Monday 12 December 2016

Bodegas: Rafael García del Salto

This well respected but now lost bodega was established in 1837 by Salvador García del Salto who spent some of his wealth on developing extensive vineyard holdings in the pagos Macharnudo, Carrahola, Almenillas, Cerro de Santiago, Añina and Balbaina, as well as bodegas, and offices in Plaza de los Ángeles, Jerez. He built up a successful production, almacenista and exporting business with export markets, primarily in Britain and France where his brand was much sought after.

He was married to María de la Encarnación Valiente, and their son, Rafael García del Salto y Valiente, was born in Jerez in 1851. He studied first in Madrid, and aged only 13, enrolled in the military college of Segovia in preparation for joining the artillery. Four years later he abandoned this and moved to England where he studied commerce at Cheltenham College before returning to Jerez in the early 1870s. Here he spent a couple of years learning the Sherry trade with bodegas Juan Haurie & Nephews, where he acquired a profound knowledge of and passion for the Sherry trade, which stood him in good stead to take over the family business on the death of his father in 1874.

Rafael Garcia del Salto y Valiente

Rafael inherited a great deal of money and a thriving Sherry business, but rather than have an easy life, he threw himself into the business, ending up with ten bodegas and approaching 9,000 butts of wine in stock. Agents were established in Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Mexico, Canada, and he had offices in Paris and London. His Amontillados Macharnudo and Non Plus Ultra were well known in up-market circles throughout Europe.

In 1889 he entered his wines in the Paris Exhibition and won prizes for them. The 1890s saw many such exhibitions and, believing in strength in unity, he entered the wines of various other exporters as well and they won many prizes and medals, especially in the Universal Exhibition of Bordeaux in 1895. The local press of the time said that this would have passed unnoticed in Jerez had it not been for Rafael’s efforts in creating a Sherry wines pavilion at the Exhibition. Having been appointed to the judging panel, and not for the first time, he had a certain influence which he used to the full.


The French press devoted much space to the banquets, meetings and tastings in which Rafael promoted his beloved Sherry and explained it in great detail. On arrival, visitors were given a leaflet listing all the Sherry producers and their products, and they were captivated with his gently humorous talks - accompanied by models of soleras, lagares and samples of albariza - on the production process of Sherry, which is nothing like what is done in France. He even had the illustrious French chemist Ulysse Gayon, regarded as one of the fathers of oenology, analyse samples of albariza, and he in turn recommended suitable vine varieties for it.

For his work in promoting Sherry, often at his own expense and his vast knowledge of it, Rafael was awarded all sorts of recognitions including the Legion d’Honneur and the Cruz de Isabel la Católica. He died in Switzerland in 1901 having achieved so much in his 50 short years, but the firm continued for a while as Rafael García del Salto & Cia, being run by one P de Lambarri.

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