González Byass Pio X 1903
Gonzalez Byass has been a family run business since it was founded in 1835. Today, some 182 years later, the firm finds itself with an ancient and exquisite collection of casks and rare bottles that were laid down by previous generations of the family. There are some themes that run through these rarities; special vintages, experimental wines, coronations of kings and queens and elections of new popes. Some are simply prized soleras or vintage olorosos selflessly set aside for the appreciation of future generations. The Gonzalez Family has decided to begin releasing part of this fascinating and varied array of wines. They offer a glimpse of the past and a unique opportunity to acquire an ancient gem. We feel a deep sense of gratitude to the company’s founder, Manuel M. Gonzalez, and his descendants for leaving such wine for the enjoyment of today’s connoisseurs and collectors.
Pio X & Papal Traditions
Our detailed archives confirm the company tradition of laying down wines in honour of newly elected Popes. Pedro Nolasco Gonzalez de Soto, eldest son of the founder, dedicated a very fine, sweet Moscatel to the new Pope Pius X (Pio X in Spanish) in 1903 as his father had done on the occasions of previous papal elections. Gonzalez Byass still has the casks dedicated by his father, the founder of the company, to Pius IX (dated 1846) and Leon XII (dated 1878).
About the wine itself
The first gem that Gonzalez Byass is offering for sale is this Moscatel which we simply call ‘Pio X’. It is most probably from the Muscat variety called Moscatel Menudo Blanco (Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains)ref 1. It was widely grown in Jerez in the mid-19th century although by the mid-20th century its plantings were replaced by Moscatel Gordo Blanco (Muscat of Alexandria). This variety is still one of the two sweet grape varieties permitted today in DO Jerez. When this Moscatel was made there were forty different grape varieties grown in the Sherry region.
Pio X cannot be categorised technically as Sherry as it was never fortified and has just 9% alcohol. It comes from a small cask that now contains just 90 litres; enough for 120 bottles. Only 100 numbered bottles will be released for sale. The balance will be laid down in the Gonzalez family’s bottle cellar, El Aljibe.
It is a sweet wine and a joy to drink. According to Antonio Flores, head winemaker at Gonzalez Byass, Pio X is well balanced and has both astonishing freshness and complexity with notes of dried figs, walnuts, tar, treacle, lacquer and coffee.
History of this wine
Here is the chronological history of this wine: Pio X Moscatel appears for the first time in our Accounts as an asset in 1908 with a volume of 2,620 litres. While we do not know exactly how old this wine is, we have a good idea because in the same ledger of 1908 Pio X appears with a value of 600 reales/@ 2.. Not only is it one of the most highly valued wines in the entire winery but all the wines with a similar value are vintage Sherries from mid-19th C.:
Reina Cristina PX 1858 –> 400 reales/@
Reina Mercedes PX 1860 –> 300 reales/@
Fundador M.M.G. 1843 –> 750 reales/@
Dubosc 1843 –> 450 reales/@
Jesus Anguita, Gonzalez Byass historian, estimates that the original wine comes from the 1850’s or 1860’s given its book value in 1908. Pio X was certainly made well before the re-planting of Sherry vineyards in the 1890s in the wake of phylloxera.
Our records show that the wine was stored in a cask called ‘3/1’ (or three separate 1,000L casks) from 1908 until 1941 and since 1941 the wine was stored in another large cask called ‘Tonel 90@’.
Some wine was removed and added to Pio X several times over the next forty years (see detail below 2.) 1,173 litres of this original wine were removed in 1911, the cask being topped up with a similar amount of Moscatel two years later. Again in 1925 and 1946 smaller amounts were added to the cask(s) of Pius X to make up for occasional bottlings/‘sacas’. In fact, the last time we see any further addition of wine was in 1946. Since that time, the reduction (from 2,559 litres to today’s 105 litres) is due to the wine being used for blending with other Moscatels and more recently for sampling.
There is also a reference in our 1919 Accounts to a stock of 24 bottles of Pio X being stored for posterity in El Aljibe, the bottle cellar located under the Apostoles bodega. We still have some of these bottles.
Anecdotally we have ‘thank you’ letters from popes dated 1949 and 1963 relating to gifts of Sherry. We can’t be sure however which Gonzalez Byass sherry they are referring to.
- D. Diego Parada y Barreto – Cultivo de la Vid 1868
- @ = Arroba. The measure for volume in Sherry. One Arroba = 30.465 litres
- 3. Source: Gonzalez Byass Foundation; Company ledgers showing stocks and ‘sacas’ of Pio X.