In 1835, Manuel María González Ángel, a 23-year-old entrepreneur born in Cadiz, Spain, decided to make a name for himself in the then fledgling Sherry business. The businessman sensed it could be a prosperous and lucrative endeavor.
That same year, González Ángel bought a small winery in the Andalusian town of Jerez de la Frontera and began producing and exporting his wines. That was the birth of Bodegas Tío Pepe, a successful company that—in only a few years—became the firm González Byass.
Advised by his uncle José María Ángel y Vargas—who was to become the famous Tio Pepe—González proceeded to export wines to England. His decision to serve the British market turned his winery into an icon of sherry production. His products would be later exported to France, Germany and Russia.
The business expansion forced González Ángel to build La Constancia winery, which sits on lands he had acquired near the Cathedral of Jerez. In 1843, he also purchased the land where his other wineries are currently located—Los Apóstoles, La Cuadrada, and La Concha.
By 1844, the Tio Pepe brand had begun to gain popularity, and today—after more than 170 years— it is one of the more outstanding Spanish products around the world, as well as Spain’s best selling sherry.
In 1855, Robert Blake Byass, Ángel Gonzalez’s English agent, became a partner in the company. A year later, the firm was already the biggest exporter of sherry, with an impressive volume equal to the content of 2,590,000 bottles.
Given the company’s success during the mid 19th-century—the company built two more wineries: Los Apostoles—in 1857—and two years later, La Cuadrada. Today, González Byass is managed by the González family, specifically the fifth generation of direct descendants of Manuel María González Ángel.
The company owns 461 hectares of vineyards and 543 hectares of controlled vineyards in the area of Jerez Superior, where it grows the varieties Palomino Fino, Pedro Ximenez, and Muscat used to produce eleven different wines, as well as the prestigious brandy Gran Reserva Lepanto.
Tio Pepe is especially noteworthy among the company’s products. This delicate wine is distributed to over 100 countries. The peculiar bottle shows the typical Andalusian short jacket with the Cordovan hat and flamenco guitar, whose design has been admired by many artists, including fans of Por Art and masters like Pablo Picasso.
Since 1880, González Byass selects and classifies its best vintages according to aging and refinement, using the historical system of Palms: one Palm, two Palms, three Palms and four Palms. The number of palms is proportional to the age, extremely delicate aroma and exceptional finesse of the wines.
If you enjoy a good old sherry, I earnestly recommend you to taste some of their V.O.R.S. (Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum), such as the Matusalem Oloroso Dulce Muy Viejo, or Noé Pedro Ximénez Muy Viejo. These vintages are authentic oenological gems made with pride and knowledge by of one of the most highly-rated wineries in the world. ■