Sunday, 28 August 2016

Bodegas: Marqués de Comillas

Antonio López López, the first Marqués (1817-1883), was born in humble circumstances in Comillas near Santander, and at only 14 years old he left for Cuba in search of better opportunities. In no time he prospered in the shipping business and went on to make an immense fortune counting banking, tobacco and railways – and some believe transport of slaves - among his huge portfolio. In 1878 King Alfonso XII awarded him the honour of Marqués. He also became a Grande de España.

Claudio Lopez Bru, II Marques de Comillas

His son Claudio López Bru was born in 1853, and despite being the fourth son, he inherited the title on his father’s death. Claudio was every bit as skilled in business as his father and increased the portfolio dramatically. He set up a hugely successful shipping and shipyard business in Cádiz. A deeply devout Catholic he did much for the Church and religious politics and became a major benefactor.

The bodega in Pollero Alto days

Naturally the Sherry business seemed profitable and he bought the bodegas originally established by the firm Viña El Pollero Alto, established in 1837 right on the quayside at El Puerto de Santa María. Sherry was sold under the Marqués de Comillas brand name but for some reason – presumably the quality of its wine - the label made reference to the bodega previously having been Viña El Pollero Alto. This, despite the bodega having belonged in the interim to both AA Sancho and Pedro Domecq.

What with nearly a lifetime of legendary philanthropy (he was known as Spain’s greatest donor - and was even beatified), the Marqués was running out of money and had to sell many assets. One of these was the bodega, which was sold in the early 1920s to José Gutiérrez Dosal, the grandfather of Juan Carlos Gutiérrez Colosía who still runs the business today. Interestingly, Grupo Estévez now owns the Viña El Pollero Alto brand but doesn’t use it. The 2nd Marqués de Comillas died in 1925.

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