Thursday, 17 September 2015

Bodegas: Gordon & Co

Arthur Gordon was born in Beldorney Aberdeenshire in 1729, the fourth of eleven children born to James Gordon, Lord of Beldorney and Kildrummy and Lady Mary Gordon of Wardhouse and of Law. The family were staunch Jacobites and as a result of the battle of Culloden in 1746 and the subsequent repression of Catholics, he fled abroad arriving eventually in Jerez in 1754 aged 25. He soon married María del Rosario, daughter of the Flemish Miguel Morrough and the Spanish Phelipa Navarro with whom he had a son, but who unfortunately died in infancy.

Wardhouse as it is today (it is a listed building!)
In Jerez he conducted various import-export businesses and prospered, but eventually chose to concentrate on wine. Starting with the lease of several small bodegas, he ended up building a large one of his own in 1787 as well as a very comfortable house next door. The house, known as Las Atarazanas, stands in the Plaza de San Andrés, once at the edge of Jerez as it was the site of an old arsenal. The area was remodelled in 1860 by the mayor - the Marqués del Mérito, no less.

Gordon was an innovator, improving vinification and ageing as he went along and building a very successful network of agents and distributors (one of whom was George Sandeman), but soon felt he could not manage the enterprise any longer on his own. Being childless he therefore summoned his nephew Robert, son of his brother Cosmo, and James Arthur (1759-1823), son of his brother John. They lived in Las Atarazanas while their uncle lived in Cadiz where he could oversee shipments.

In 1794 Arthur decided to semi-retire, and joined a friend and fellow Scot, William Dalry in a banking and investment business having become very rich. He left the business for his nephews to run, while always keeping close contact, and they formed the firm Gordon & Co, joined by Robert’s brother Charles and John David Gordon Boyd, who in 1820 would be appointed first British Vice-Consul in Jerez, and be followed by Charles Peter Gordon. By this time the company had bodegas in both Jerez and El Puerto de Santa Maria.

In 1809 James Arthur welcomed his relative the poet George Gordon Noel Lord Byron, showing him how Sherry was produced and letting him taste it "from the very fountainhead." Byron stayed at las Atarazanas while he visited old Arthur in Cádiz and another, more distant relative, Sir William Gordon who worked with Sir James Duff at Duff Gordon in El Puerto de Santa María.

Las Atarazanas. The bodega was behind. (foto:google)
After the French invasion of 1808, the Gordons, like everyone else encountered many problems - especially when the French found out they had entertained the Duke of Wellington - but they survived. Old Arthur Gordon died in 1815 leaving a fortune. By 1840 Gordon & Co was one of the six biggest shippers. Despite being one of the big six however, the firm encountered grave problems beginning in 1856, and in an attempt to avoid collapse, Jose Carlos Gordon Villaverde, son of Jacobo Pedro Gordon, struck a deal with Larios Hermanos, the Malaga Wine producers. It evidently worked, as he was able to re-start the business in 1857, and in 1868 took on a new partner, William Mitford. The firm was now called José C Gordon & Co and re-commenced exports over the next five years. Mitford retired, Felipe Norman replaced him, but it was not to last, and the firm went under in 1878. Some of the stocks went to González Byass.

In 1877 a descendant of James Arthur, Nicolasa Gordon Moreno married Pedro Nolasco González de Soto, (son of the founder of González Byass) first Marques de Torresoto de Briviesca, and thus began the relationship between the Gordons and the González families. Nicolasa and Pedro lived at  Las Atarazanas, and their heirs still own it. Currently González Byass has no fewer than 5 board/family members with Gordon in their name.

Over the years the Gordons never forgot their roots and Arthur Gordon built Wardhouse Mansion in Aberdeenshire in 1757. He visited frequently, and throughout successive generations the family used the house, but many were visiting from Spain. They were known as the “Spanish Gordons” and Juan José Gordon, the 8th Laird even built a bullring there. King Alfonso XIII of Spain and his wife Victoria Eugenia spent their honeymoon at Wardhouse in 1906, far from the  assassination attempt they had recently experienced in Barcelona. The house was eventually sold in 1952, and is now a ruin, yet Gordons still visit. Beldorney Castle however, is still in good condition.

As the Gordons were a very large family there were various Gordon bodegas, principal of which was Gordon & Co.followed by Gordon Beigbeder and briefly Gordon Murphy & Farrell, Gordon Doz. 

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