Monday, 2 December 2013

Lost Bodegas: Ivison

There is a long history behind the Ivison family. They were Scots descended from Vikings. Many centuries ago, the Vikings came in their longships and colonised British shores, and it is known that Ragnar Lodbrog, king of Denmark and Jutland united these territories, as well as the kingdoms of Norway and Sweden under his crown. On his death in AD 749, he divided his territories among his three sons, Sigburg, Ragnar and Ivar. The latter received western Norway and Sweden, York, Northumbria and the south of England. These sons, of course had the surname Ivarsson, which over time became Ivison.

At the end of the XVI century, the Ivison family, who were mostly merchants, suffered very hard economic times and were forced to emigrate to seek better fortunes. Some came to Spain, and the first we know anything concrete about was Fletcher Ivison Parke. He was born in Kingsmorehouse, Cumberland in 1796 to a well to do family originally from Scotland, though of Viking descent. He set up in Gibraltar at the beginning of the 19C as a merchant, and soon settled on the export of Sherry. Successful, he decided to move to Cadiz. He married Francesca Giovanna Viale y Mossa, who was of of Italian descent. Their son Ricardo Carlos Ivison y Viale was sent to school in England aged 12, and when he was old enough, distributed samples of the firm’s wines there.

Ricardo carlos Ivison Viale (Imagen Jerez Siempre)
In 1838/1840 Fletcher Ivison bought a bodega in Puerto Real and called his firm Fletcher Ivison & Co. When he died in Puerto Real in 1856, his son Ricardo Carlos, already expert in Sherry, returned from England, and in order to streamline the exports, decided to consolidate all the firm’s affairs in one place, building large bodegas at Calle Pizarro, 7 in Jerez, close to those of Wisdom & Warter, under the name RC Ivison & Son. He bought soleras, including one oloroso from 1846. He was an admirer of the wines of Sevilla, similar but slightly stronger, and sometimes put inferior wines into a special bodega with a low galvanised iron roof and with little ventilation to hasten their development.

He also bought vineyards in the Pago Tizon, north-west of Jerez in good albariza soil, which were called Santa Petronila, named after his wife, Petronila Pastor. The business continued to prosper. His three sons inherited the business, calling it RC Ivison & Co, and later it was run by his elder son Jose Eduardo Ivison y Viale, who renamed it RC Ivison. 

Casa de la vina Vina Petronila
He later broke away from the family firm to run of the Jerez side of the London firm of FW (Federico Guillermo) Cosens & Co. around 1848, securing bodegas in the Calle San Domingo in El Puerto de Santa Maria. Meanwhile Ricardo Ivison y de Arcos was the last in the family to conduct important business, especially with England and Ireland, always in branded containers. He was exporting brands such as a fino called Delicado, an oloroso Cream called V.O.X. and a PX Viejisimo called Matusalen.

His brother, Francisco Ivison O’Neale, a fellow grandson of the founder, was a noted chemist who was at the forefront in the development of wine and brandy production, and Ivison was one of the earliest brandy producers, who by 1880 had large stocks of French style brandy which they exported as La Marque Speciale, as it was more expedient to market the new brandy under a French sounding name.

When Cosens faced problems after the founder’s death in 1899, one of Jose Eduardo’s sons, Jose Enrique Ivison O’Neale took over the ailing firm, becoming sole proprietor and renamed the firm JE Ivison O’Neale at the end of the 1920’s.

A view of the bodegas (foto:jerezsiempre)
In 1964, the Ivison family sold the firm, lock stock and barrel to Wisdom and Warter which was owned by Gonzalez Byass, and which was run by Enrique Isasi Ivison. He had the distinction of being the great grandson of both the founder of Gonzalez Byass and of Ivison. W&W continued with the business at the same address, at least until the 1970’s.Various standard brands were marketed, eg Fino, Manzanilla etc. but the Ivison brand trademark expired in 1998. Matusalem (as it is now called) is now a brand of Gonzalez Byass and sold as a VORS.

Now out of the Sherry trade, members of the Ivison family, which has such deep roots in the area - up to 400 years- and has intermarried like so many with other well-known Sherry families, have made names for themselves in various fields, such as broadcasting (Carlos Vergara Ivison) and law (Pedro Ivison y de Arcos and Ignacio Vergara Ivison, who was Dean of the College of Lawyers in Jerez). They have high social standing, and are very friendly with the Spanish Royal family. Pedro's sister Petronila (known as "Tola") used to be the organiser of the Fiesta de la Vendimia. Paz Ivison Cabrera is a well-known journalist and one of the Sherry Educators.The family had a beautiful house in the Calle Bizcocheros.

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