A Wine Auction Sale in February 1822 in London and the ‘back’ story of the wines.

When a story hooks you,  you go deeper…at least I do with topics like wine, history, geography…  This post is another look at the wines listed for sale by Mr. Christie in 1822, as illustrated by these beautiful enamel labels, which would have adorned decanters to identify and serve the wines.

This is my second post about this intriguing Mr. Christie sale advertisement, which put me on the path of discovery. That is, discovering more about the wines listed for sale nearly two hundred years ago.

In my last post, the focus was on Frontiniac, Sack, Calcavella.

This post is about Malaga, Cape, Paquaret/Pacaret and Lisbon wines. These wine names are beautifully illustrated in this photo-collage of enamel labels that are in the collection of enamel expert, Dr Richard Wells.   Richard kindly put together this grouping to reflect the wines from the cellar of Mrs. D’Oyle and I greatly appreciate his generosity in doing so.

 

Several of these label names, like Malaga, Cape and Lisbon are generic in nature for the particular geographic regions.

Malaga, for example, is the term that was applied generically to any variety of heavy sweet, usually red fortified wines that originated in the Malaga area in southern Spain, including certain kosher wines served at Jewish celebrations.   Spanish Malaga is made from Muscat grapes, and from a variety known as Pedro-Ximenez and these grapes are usually sun-dried to concentrate sweetness. Vineyards are in the Malaga Mountain Range and in the Ronda Mountain Range.     These are liqueur wines with a fairly high sugar content.

This area with its Mediterranean climate is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, since the arrival of Phoenicians almost 3,000 years ago.

Its not surprising that Mrs. D’Oyle’s 19th century cellar contained Malaga wines as they were at their greatest quality around that time before the phylloxera louse so badly affected vineyards in Europe.

Dr Wells tells me that the Malaga enamel wine label is French from the second half of the 18th Century.

Pacaret, Paquaret (also spelled as Paxarete)

This is another Spanish dessert wine.     It’s a wine of the deep south of Spain, like Sherry, from the Andalusia area. It was made in different styles, both dry and sweet and was also made from the Pedra Ximenez grape.

A note of interest: in the 17th and 18th centuries, Sherry was known in England as Sack and this is described in my last post.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, Pacaret was generally considered to be a “ladies” wine, and suited to the American custom of drinking wines mainly after dinner.

Pacaret is listed in Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Wine Cellar list of 1787 and he continued to order Spanish wine, including Pacaret after he became the third President of the United States in 1801.

The Paquaret enamel label is English from the late 18th/early 19th centuries.

The Pacaret enamel label is French from the same period.

Lisbon.

The reference to Lisbon on the auction sale poster refers to the historic Denominaçâo de Origem Controlada, (DOC) wine region west of Lisbon, or Estremadura as it used to be known, and can include wines such as Carcavelos, Colares and Bucelas.     This area was known for fortified wine production; off dry topaz coloured wines that have nutty aromas and flavours. The grape varieties appear to have been Arinto and Ramisco.   When fortified, using distilled grape spirit,  the wines were world renowned in the 19th Century. Again, it’s not surprising that these wines would have been in Mrs. D’Oyle’s cellar. While similar to Port, these wines are not Port, which is only produced in the Douro river valley area and according to present law is only shipped from Oporto.

The manner in which wine names change over time is worth noting and the name of Carcavelos is a good example. Wine labels from the 18th and 19th centuries would be made for Calcavallo or Calcavello wine, which is the older name for Carcavellhos or Carcavelos wine as it is presently called. The change was to move away from Spanish spelling, which was a hold over from the Spanish occupation of what is now Portugal in the 17th century.

In a letter dated May 26, 1819, Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States of America (1801 – 1809), wrote to his wine agent in Marseilles referring to sweet wines including Frontignan from France and Calcavallo from Portugal.   He clearly appreciated wine and designated both wine and friendship as a, “True restorative cordial”.

Another quote from Thomas Jefferson about Calcavella wine is in my previous post.

Moving to the 21st century, the name for the wine area around Lisbon was changed in 2009 from Estremadura to Lisboa VR (Vinho Regional), again to focus on the Portuguese language.

In the modern era, the wine areas of Carcavelos, Colares and Bucelas have been affected  by real estate development in the suburbs of Lisbon and the coastal town of Estoril.   There is apparently some interest and activity in reviving the historic legacy and indigenous grapes of the area. We will wait and see.

The Lisbon enamel label in the photo collage is English, again from the late 18th/early 19th centuries.

Many people will have visited these areas of southern Spain and the Lisbon area of Portugal and not necessarily known anything about the 19th century history of these wine areas.    I’ve flown into Malaga and driven up the coastal mountain highway to Ronda, little knowing this history.   I stayed in the area 20 years ago and did some early morning runs as I prepared for the BC Arthritis Society Marathon in Hawaii!

