Farewell Mauricio Sr of González Byass


The sherry business has lost one of its most notable gentlemen in Mauricio González-Gordon Díez, who died on Friday. He would have turned 90 next month.

Father of the current president of González Byass, also called Mauricio, he was son of Manuel González Gordon, author of the seminal Sherry – The Noble Wine, from whom he inherited the mantle of running the family company as well as the marvellous title Marqués de Bonanza. And yet he was anything but stuffy. I have very fond memories of filming in Jerez with him in the 1980s for one of my Channel 4 series of The Wine Programme. He was courtesy itself, and was full of cooking tips such as how to infuse olive oil with red peppers. It was clear that this was a man with a particularly wide range of interests and capabilities.

More recently, about 10 years ago, we took a short family trip to Seville in midwinter and made a special journey south to meet him in the Doñana wildlife reserve across the Guadalquivir river from Sanlucar de Barrameda in whose founding in 1969 he and his father had played such an important part. (He was a member of the British Ornithologists' Union and founded the Spanish Society for Ornithology.) When we finally met up – not easy in this vast, much-admired natural park, our younger daughter played with his twin grandchildren in the sand dunes. We then had a memorable lunch in the whitewashed family lodge within the park, with walls so thick that it was warmer outside than in. Apart from his love of wildlife, he was a particularly skilled sailor (I remember his trying to teach me a knot or two during filming longueurs) and was awarded a Medal of Naval Merit of the First Order by the King of Spain.

He was born in England but moved to Jerez as a child, reading chemistry at the university of Seville during the war. After a brief stint in Berkeley, California in 1947 he joined the family company and for 20 years was personally responsible for tasting and the selection of most of the company's sherries, most notably of course Tio Pepe. As the Byass family were withdrawing from the business, he was made president of the company in 1993 and played an important part in the work of the sherry Consejo throughout sherry's heyday in the 1970s.

He had founded the local sherry research centre CIDIMA at González Byass as early as 1955 when it was the first organisation of its kind in Spain. He was President of the Red Cross in Jerez from 1974 to 1988 and won many and varied richly deserved awards but was overall a modest man who must have been proud to see his family company branch out throughout Spain.