In 1835, year of creation of the winery, it already exported 10 boots (each equivalent to 500 liters) to England. A singular fact for a time in which to sell outside was not habitual, and less, it came. Two decades later, Manuel María González, its founder, was associated with the English merchant Robert Blake Byass and the brand new González Byass became the most important brand in Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz); a position he keeps today.
Almost 200 years later, the winery has sharpened its export profile. Of the total expected turnover, which will be around 280 million euros in 2018 and around 300 million in 2019, 65% will come from other countries. Its best-known brands such as the fine Uncle Pepe, Soberano, Beronia (Rioja) and the London No. 1 gin are distributed on five continents through five subsidiaries and several commercial delegations. Its main clients are the United States, Mexico, the Philippines and China.
The Jerez group plans to invoice 280 million euros in 2018 and 300 million in 2019
It was the decline in consumption in the producing countries and the increase in exports that alerted the winery to the need to encourage foreign sales. "Spain exports more than double what it produces. And there was the opportunity, but also the competition. To be competent, they had to have their own distribution network, especially in countries with growth potential. We decided that United Kingdom, our classic market; Mexico, a big consumer of brandi, and the United States were the basic pillars to start the network, "explains the president of González Byass, Mauricio González-Gordon, fifth generation of the family, which has introduced a radical turn in the management of the company .
But still they lacked a step to give: produce outside of Spain. In 2016, they acquired 65% of the Chilean winery Veramonte because "their wines had a good entrance where we had representation, and in the United States they had an outstanding presence", explains the president.
Uncle Pepe is probably his best-known wine. It was named after the founder of González Byass to pay homage to José Ángel y Vargas, Uncle Pepe. It was the first registered trademark in Spain, and its winery, the first to have electricity. Famous for the luminous icon that represents it (a bottle with a hat, jacket and arms in a jar), in 2011, Apple, the new owner of the Puerta del Sol building, 1, of Madrid, decided not to keep it on its façade, which caused great controversy after 80 years there, which was settled with his transfer to number 11.
Last year the group took a giant step by acquiring the Pedro Domecq and Domecq brands to the multinational Pernod Ricard for 81 million euros. A purchase made through the Las Copas winery, a 50% joint venture between González Byass and the Emperador Group, owned by the Filipino tycoon Andrew Tan, a member of the Jerez company since their roads crossed to make brandi. The Philippines is the world's leading brandi consumer, the third most popular drink after vodka and whiskey. "Five years ago the price of wine to distill rose disproportionately and we saw the possibility of collaborating with the Emperador Group to produce it. We provide 275 hectares of vineyards in Toledo, a distillery in Tomelloso and a winery in Jerez. " Now 40% of the turnover of González Byass comes through the sale of spirits (and 80% comes from the brandi).
The group has not only bought wineries abroad. In fact, when the multinational IDV (now Diageo) left its shareholding, the group decided to reinforce a process of diversification that had begun in the seventies of the last century with the purchase of Anís Chinchón and the Beronia wineries. "For 150 years we dedicated ourselves to sherry and brandi, but it was time to expand. There were many things happening around, such as the growth of denominations of origin and the expansion of the large distribution ", explains González-Gordon. The investments began to happen in search of the winemaking variety, incorporating wineries such as Viñas del Vero (Somontano), Cavas Vilarnau (Cava), Finca Constancia and Finca Moncloa (Land of Castile and Cádiz, respectively) and Pazos de Lusco (Rías Baixas ). They also arrived in the productive area of Rueda with the construction of a winery to produce white wines with the Beronia brand. "In Rueda it had to be because the consumption of white wines is an upward trend. In addition, the pending subject of this denomination is the export, that only reaches a 15% of the production ".
They have taken out the checkbook to buy wineries abroad and get new brands
Among his latest projects is the construction of a winery in La Rioja for the production of reserve wines and large reserves for the Beronia brand. "It is the one that has grown the most in recent years, around 10% in 2017. It ranks third in hospitality in Spain and can be found in 80 countries. In the warehouse we reached the capacity limit and we had to expand, "he adds.
Regardless of the wines and liquors, González Byass has another important sector underway. It is the construction of what is called the first "Sherry Hotel" in the world, which will occupy several buildings of the 18th and 19th century winery, will have 27 rooms and will open its doors in the spring of 2019. The company has another enotourism of your bets. Not in vain presumes that his Jerez winery is the most visited in Europe, with 220,000 tourists a year.
Although not all are successes. During its long journey, the company had to face difficult moments. According to its president, 1990 was the year that marked a before and after. "They were hard times. The fall in wine consumption in traditionally producing countries such as Spain, France or Portugal was clear. The Byass family, although there were only three, had 45% of the company and wanted to sell. But the Gonzalez no. You had to make decisions ", argues González-Gordon.
To face the departure of the Byass "we had to go into debt and open the door to companies like Benetton, which acquired 15%, and then to the multinational IDV, which bought the Italian share plus another 15%," he explains. It is not until 1997 when the Gonzalez repurchase these shares and take control of the company. "It had to be done because with a multinational company there are always limitations. Now we only maintain two small shareholders that have 2% each. They are our distributors in Switzerland and Japan. "
Since then, the family has been at the head of the winery. Currently the shareholding is made up of 155 members from three generations. "We have a family council and a board of directors," the president ditches.