Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Why I List So Many Long Lost Bodegas

PARTLY it is because they arouse my curiosity since many of these old firms were the forerunners of the bodegas of today. Many of their soleras still exist but are now in different hands, often renamed, sometimes unused, but it is interesting to know how and where they ended up. Most of the family names still exist, but few of the original bodegas. As the firms grew they bought or built more, resulting in bodegas all over the place which was impractical. Recent years have seen firms consolidate in much bigger bodegas and sell off the old sites to the builders. Anyway, many of those old bodegas were no longer fit for purpose as surrounding modern construction had diverted their supply of Poniente wind and modern trucks could not pass down the narrow streets.

Luckily Real Tesoro was rehoused at Estevez (foto:laeasignatura.wordpress.com)

PARTLY it is because the trade was different then. It was full of industrious and innovative people who, in the days before the Denominación de Origen, were also involved with other types of wine such as Madeira, Port and Málaga, which they either bought in for resale – though in some cases they actually owned the respective wineries - or simply made it themselves. There used to be “Porto de procedencia” (genuine Port) or “Porto de Jerez”. The same applied to spirits with, for example “Coñac” and “Ojén” (an anise flavoured spirit originally from Ojén near Marbella). They did all sorts of things which were perfectly legal then, including refreshing soleras with Montilla and making outrageous advertising claims.

PARTLY also because I realised it is almost impossible to find this information anywhere else and decided to offer what I could find. I have spent a great deal of time researching them in my own Sherry library (37 books - so far), on the internet, talking with people, and of course in the library in Jerez with the librarian, but there is not much there either. Naturally there are records of births, marriages and deaths, the padrón (a list of everyone habitually living in a municipality), planning permissions, council taxes and such like, but virtually nothing about individual Sherry firms. A whole team of researchers with plenty of time would be needed to piece all this together and match it up to any other extant information.

Interior of Jerez Library

As historians say, it is the winners who write history, or in this case the bigger, surviving bodegas. There is no shortage of information on them, but it is amazing how quickly information about even recently closed bodegas disappears. Rumasa certainly didn’t help; in its rush to buy up bodegas little thought was given to their records. Another point is that many of these old firms simply left less evidence. They would change the company name as directors came and went, making it very hard to trace their history, and most exported in bulk so the wine would usually bear the name of its importer in another land, meaning the producer often had no label; even less to remember them by.

Here’s to the hundreds of lost bodegas who helped create the wonderful wine we enjoy so much today.

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