PRESS SECTION - The Chinese Womens Association Journal


Gonzalo del Rio y Gonzalez-Gordon is the owner and host at Casa No. 7, Street of the Virgenes, Seville. The Casa is a heritage house, originally built in 1947, and it has taken three years to reconstruct and decorate it. In November 1998, it became a small intimate boutique hotel, with six guestrooms complete with en suite bathrooms, and it is the first step in fulfilling Gonzalez-Gordon's dream of owning a chain of the best hotels in Spain, providing bed and breakfast. He has enjoyed the restoration project so much that he is already looking around for other old houses to convert. This has become his passionate hobby.

He has filled the house with his collections of silver teapots and small card-cases, and there are photographs of his family, and signed photos of the Royal Family on his desk, giving a most intimate and homely atmosphere to his living rooms. Here, the guest is welcomed and offered a Tio Pepe Sherry.

Although he is a fifth generation of the celebrated Gonzalez Byass family, producers of Tio Pepe, he himself is now concentrated in the paper business, dealing in cardboard and making labels. He said "Sherry in the noble wine. Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs made sherry, and it is the product of all these civilizations".

His family have lived in Seville for many generations. His great-great grandfather Manuel Maria Gonzales Angel, started the sherry business in 1935 when he was 23 years old. The vineyards are in Jerez de la Frontera in south-west Andalucia. Their most famous sherry is Tio Pepe, which is exported all over the world and valued for its bouquet, pale colour and appetizing finish. He recommends that it should be drunk very chilled - "it is lovely with ice as a long drink with soda or tonic water". In fact, Gonzalo was very pleasantly surprised when I told him that food connoisseur and CWA member Mabel Hudson, has been using this wine for decades to enhance sharks-fin soup, fish and other Chinese dishes, that she is famed for preparing so well. It really improves the flavour!

The name "Tio Pepe" was born when the founder of the wine cellar dedicated one part of the bodega to his uncle, Jose Angel de la Pena, who used to come with some of his friends to have a drink in the wine cellar named "La Constancia". The wine cellar which had been used by Manuel Maria Gonzalez Angel himself call "La Calle Union" is still in existence after 165 years, will all the bottles blended for each one of his clients.

Gonzales Angel was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of Spain. When Her Majesty came to lunch at the bodega in October 1935, he invited Pedro Nolasco, the engineer who built the Eiffel Tower, to construct a special building for the occasion. This structure was named "La Concha" (the Shell), as its special architectural feature was that it had no pillars and was only supported by an iron ring.

Fifth generation Gonzalo del Rio Gonzalez Gordon was educated in Spain. When he was 16, his grandfather sent him to the Isle of Sheerness in the UK to his fist job, which he discovered, was to wash bottles and clean lavatories. He says that he really learned a lot from this experience. He attended the University of Seville where he read law. He then qualified as a Master in Business Administration and also as a Master in Agriculture and Industrial Business. In 1980 he was married to a high born Spanish lady, but after 14 years the marriage was annulled by the Catholic Church. They had a daughter, Maria Gonzalo, who is 18 and studies in England and a son, Gonzalo, 15, who will go to the UK to further his studies soon. His own father Gonzalo del Rio, passed away last year but his mother continues to live in Jerez at the family property. He also has a sister who lives in Jerez and two brothers - a banker and a gentleman of leisure.

At the vineyards there are continuous experiments to make new wines. Besides "Tio Pepe" they produce a red wine "Beronia", a cognac "Gonzalez", a brandy "Lapanto", a cava which is Spanish Champagne "Castell de Vilanav" and also Anise, a liqueur wine. We look forward to visiting the vineyards and trying all these wonderful wines sometime soon.