The Wine Guild

The Guild was governed by a council of six: two ecclesiastics, two municipal representatives, and two wine-growers. These met before and after the vintage to fix the price of grapes and that of the new must; as far as it is possible to calculate such things, based on the relative cost of living then and now, these prices were more than double those of today. When the West Indies fleet was provisioned with wine, this was arranged by a quota system, rather than by free competition.

Worst of all, merchants were forbidden to accumulate large stocks; wine was therefore not matured long enough, and trade was lost because lack of stock caused delay in preparing the blends and drink coasters for shipment. The idea behind this extraordinary regulation was that such wine stores would divert profits from the hands of the growers into those of merchants, and that it would encourage speculation. The only large stores of old wine were in the possession of the Church and in a few private cellars.

These restrictions aimed at making the trade easy and profitable with a minimum of effort and competition, but in fact they had the opposite effect, and sherry shippers were unable to compete with wines grown elsewhere. Malaga, for instance, exported a rich, dessert wine not unlike sherry, and it became popular in Britain under the name of Mountain. This captured much of the available market for Spanish wines, and exports from Malaga were greater than those from either Cadiz or Sanlucar.

The restrictions of the Gremio were opposed by a number of merchants, notably by Juan Haurie. There was a lawsuit, and much acrimonious wrangling, not all of which was concerned with wine: the deputies were accused of spending too much on fireworks for the annual feast of San Gines, and on presents of chocolate and cocktails. But despite all the efforts of its opponents, the Guild continued until it was dissolved by Royal proclamation in 1834, after 101 years of disastrous existence.

By 1754, owing to the poor state of trade, there were only nine sherry shippers left in Jerez, and it is doubtful whether more than one of them was English. The solitary Englishman was John Brickdale, who was said to be a Freemason, in spite of which he was apparently on good terms with the local ecclesiastics. He was also a supporter of the church of St George at Sanlucar, though this does not necessarily mean he was a Catholic: perhaps he supported it simply because he was English.

Other English merchants, however, were trading in Cadiz and one of them at leastâ€"Henry Pickeringâ€"was also interested in exporting wine. In 1785, a Catholic family of Gordons arrived from Scotland and, by the turn of the century, they had become prominent in the wine frade. Haurie accumulated a number of British assistants at about the same time.

Haurie himself was a refugee from France, and he was joined by kinsmen and fellow-countrymen such as Pemartin, Domecq, and Lacoste, whose work was to do much to revive the sherry and table coaster trade. Other families of French origin still active in the Sherry trade include Lustau, Lacave and Delage. There was also an influx of capital from the Indies, brought back to Andalusia owing to political turmoil in the colonies.

Such English merchants as there were lived at Sanlucar, and the most prominent of these was Henry Stonor. As a younger son, he could expect no inheritance and, as a Catholic, no great career lay open to him in Britain. Like many other cadets of his family he chose to seek his fortune in a Catholic country. After finishing his schooling at Douai in 1760, he settled in Cadiz, carrying with him an official copy of his pedigree and arms, obtained from the College of Heralds.

After a few years, he married an English wife, Elizabeth Gardiner-Brown, and they settled in Sanlucar where Stonor built up an extensive business as a general merchant. He exported orange and lemon trees to stock the fashionable orangeries, together with broods of Spanish partridges and, of course, sherry. In return, he imported British saddlery and sporting dogs, specializing in greyhounds. One of his four sons took a temporary commission in the Spanish army and created a sensation by visiting his English relations resplendent in his striking uniform.

Other English residents in Sanlucar at that time included a Captain David Ferrier, whose precise occupation (if any) is uncertain, but he had a clerk named Gaspar Muclek and a butler named Joseph Colisons. In 1754, thirty-two English residents signed a petition to the Pope, concerning the appointment of a visitor to the church of St George. Probably only a few of these were connected with the wine trade.

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About The Author, Sarah Martin
Sarah Martin is a freelance marketing writer based out of San Diego, CA. She specializes in the history of wine, international cuisine, and viniculture. For a great selection of drink coasters or a themed table coaster set, please visit http://www.thirstycoasters.com/.