John Harvey & Sons

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John Harvey & Sons
Private company limited by shares
Industry wine importer
Founded 1796
Headquarters Bristol, England
Key people
John Harvey

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 Harvey's Bristol Cream. This product has been bottled in Bristol blue glass since the 1970s and is currently owned by Grupo Emperador Spain S.A., who purchased the brand, alongside three others from Beam Suntory in 2015.


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 adjoining restaurant. Both closed in 2003.[1] In 2016 there is a bar called Harvey's Cellars on the same site in Denmark Street.[2]

Bristol Cream and other products[edit]

The cap of a bottle of Bristol Cream

Bristol Cream is a dark, complex amber[n 1][3] product of Spanish fortified wine (sherry) that has been blended and bottled in Bristol, England since 1796. It was until 21st century acquisition, wholly owned by John Harvey & Sons of Bristol. From the 1970s, Harvey's has sold the products in bottles made from Bristol blue glass. John Harvey's descendants have continued importing and making Bristol cream since the takeover of the company's main brand. 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 bottles from the latter part of the 20th century onwards is to mix if so wished with two parts lemonade (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 importing, blending and exporting the fortified wine, sherry. It originally sold a wider mix of Spanish and Portuguese wines and from the early 19th century specialised in fortified wines which travelled 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: Harvey's 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 after taste 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.[4][3] The business grew from strength to strength and over the years they began buying their own vineyards to invest in fermenting and fortification premises locally and to protect the quality of source material.[5] The business uses its estate vineyards in Jerez Superior and uses all of its Palomino grapes as the main source grape.


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

Notes and references[edit]

  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. ^ "Harvey's Cellars wine bar website". Retrieved 5 August 2016. 
  3. ^ a b The Wine, Beer, and Spirits Handbook The International Culinary Schools at The Art Institutes, Joseph LaVilla, John Wiley & Sons, 2009
  4. ^ The Sommellier Prep Course M. Gibson John Wiley & Sons, 2011
  5. ^ "Harveys". Sherry Notes. Retrieved 19 November 2015.