Similarly, as a child my family spent many holidays in the Portuguese coastal areas of Cascais and Estoril at a time when Cascais was still a fishing village and the area was on the cusp of real estate development.   Little could I imagine then that years later I would be commenting on the wine history of the areas in the context of a George 1V era sale of Lisbon wines!

Cape: this is the generic term for the geographic area around Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

 

A noteworthy three-century viticulture tradition exists in the area originating when the Dutch arrived and South Africa became an important staging post for both Holland and England for trade with the East.

At the end of 1654, the first cuttings of vines arrived at the Cape from Holland and were probably young vines from the Rhineland. Wine was pressed for the first time in 1659.   In 1688, French Huguenots arrived in the Cape and extended the vineyards and improved the quality of the wine. By 1711, South African wines were becoming known and travellers spoke of the ‘world famous Constantia wines”, which were sweet wines.   In 1805, as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, Great Britain took possession of the Cape.  Around the time that Mrs. D’Oyle’s wine cellar was developed probably from the late 1700s on, the export of Cape wine to Great Britain flourished.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Constantia Valley was known for its legendary dessert wines.   These were the halcyon days of these wines, which were fortified for overseas patrons in order to survive the long voyage and generally unfortified for local consumption. The original grape varieties were probably Muscat, Pontac and maybe Chenin Blanc.

The Groot Constantia winery dates from 1685 and has a museum section on their website, which provides the chronology of their history.

These Cape wines took on a fame of their own as they were mentioned in at least two books that we might know.     In Jane Austen’s novel, Sense and Sensibility, Cape wine was mentioned as a cure for a broken heart!   Charles Dickens referred to it as a way to lift a character’s spirit in The Mystery of Edward Drood.   Were they writing from experience?  Perhaps tips worth noting!

The next post in this series about the Mr. Christie 1822 wine auction poster will be to share some history of Mrs. D’Oyle, whose generous wine cellar prompted these discoveries.

 

References:    Alexis Lichine’s Encylopaedia of Wines and Spirits and various references.

Thomas Jefferson:  Monticello.org

Groot Constantia:  grootconstantia.co.za

Dr. Richard Wells – enamel wine labels: http://www.drrwells.com

 

Hot off the UK press: Canadian wine and French bubbly

Perusing the newspapers in London on Valentine’s Day weekend, I noticed two recommendations of wines I have written about in elizabethsvines.

Wine recommendations

UK Telegraph Magazine with Hamish Anderson’s wine recommendations

That certainly caught my attention.

Hamish Anderson, a wine writer known for his work as wine buyer for the collection of Tate Museum sites in the UK, publishes his tasting notes in the Food and Drink section of the Telegraph Magazine.

His three wine recommendations for Valentine’s Day included the Meyer Family 2014 Pinot Noir from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia and Bollinger Rosé Brut.

I like both these wines and have written about them in previous posts so I am pleased to read Mr Anderson’s comments.

It’s amazing the gems one finds casually glancing through the weekend papers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

elizabethsvines 2015 through the rear view mirror

 

We are in the in-between zone, that time between Christmas and the New Year: recovering from the wonderful festive time and not yet in the grip of New Year resolutions. Sometimes, these few days can provide an opportunity to catch up on outstanding items. For now, it’s a time for reflection.

This includes reflecting on elizabethsvines. I look back at my 10 published postings over the year. My aim is always to write about wine in the context of art, music, literature, science, recipes for cooking, history, restaurants and about wine as an expression of culture, as in the Confréries in France.

In 2015, my wine repertoire includes the Bergerac Wine Region in SW France, a specific British Columbia wine and references to particular South African wine, to Champagne, Port and hot punches (aka the Dickensian Smoking Bishop). It’s a personal focus.

Here are a few updates related to wine stories I have written about in 2015.

JAK Meyer of Meyer Family Vineyards in Okanagan Falls in British Columbia has mentioned to me that their Pinot Noir is now available in 169 stores across the United Kingdom with Marks and Spencer, the food retailer. This is an exciting development for this British Columbia winery. Last February, I wrote about their wine in: “ From Terroir to Table: Meyer Family Vineyards wines from Okanagan Falls, British Columbia to Mayfair in one leap”.

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance and Warre’s Port which I wrote about last January in “The Wine Ghosts of Christmas Past (with a toast to Charles Dickens)”, were featured in the menu for the October 20th State Dinner at Buckingham Palace for the President of China, Xi Jinping. More specifically, the Palace menu includes Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2008 and Warre’s Vintage Port 1977.

In April, when I wrote, “Bergerac Wine Region – Chateau Le Tap addresses customer interests”, I jokingly referred to Bertie Wooster of P G Wodehouse fame and his apparent love of “half bots” of wine and commented on a noticeable consumer interest in smaller bottles of wine. This consumer interest was brought home to me again the other day in a supermarket in Paphos, Cyprus when I saw on display a large selection of wine being sold in small wine bottles between 187 ml to 200 ml.

