Santo. This bodega was created from various buildings, some older bodegas, others offices, in what became a bodega district close to the river where previously other industries had operated such as olive oil mills or tanneries. The site of the bodega is now occupied by the 4* Hotel Bodega Real which has preserved the yard in which the coopers worked.

Coopers' yard at Jimenez Varela (foto: Gente del Puerto)
This fine old family firm produced excellent Sherries and went on to produce sparkling wine at purpose built cellars in their Finca Caracol. The wine was good and well received, selling well for a while till it was dropped from the range as sales declined. The sparkling wine had been produced in an attempt to increase sales at a time (the 1880s) when Sherry was facing accusations of disrepute in its biggest market, Britain, due to alleged fraudulent practices by speculative companies, such as fortifying cheap wines with potato spirit. Jimenez Varela were never guilty of such malpractice.

Andanas at Jimenez Varela (foto: Gente del Puerto)
Other new products to bolster sales appeared as well, such as Anis, Rum, Cacao, Gin, Tonic Wine (Quina) etc., but nobody else made sparkling wine at the time. It continued well into the XX century.

(Antonio Garcia's collection of HJV products, and his photo)
They also bought a famous stud, the Hierro de la Palma which had been established at the beginning of the XIX century, and whose brand appeared on their Sherry labels.

The firm's logo and also that of the stud (foto CMPH gente del Puerto)

Interestingly, one of the family was the confidant of Isaac Peral, a naval engineer who built one of the very first workable submarines, much research work on which took place in the River Guadalete at El Puerto. Apparently his submarine was as good as the First World War U Boats, but was never commissioned by the Spanish Navy.

Jimenez Varela finally sold up to Rumasa in the 1960’s during the latter’s period of rapid expansion. A small range of Manzanilla, Fino, Medium and Cream was sold under the name Varela until the end of the 1970s and was subsequently and unfortunately never heard of again. Rumasa needed stock.

The firm’s principal brands were Fino Jardin, Oloroso 1875, Amontillado Presidente, Manzanilla Carola, Oloroso Los 46, Amontillado-Fino Jardin, Fino Coquin, and sparkling wine:  “Gran Champagne Continental”, as well as spirits: Brandy Viejisimo Varela, Cacao Varela, and many more.

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