Luis Gordon, owner of the oldest wine bar in London, former chairman of the family sherry shippers, and consultant to Decanter for 15 years, has died at 69 after losing a four-year fight against cancer.
Gordon worked with Decanter founders’ Colin Parnell and Tony Lord from 1976 to 1983, advising and lending financial assistance. In 1972 he bought the ancient cellars under London’s Charing Cross and opened Gordon’s Wine Bar.
The historic vaults date from the 14th century, and in their time have played host to such literary and theatrical figures as Tennyson, Chesterton, Kipling, Vivien Leigh and Lawrence Olivier. Gordon’s is still celebrated for its blackened walls, labyrinthine vaults, and ancient sherry and port casks
In his early twenties, Gordon joined the family sherry business Luis Gordon & Sons as a salesman and in 1971 became chairman. The company was sole importer of the Domecq range of sherries to the UK for more than 200 years. Under Gordon’s reign the company became the biggest player in the fast-expanding UK sherry. It was floated on the UK stock market in 1972.
Visits to the family business in Jerez were legendary, often ending in impromptu bullfighting demonstrations on the Domecq estates. Gordon delighted in inviting boozy hacks to try their hand in the bullring.
Outside business, Gordon was creative, with a talent for painting and design. A well-known couturier was once photographed for Vogue by Lord Snowdon seated in one of Gordon’s chairs.
Always an entrepreneur, he dabbled with an anti-gravity device powered by electric motors and gyroscopes. And when bored with that, he thundered around his home village of Henfield, West Sussex in a Second World War tank, vintage fire engine or racing car.
He met and fell for his wife Wendy when he was only 15. He said that when he first saw her he knew it was not necessary to approach her immediately because he also knew he was destined to spend the rest of his life with her. They were married for 47 years – Gordon leaves six children and 13 grandchildren.
Written by Tom Gordon8 November 2002