Saturday, 10 January 2015

Bodegas: Martínez Gassiot

Sebastián González Martínez was the nephew of Sabastián Martínez Pérez (1747-1800), a successful merchant from the Rioja who had established himself in Cádiz as an exporter of Sherry to Britain. He married Jane Gobbett, the widow of his partner Martínez de la Cuadra and had various children.

Sebastian Gonzalez Martinez (foto JL Jimenez)
In 1790 he founded his own company specialising in the export of Sherry, Port and Habana cigars from an office in Mincing Lane, London. In 1822 John Peter Gassiot (1797-1877) joined him forming the firm Martínez Gassiot & Co. Gassiot was an enthusiastic amateur scientist whose particular interest was electricity, and he did much work with James Clerk Maxwell. He and Martinez acquired a lodge (bodega) in Oporto in 1834, leaving its management to John Fleurriet Delaforce, who would go on to found the famous Port house of that name.

John Peter Gassiot Senior (foto JL Jimenez)
Soon they were joined by John Peter’s sons Charles Ware Gassiot (1826-1902) and John Peter Jr. (1820-?) who married María Manuela Moreno de Mora y Vitón whose family were important in the wine business in El Puerto de Santa María and had business connexions in England as well as Habana and Honduras. It is very likely that this was a source of both cigars and Sherry, though the firm did buy a lot of wine from Cuvillo, also in El Puerto de Santa María.

Label for the American market (foto JLJimenez)
Sebastián retired in 1849 when the firm was the largest importer of Port and Sherry to the United Kingdom, and its control passed into the hands of the Gassiot family. Charles really helped the business to thrive, and with no children he built a collection of art and contributed much to charity. On his death he left his art to the City of London and his money to St Thomas Hospital. John Peter Jr. also died childless, leaving a fine portrait of his father to the Vintners Company.

On the death of the brothers, and with no children from either, the firm became a public company in 1902 and was eventually taken over by Harveys in 1961 and merged with Cockburn, so there was no more Sherry. The old offices in Mincing Lane were destroyed by the Luftwaffe during the London blitz in 1940. The Martínez Gassiot brand is now more of a sous-marque, especially since the firm was acquired by the Symington Group in 2006, but there have been quite regular Martinez vintage port declarations since.

Much information from Jose Luis Jimenez
See also post on Sherry shippers who also dealt in Port

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