Sunday, 28 April 2019

Sherry Characters: Manuel María González Gordon

“Tío Manolo”, as he was known to his many friends, or “The Pope of Sherry” to others, was born in Jerez on 19th August 1886, one of the 13 children of Pedro Nolasco González, Marqués de Torresoto, son of the founder of González Byass, and María Nicolasa Gordon de Wardhouse y Moreno. At only four months old he fell very ill and the doctors gave him only a week to live. As his parents discussed their worries with the doctors, his father called for a bottle of Sherry and his mother gave him a spoonful of it, which he liked, and after a few weeks of regular doses he made a full recovery and went on to live for 93 years, dying on the 2nd of April 1980.

Manolo (centre) with his father and son Mauricio

 Well educated, speaking various languages, the perfect gentleman and so diplomatic his nickname was “Vaselina”, Manuel María had time for everyone, and he was noted for taking good care of the workforce which the firm then provided with education and health facilities, in fact he often visited workers who were sick. He was adventurous and revelled in packing as much into his life as possible. He qualified as an industrial engineer in Germany and worked for a while at a shipyard on the Clyde before setting off for Chile and the construction of the Longitudinal Railway, during which time he twice crossed the Andes on horseback. 

Manolo (4th from R) with Sherry Shippers celebrating Sherry Case victory

On his return to Spain he spent a couple of years selling the firm´s Sherry and brandy in Madrid before moving back to Jerez in 1924 where he worked full-time in the bodegas eventually becoming president. He married Emilia Díez Gutiérrez “Mimi” and they had four children, of whom Mauricio González Gordon Díez would go on to head the firm, followed by his son, Mauricio González Gordon López de Carrizosa is the current president of the firm.

Cover of the 1970 edition

 Over the years he was a prime mover in the establishment of the Consejo Regulador and was a witness in the “Sherry Case” which did away with fake Sherry. Among other good works were the establishment of a hospital and the restoration of the Cartuja and the parish church of Santiago. He won various medals for merit and held the title of IV Marqués de Bonanza, and was even a KBE (Knight of the British Empire). He was the first Capataz de Honor at the bodega San Ginés, honorary guardian of the Coto Doñana and Hijo Predilecto of Jerez. His achievements were many but perhaps his greatest was the publication of the first comprehensive book about Sherry in 1935. “Jerez-Xerez-Sherish” is a very scholarly but readable work covering every conceivable aspect of the subject and has been translated into English as “Sherry: The Noble Wine” and even Japanese. It is often referred to as the “Sherry Bible”and is a must-read for any Sherry aficionado. There have been a number of editions.

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