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’Oyly 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’Oyly’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.
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’Oyly’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’Oyly’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’Oyly, 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