One of the most sought after wineries in the world, the Gonzalez Byass Bodega has been producing Sherry since they opened in 1835.
What is a Bodega?
Before we get into the story of the Gonzalez Byass Bodega, let’s clear this up first. A bodega is key in the creation of Sherry. They are huge warehouses that are used to store the Sherry until it is fully matured.
This is where the Solera vats are held. The Solera system is a way of ageing Sherry, and other spirits. That means the finished product is a mixture of all different ages.
It is also called fractional blending, and is very complex, but we’ll break it down quickly and easily.
Casks are stacked in rows on top of each other. The casks at the top are the youngest. When liquid is taken from casks at the bottom, it is replaced with the liquid from the casks directly above it. This keeps going until all the casks have been filled.
This continues and new liquid is put directly into the top cask. See? Nice and simple!
This is one of the most important parts of how bodegas work and why they are so highly prized by the Sherry industry.
History of Gonzalez Byass Bodega
The Gonzalez Byass Bodegea was first opened by Manuel María González Ángel. He grew up in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, one of the main regions in the Sherry Triangle. He was a plucky 23 year old who got bored of banking so turned to wine instead. One might say many bankers still do that same, only opening a bottle rather than an entire bodega.
He was used to seeing Sherry being made and with the help of his uncle Jose Angel, who was also the well-known Tio Pepe (Uncle Joe), he turned his hand to making his own wines. Tio Pepe knew all about the Solera system and gave his nephew everything he needed to be successful.
Manuel was adept at marketing his wines, and they were often shipped to England. González worked closely with wine agents in London. In particular, Robert Blake Byass, who eventually became a partner in the bodega.
It was actually Byass who suggested Manuel sell pale wine in England, leading to the first ever bottling of Tio Pepe.
The Gonzalez family were well known for their entrepreneurial side. They were one of the first businesses to install electrics lights in the 1800s. As well as this, they also rallied hard to have a third railway line built in Spain.
The Gonzalez Byass Bodega remains under the leadership of the Gonzalez family to this day, when the Byass family left the business in 1988. The bodega is the home of the Tio Pepe brand, as well as the Nomad Whisky brand.
Tio Pepe has been around for well over a century and is one of the biggest selling Sherry brands available.
It is matured in the Solera system at Gonzalez Byass for around five years and is a Palomino type of Sherry.
The Nomad Whisky brand was released in 2014. It is created in Scotland by blending 30 grain and malt Whiskies, which mature for three years before being transported to the Gonzalez Byass Bodega to finish.
The blend is transferred to Pedro Ximenez casks, where it remains for a year before being bottled.
The bodega has a lot going on, managing some huge brands as well as owning Bar Pepito, a tapas restaurant and wine bar in London.
They have a lot going on and you can also visit the actual site. It is the perfect opportunity to learn more about Sherry and the Solera system, which has such a big impact on the Whisky industry. It is definitely worth a trip.