Small bottles of wine meet consumer interests - Paphos , Cyprus

Small bottles of wine meet consumer interests – Paphos , Cyprus

I hope you have found the 2015 posts informative, interesting, perhaps entertaining. I am always interested to know.

In the spirit of Robbie Burns 1788 poem, Auld Lang Syne, let’s raise a cup of kindness.  Best wishes for 2016.

elizabethsvines

The Wine Ghosts of Christmas Past (with a toast to Charles Dickens)

Christmas Cake is one of those classic symbols of the Christmas Season for me.   So when I eat my last piece of celebratory cake each year, I know the Christmas holidays are truly over for another 12 months.

Warre's 2000 Port

Warre’s 2000 Port

A week ago, we enjoy one of the best Christmas cakes I have tasted for some time: moist with home made marzipan and icing that is gentle on our teeth. And, to really put icing on the cake, we are sitting outside in a sunny sheltered spot in Cyprus sipping a Symington Warre’s 2000 Port.   This is a perfect pairing: the rich, moist fruitcake and the almonds in the marzipan complementing the rich, dark fruit complexity of the Port.

December in Cyprus

December in Cyprus

 

If my Mother was still alive, she would savour every taste, sip and sunshine moment of this experience; enjoying nothing better than a late morning coffee with either a brandy or something similar while watching the world go by.     In her nineties, these were pleasures that endured.

The role of British families in the Port trade has a long history.  Warre’s was founded in 1670 and was the first British Port Company established in Portugal.   The Symington family has been established in Portugal for over 350 years and 13 generations.   Andrew Symington became a partner in Warre’s in 1905 and the Symington Family is the owner and manager of Warre’s today.     The Warre history is worth reading on their website noted below.

Working backwards to New Year’s Eve, we enjoy another first tasting: a 2007 Klein Constantia.   This is a natural sweet late harvest wine from Stellenbosch in South Africa. The dark amber, marmalade and honeyed wine with a medicinal edge and, as our wine connoisseur friend said, an acidic spine, is served with either Summer Pudding – that most delicious of English puddings – or profiteroles with chocolate sauce.   We linger over each sip and mouthful to take in the full experience of wine and pudding flavours together.

The Klein Constantia Vin de Constance, made from Muscat de Frontignan grapes, was revived in 1986. With a pre-phylloxera pedigree, it was famous in earlier centuries.   Charles Dickens wrote glowingly about the wine referring to: “…the support embodied in a glass of Constantia”.

The Klein Constantia land was originally part of “Constantia”, a vast property established in 1685 – about the same time the Warre’s were establishing their Port business in Portugal – by Simon van der Stel, the first Governor of the Cape.

It is an unexpected pleasure to taste this unusual wine that is reminiscent of but completely different to the late harvest wines we are familiar with in France: Sauternes; Monbazillac and Saussignac from the Bergerac Wine Region and the Muscat de Frontignan wine we have enjoyed on visits to Sète in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.

Other “wine ghosts” from this past season are two wines from Cyprus. The Tsangarides Xinisteri white which is one of my all time favourite white wines because of its adaptability; great on its own or with a variety of foods, and the Tsangarides Mataro red wine which decants well and opens up to a smooth and velvety yet light and fresh wine.   Xinisteri is a local Cyprus grape.  Mataro is grown locally and elsewhere in the world where it is known also as Mourvèdre.

Tsangarides Wines

Tsangarides Mataro (Red) and Xinisteri (white) wines

The final “wine ghost” is another favourite I have written about before: Roche LaCour Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose sparkling wine from Languedoc -Roussillon.     A pale, delicate, refreshing sparkling wine.      We enjoy this in a once -a -year Christmas cocktail.

Roche Lacour Cremant de Limoux Brut Rosé

Roche Lacour Cremant de Limoux Brut Rosé

The idea of a Christmas cocktail is a time honoured one.   In Charles Dickens’ famous novel, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge tells his clerk, Bob Cratchit that they would talk about his future and how Scrooge would help his family “…over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop…”.   Scrooge’s ‘smoking bishop’ was in fact a sweet alcoholic punch.

We enjoy our version of such a drink with an assortment of canapés, including a cheese soufflé, which I make into individual servings.   Using an online recipe from Epicurious, I recommend it as the best cheese soufflé recipe I have made so far and it holds up well to being made in small portions.

Canapes with sparkling wine cocktails

Mini Cheese Soufflés and other canapés with Roche Lacour sparkling wine cocktails

Baking tin for individual soufflés

Baking tin for individual soufflés

When Charles Dickens died in 1870, he left a considerable cellar, evidence of his enjoyment of drinking in moderation, like many Victorians.

The question is:  Would Charles Dickens have enjoyed our Wine Ghosts of Christmas Past?   I think the answer has to be: Yes.

References:

http://www.warre.com

http://www.kleinconstantia.com

http://www.epicurious.com     Classic Cheese Soufflé

http://www.tsangarideswinery.com

http://www.punchdrink.com  – Smoking Bishop recipe