Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Bodegas: Morgan

Originally from Tredegar in Wales, the Morgans had lived in London for generations. Aaron Morgan (1742 - 1818) worked in wine trade for Dixon & Langston, established in 1715 and originally called Houghton. In the early 1800s the name changed to reflect new partners: Dixon, Brett & Morgan; Dixon Morgan & Co. Over the years, Aaron ended up managing the company, amassing quite a fortune and passing it down the family line.

On Aaron’s death in 1818, his only son Thomas took over his share of the business, married Elizabeth Bonney, and Dixon left the firm. Soon Thomas’ sons would be involved. The firm, which had been specialising in Port, began to diversify into various wines, Madeira and Sherry. From 1835 – 40 the firm was called Morgan Saunders & Co, in 1841 Allen, Morgan & Co, then Thomas Morgan & Co, in 1845 Morgan Jun. & Ridge. Thomas’ son Francis moved to El Puerto de Santa Maria as the firm established a base in Sherry country. They also had a base in Vila Nova de Gaia to supervise their Port business.

Thomas Morgan and Thomas Jr. ran the business in London while in Spain Francis was to create a network of suppliers, overseeing production and export to avoid the need for intermediaries. As far as I can establish, they never had any bodegas, but shipped copious quantities of Sherry. Francis married Maria Manuela Osborne y Bohl de Faber (1827-94) in 1851, eldest daughter of that family which owned Duff Gordon, and was one of the biggest houses in the trade. Their youngest son, Francis(co) Xavier (1857-1935) became a priest, and for many years was the guardian and tutor of JRR Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings, whose parents had died early. Interestingly,Maria Manuela's sister cecilia  was a writer, under the pen name Fernan Caballero, and it is said there are allusions in Tolkien's work to hers.
Francis Morgan Sr & Jr in middle row, Maria Manuela on left

Morgan was always a fairly small but profitable firm with a good reputation for tawny Port, and Charles Dickens mentioned Dixon’s Double Diamond in Nicholas Nickleby. The firm remained in family hands until the 1950s, when Osborne took over the Morgan Sherry interests, and Croft their Port interests. When Diageo, owner of Croft, later sold it to Taylors, a stipulation was that they could not use the name Morgan, to avoid consumer confusion with Captain Morgan Rum. The last Morgan vintage Port decaration was the 1977. The Dixon’s Double Diamond brand is, however, still available from Quinta and Vineyard Bottlers, a subsidiary of Taylors, but the Sherry has long gone, last seen in the 1950s.

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