Mauricio González-Gordon has been in the drinks industry for just over 30 years. He joined the family firm after a stint in car manufacturing, and in the microprocessor business. He talks to Lucy Britner about consumer changes, new releases and the future of the company

Drinks Retailing: What has been the biggest change over the past 30 years?

Mauricio González-Gordon: The surge in new origins for winemaking. When we started, there were just a few origin denominations in Spain, for example. But from the 1980s, it really started to develop because the technical aspects for producing good wine became more controlled and the commercial aspect developed – supermarkets started to bring in wines from all over the world.

That was followed by globalisation. Wine consumption dropped in traditional producing countries and started to grow in importing countries, including the UK. Nowadays almost 45% of wines cross a border before being consumed.

From the consumers’ standpoint – people now have a more ample repertoire. People are used to enjoying the best products from around the world.  This was perhaps more common in importer countries but now also in producer countries.

These changes obliged us to take a decision to either remain what we were in the past – sherry producers – or follow the global trend and try to present a diverse portfolio. All of these decisions very much fall under my generation’s responsibility and have formed the basis of our strategy for the last 25 years.

DR: How do you view the duty changes in the UK?

MGG: They have happened at a time that was not the most convenient -the economic crisis, high interest rates, inflation. It was at a time when people had reduced purchasing power, coupled with the increase in costs of utilities. From that point of view, it didn’t come at the right time. One understands that countries have to confront their budgets – but the second element is that the changes are not balanced, especially when you look at fortified wines compared to, say, spirits.

Also, in the case of fortified wines, the changes came into effect straight away but for some other wine categories, there is a delay. Those types of initiatives created an unbalanced effect which makes it harder to remain competitive.

DR: Where do you see the future of the company? Is there another generation that wants to carry on with the business?

MGG: There certainly is – and pushing hard! We currently have 170 family shareholders. I’m the fifth generation and we still have some fourth generation, but the largest number is the sixth generation. This generation ranges from teenagers to people in their 40s and eventually they will have the responsibility of looking after the company for years to come.

DR: What will future generations be making and selling?

MGG: It’s hard to say because it’s an ever-changing sector. We’re clear about some things that I anticipate might remain in the future – we’re fundamentally in wines and spirits. And if we want to remain competitive, we need to concentrate – so far, we have considered this is our scope.

Secondly, we are a branded company, our core is branded. Thirdly, we are mid-level to above in the value pyramid. We don’t intend to be entry level – you need to be a different company altogether. One more thing – we are mostly related to origins. Our brands are fundamentally linked to an origin where there is a culture, a history. We try to convey that through our products.

DR: Have you got any new launches you can tell us about?

MGG: We are continuously launching new things from different wineries. For example, in Rioja, with our brand Beronia, we launched a single vineyard wine. This is a new concept that has been launched by the Rioja region – Viñedo Singular – and it’s a very interesting one because traditionally we have [ageing definitions] Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. These definitions didn’t bear any distinction between different areas. Such an important origin of denomination needed further splitting, in my opinion, and the Viñedo Singular classification adds value. 

Also for Beronia – Beronia Reserva is the leading Rioja Reserva in the UK and now we’re introducing the Crianza, which is at a bit more of an accessible level.

We have also launched Nomad Single Malt Outland whisky. The Nomad concept was borne out of the use of sherry casks, and we’ve just launched the Irish version – it’s very different to the Scotch one. The liquid spent three years in Bourbon casks at the Great Northern Distillery in Dundalk before travelling to Jerez de la Frontera where it aged for a year in the González Byass cellars, in Oloroso Alfonso casks.