John Harvey & Sons

John Harvey & Sons is a brand (trading name) of a wine and sherry blending and merchant business started by John Harvey (the second) in Bristol, England in 1796. The business within 60 years had blended the first dessert sherry dubbed 'cream' which has changed little since 1880 and is known as Harveys Bristol Cream. The brand was sold to Beam Global in 2010 and then to Grupo Emperador Spain S.A. in 2015, which is owned by Alliance Global Group of the Philippines.

John Harvey & Sons
Private company limited by shares
Industrywine importer
Key people
John Harvey


In 1796, the first iteration of Harvey's wine-trading business was established in Denmark Street in Bristol. This was owned by William Perry, who went into partnership with Thomas Urch.[1] In 1822, Urch's nephew (John Harvey I) joined the firm as an apprentice. By 1839, John Harvey was senior partner in the Bristol branch of the family business and by 1871, the whole business was known as John Harvey & Sons.[1]

Bristol Cream sherry exports to America boomed from 1928 onwards with Jack Harvey making trips there as often as he could.[1] From 1962, the business was known as Harveys of Bristol Ltd, and in 1966, the firm including all subsidiaries was bought out by Showerings, Vine Products & Whiteways Ltd.[1] After 1960, the business relocated from Denmark Street to Whitchurch Lane, Hartcliffe, at which point the Denmark Street cellars became Britain's only wine museum, with an adjoining restaurant. Both closed in 2003.[1] By 2016, the bar Harveys Cellars was located on the same site in Denmark Street.[2]

A 1984 commercial for Harvey's Bristol Cream showed actor/comedian Peter Cook at a poolside party drinking Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry. He then says to "throw away those silly little glasses" whereupon the other party guests toss their sunglasses in the swimming pool.[3]

Bristol Cream and other productsEdit

The cap of a bottle of Bristol Cream

Bristol Cream is a dark, complex amber[n 1][4] Sherry that has been blended and bottled in Jerez, Spain since 1796. It was wholly owned by John Harvey & Sons of Bristol until the 21st century acquisition. John Harvey's descendants continued making Bristol cream since the takeover of the company's main brand. Since 2019, it is made and bottled in Spain.[citation needed] Some residual assets or shares of the business such as in vineyards are owned by former board member Joseph Harvey, the youngest of John Harvey's male descendants.

The bottle label's serving suggestion from the latter part of the 20th century onward is to mix if so wished with two parts British-style lemonade (and optional extras are also mentioned). The deep amber product is sweet, rich and with a slightly spicy aroma. Harveys Bristol Cream is often enjoyed on its own, chilled or not chilled.

The business specializes in blending and exporting the fortified wine, sherry. It originally sold a wider mix of Spanish and Portuguese wines and from the early 19th century, specialized in fortified wines which traveled better consistently. During the 1860s and 1880s in the company's cellars, John Harvey[n 2] and his brother Edward Harvey developed what was dubbed a new type of sherry: cream sherry (in flavour and texture). This became the main product: Harveys Bristol Cream. The blend starts with wines from fifty different soleras, including three sherry types: Fino, Amontillado, and Oloroso. Finally some Pedro Ximénez wine from sun-dried 'raisonified' grapes of the region is blended for sweetness, for the richness or 'creaminess' of aftertaste that is the hallmark of the product.

Since its inception, it has been generally reviewed as one of the major four types of sherry, although less so in some parts of Spain.[5][4] The business eventually began buying its own vineyards to invest in fermenting and fortification premises locally and to protect the quality of source material.[6] The business uses its estate vineyards in Jerez Superior and uses all of its Palomino grapes as the main source grape.[7]

This product has been bottled in Bristol blue glass since 1994.[8] The brand was sold to Beam Global in 2010[9] and to Grupo Emperador Spain S.A. in 2015.[10]


The records of John Harveys & Sons are held by Bristol Archives (Ref. 40913) (online catalogue).

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ vulgarly: reddish brown, promotionally on the bottles: mahogany
  2. ^ the younger or the second, the founder's son
  1. ^ a b c d e Bristol Record Office, 'Catalogue of the Records of Harveys of Bristol, Wine Merchants', Arrowsmiths, 2004
  2. ^ "Harveys Cellars official website". Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b The Wine, Beer, and Spirits Handbook The International Culinary Schools at The Art Institutes, Joseph LaVilla, John Wiley & Sons, 2009
  5. ^ The Sommellier Prep Course M. Gibson John Wiley & Sons, 2011
  6. ^ "Harveys". Sherry Notes. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  7. ^ "John Harvey & Sons Ltd". Dions Wine. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  8. ^ "Design: Having the bottle to change". Campaign. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  9. ^ Robinson, Jancis (28 September 2012). "The Rarest Rubies". Financial Times. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  10. ^ Eads, Lauren (30 November 2015). "Beam Suntory Sells Sherry and Brandy Business for €275 million". The Drinks Business. London, England: Union Press Ltd. Archived from the original on 12 December 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2017.

External linksEdit