Monday, 6 April 2015

Pedro Nolasco González Soto: Sherry’s Best Ambassador in India and Russia

Pedro Nolasco was the son of Manuel María González Ángel, founder of González Byass. In this family nothing happened by chance, much less the trajectory of a family blessed with the intellectual qualities to spark such exemplary commercial growth in each successive generation.

The father of Manuel María González Gordon and grandfather of Mauricio González Gordon, Pedro Nolasco was a man of singular personal characteristics, who, like his descendants, played a fundamental role in the firm while he worked there. He was born in Jerez on the 26th September 1849 at number 30, Calle Francos, and was baptised 3 days later at the Church of San Marcos. He studied in Jerez receiving primary education from private tutors.

Pedro Nolasco with Manuel Maria in the tasting room (foto:lavozdigital)
When he reached the age of ten years, his father decided he should receive a classical education and so he was sent to Tours in France in the care of Augusto Goupy, a French Presbyterian who gave classes in philosophy, Latin, Greek as well as French, which he was able to master. He accompanied his father on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition in London in 1862 aged only 14 and was impressed by what he saw. Once in England, he was enrolled by his father at the famous Edwards College in Everton where he received an excellent education for which he received the Elocution Prize for his mastery of English after only 18 months.

From England he travelled to Germany where he stayed for a while, alternating between work and learning German. In 1866, aged 17 years he returned to Jerez to work at the family bodega. Given his linguistic skills he was put to work in the export department where he developed important business throughout Europe. He was a charming character with good conversation and good at business negotiation with his skills of persuasion. A story goes that given his love of art and antiques he was frequently contacted by antiquarians and dealers who came to offer him their wares, which he was nearly always able to purchase at the best price. If he was unable to persuade the dealer to sell at a good price, he would offer to toss for it: the dealer’s best price or his. For this he would produce a gold coin which was rumoured to have two heads.

Pedro Nolasco, Manuel Maria, Mauricio in the bodega (foto:diariodejerez)
He was an indefatigable traveller, criss-crossing Europe and visiting countries where Sherry had not yet arrived. Thanks to his language skills he had audiences with kings and princes and interacted with leading personalities and members of the European aristocracy with whom he maintained personal and business relations for years. This capacity made him the best ambassador for Sherry in countries as far away as India and Russia, and González Byass received orders for thousands of cases of wine which of course did no harm at all to the firm’s profits. Once delighted customers had placed a second order, he was quite capable of refusing it on the grounds that the soleras were exhausted, and the customers were willing to wait till the following year, placing even bigger orders and paying the new price.

Pedro was a great lover of sport and open-air activities, and it was he who introduced Polo and Tennis to Spain, constructing the necessary facilities in Jerez. He also introduced Clay Pigeon Shooting and occasionally participated enthusiastically along with King Alfonso XIII. Not only that but he was the Consul in Jerez for Norway and Sweden as well as vice-consul for Germany, Portugal and Brazil.

His house, located in what is now the Jesús María El Cuco School, was what we might call a hotel-residence since while Jerez had a prestige hotel to accommodate visiting personages, he would put them up cordially and without charge. In this house he put up people such as inventors like Marconi, writers, travellers and painters such as Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, who painted two canvasses of the vineyards which then surrounded the house, canvasses which can now be found hanging in Madrid in the museum-house of the painter. In gratitude to Pedro for his hospitality, Sorolla later painted a picture of an Andalusian patio which now belongs to one of Pedro’s heirs.

Pedro and Maria Nicolasa (foto:lavozdigital)
He was married to María Nicolasa Gordon, a distinguished and beautiful woman descended from the Scottish Gordon family, who of course had bodegas. As father of 13 children and with frequent visitors like family, friends and colleagues, the house was always full of people, above all at mealtimes, and being a man of order, Pedro laid down a few rules, the most important of which was punctuality. If somebody arrived late they were made to put a small fine into a box before sitting down at table, and the money collected was given to charity.

He was a restless man, intellectual, full of vitality, financial and commercial skills, and who at the age of barely 20 had travelled Europe selling Sherry, and for this he was recognised in 1919 by the king who awarded him the title Marqués de Torresoto de Briviesca. He was also a gentleman of his majesty’s chamber and held the Gran Cruz (Cross) de Carlos III, Cruz de Isabel la Católica and the Gran Placa of the Cruz Roja Española among other distinctions before he died, on the 3rd July 1946, fondly remembered.

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