By Gonzalo del Rio Y González-Gordon
Descended from an old aristocratic family that makes Tio Pepe sherry, Gonzalo del Rio y González-Gordon now devotes himself to his two passions; playing host (first passion) to a select group pf guests in his Seville residence, which he furnishes (second passion) with objects and paintings he picks up in auctions.
Authentically Andalucia – and British
The ultimate in tasteful, sophisticated luxury; Casa No 7 hotel. That’s all that appears on the door of this sienna-coloured townhouse, tucked away in the maze of streets that make up the old quarters of Santa Cruz. Suddenly, when you enter the premises, you are no longer completely in Andalucia. It’s as though you’ve stepped inside a cosy English manor.
In this rarefied world, 1930s photographs show the owner’s great uncle about to take off in his little plane, the Tio Pepe. These and other photos are displayed unpretentiously with those of eighteen-year-old Maria, the youngest child, alongside private portraits of Prince Philip of England and the Duke of Kent. A touch of Chelsea in southern Andalucia? It might seem surprising, but it is not illogical, as the links between the great families of Spain and Britain are rooted in history.
And Jerez became sherry
The González-Gordon family, which owns this exceptional inn in Seville, was heir to immense vineyards in the nearby Jerez de la Frontera region, where it has been producing excellent wines and spirits since 1835.
Gonzalo’s great grandfather had the inspired idea of founding this wine dynasty at the age of twenty-three, building a winery in honour of the queen that was revolutionary for its time. The Bodega de la Conch, a veritable steel cathedral whose vault is in the form of a shell, is said to be by Gustave Eiffel.
The González family and their agents in England, the Blake Byass family, set up the first alliance between Spanish winemakers and English distributors, creating the famous Tio Pepe sherry renowned for its amber colour and exceptional bouquet.
Ever since, the González-Gordon empire has been distributing nt only sherries, but also sumptuous Beronia riojas, Lepanto brandies and González cognacs throughout the world, and even takes orders via Internet.
Seville, a user’s guide
After a life spent travelling the world promoting the produces of his vines, Gonzalo remains attached to Seville “for its unique atmosphere and inimitable class”. He now makes a profession out of his passion for fine living. From the roof terrace of his listed townhouse, you can admire the Giralda tower “and as many as twenty seven churches – I have counted them!” This lover of history insists that you visit the nearby Casa de Pilatos, “the city’s most beautiful museum,” a magnificent 16th-century palace belonging to one of his aristocratic friends, which is home to remarkable azulejos, precious furniture, and Roman antiquities from nearby sites. A connoisseur, he advises you not to “take the Tapas too seriously” in a city that has nearly 4,000 establishments devoted to this speciality. “Just go in, eat and drink in pleasant company, and enjoy yourself as much as you can”. But if you press him, he recommends El Rinconcello because it is one of Seville’s oldest, the quintessential Tapas bar, with its traditional tiles, dark wooden walls, and its rows of bottles. For this lover of Seville, you can’t beat a stroll through the Santa Cruz neighbourhood, with its lush vegetation and its patios filled with the scent of orange trees, and the maze of little street in the old Jewish quarter. That’s the way to become a real Sevillao.
Gonzalo del Rio González-Gordon recommends:
Ana Abascal y Particia Medina:
Tel: 95 422 45 40. “For me, the only real antiques dealer in Seville, and a cut above the others. His taste is very reliable and you can always find something really original there.”
Talle de Diseño: Luchana, 6, Tel: 95 422 71 86
€800 to €1,200 for a made-to-measure outfit and around €600 for a hand-embroidered mantilla.
Antonio Garcia: Alcaiceria, 15, Tel: 95 422 23 10
“At the Feria, you should wear traditional garments made by artisans, who work all year just for this unique event. The most authentic outfits – such as those at Talle Dieño, whose sumptuous flamenco dresses are made by the talented sistes Angela and Adela – can be found at the Plaza Alfalfa. The panamas worn by Andalucian horsemen can be had at Antonio Garcia.”
La Alquería: Hacienda Benazuza, Virgen de las Nives, Sanlúcar la Major. Tel: 95 570 33 44
For the exceptional dinners, Gonzalo advises you head out of town – about 25 kilometers out of town – to the famous gourmet La Alquería, which is owned by Ferran Adria, star of the El Bullb restaurant in Barcelona.
To taste the sherry visit the famous cellars and the historc Tio Pepe bodega, González -Byass, Jerez de la Frontera. Tel: 90 244 00 77