“A very wholesome wine”: An 18th Century Map Showing the Vineyards of Côte-Rôtie

September 23, 2016 Leave a comment

(Carte de France levee par ordre du Roy). No. 88 (Saint-Etienne - Saint-Marcellin. 1767). [1]

(Carte de France levee par ordre du Roy). No. 88 (Saint-Etienne – Saint-Marcellin. 1767). [1]

The image above is taken from Carte de France. Levee par ordre du Roy. (1750-1815) published by the Cassini family.  This particular map was executed in 1767.  Students of Northern Rhone wine should recognize at least two names which appear on this image, Condrieu and Ampuis.  Located just above the Ampuis label  is la Roche which is where Côte-Brune of Côte-Rôtie lie.  Near the Boucherey label is the Côte-Blonde.  On the slopes indicated by the hatching, appear little squiggly lines representing the location of the vineyards.

According to Mannie Berk, Duncan McBride’s General Instructions for the Choice of Wines and Spirituous Liquors (1793) is the first book in English to examine the wines of Côte-Rôtie.[2]  McBride writes that Côte-Rôtie “is a red wine, not so deep in colour as Claret.  When it may happens to be of a good vintage, and that, by skilful treatment, it is brought to a proper maturity, it will be found a very wholesome wine.”


[1] (Carte de France levee par ordre du Roy). No. 88 (Saint-Etienne – Saint-Marcellin. 1767).  Rumsey Collection. URL: http://www.davidrumsey.com/
[2] McBridge, Duncan. General Instructions for the Choice of Wines and Spirituous Liquors (1793). Fascimile edition reissued by The Rare Wine Co. 1993.

“[L]e vin a ete le sang de Montepellier; c’est de lui que la ville a vecu; c’est son cours qui donne sa temperature et qui reflete tres exactement sa sante” : Prices for the Wine of Montpellier 1636-1656

September 22, 2016 1 comment

"Cours du vin a Montpellier, per annuid." From Album des vins de France. 1939. [1]

“Cours du vin a Montpellier, per annuid.” From Album des vins de France. 1939. [1]

I strongly enjoy the graphical representation of data that is in any way related to wine.  The chart featured in this post plots, in three dimensions, the price of the wines of Montepellier during the 17th century.  There were vineyards throughout Montepellier which produced more than enough wine for the inhabitants.  Following a low period of pricing in 1642, religious and civil wars cause the wine prices to rise beginning in 1649.  Apparently, due to currency “manipulation” fears, winemakers stopped selling their wine thus reducing supply which drove up price.


[1] “Cours du vin a Montpellier, per annuid.” Une Page De L’histoire du Vin de Montpellier. Album des vins de France. 1937.  Bibliothèque nationale de France. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb33237022r

Mature wines from California and Bordeaux

September 22, 2016 2 comments

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Lou and I gathered last night to taste through five different bottles of mature Bordeaux and California wine.  Three of the wines turned out to be of interest.  The 1974 Louis Martini, California Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon falls into that category of mature, yet very stable, classic California profile.  It still has fruit, body, and some supporting structure.  It will not knock you over but it is a good drink from a great vintage.  The 1980 Beaulieu Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley moves into the modern spectrum.  This is also from a strong vintage which is reflected in the dark color and youthful robustness.  If the Martini is mature, old-style Cali then the Beaulieu is clean, robust, and modern.  Well-stored bottles will drink well for many years.  The final bottle we opened turned out, as I hoped, to be the best.  The first indicator of the potential for our bottle of 1979 Chateau l’Evangile, Pomerol was the long, legibly branded, clean cork.  After tasting the wine I soon became fixated on the texture and the flavor.  This round and weighty wine is infused with fat yet balanced by lively acidity.  The mouthfeel is gorgeous.  If you move beyond texture there is ripe fruit to be relished too.  Lou likened this wine to old Burgundy which Robert Parker echoed years ago with a specific Chambolle-Musigny descriptor.  It is a beautiful wine of which I made sure none of my share was left over by the time I went to bed.

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1974 Louis Martini, California Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
Alcohol 12.2%.  Very top-shoulder, bottom neck fill.  There is a sweet cedar/old wood nose that still retains that vintage Cali signature.  The slightly round, red fruit has some body and modest grip.  The middle is almost minty fresh followed by a slightly short finish.  This gentle wine mixed old-style flavor with vintage perfume and modest aftertaste.  The nose fades a bit with air but remains surprisingly stable in the mouth.  *** Now but will last.

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1980 Beaulieu Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%. Bottom-neck fill.  This has a relatively deep garnet color.  In the mouth are clean fruit, spices, and weighty citrus.  The fruit becomes sweeter in the finish.  This is a youthful, robust wine with good acidity, and ripe structure.  A good, clean wine.  *** Now – 2021.

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1970 Chateau La Gay, Pomerol
Mid-shoulder fill.  This is a simpler wine with tangy red fruit, livey acidity, and citric tannins on the gum.  The finish is dry and mineral, leaving tannins on the gums.  Definitely mature but still sports an ethereal sweet red and citric fruit in the aftertaste.  Unfortunately, this is marred by a musky, dirty note.  The cork smells musky too.  Robert Parker writes that until 1982, the ancient barrels used to store the wine shared space with chickens and ducks.  Hmmm.  * Now.

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1978 Chateau Gruaud Larose, Saint-Julien
Imported by Chateau & Estates Wine Company. Top-shoulder fill. It turns out the cork was floating in the wine.  Lou took one sip, spit it out then dumped the bottle.  Not Rated.

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1979 Chateau l’Evangile, Pomerol
Shipped by Beylot & Co.  Imported by Majestic Wine and Spirits Inc.  Alcohol 12%.  Very top shoulder fill.  This is a round and weighty wine with subtle, dense hints of glycerin.  The sweet and coating flavors quickly show good mineral structure.  What is glycerin turns to be seductive fat which does not slow the wine down for there is lively acidity.  It is quite lifted in the end.  **** Now.

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An Image of Cote-Rotie from 1914

September 21, 2016 Leave a comment

"Commune d'Ampuis. - Crus de Cote-Rotie: Cotes Blonde et Cote Brune." 1914 [1]

“Commune d’Ampuis. – Crus de Cote-Rotie: Cotes Blonde et Cote Brune.” 1914 [1]

Mannie Berk’s Cote-Rotie Offer includes some fantastic images of Cote-Rotie and extracts from Larmat’s 1940s atlas of the region.  In his article he summarizes how Cote-Rotie fell into decline over the first half of the 20th century.  Mannie illustrates this decline using a postcard from the 1940s which shows that much of Cote-Rotie had become en friche or fallow as vines were replaced by trees and bushes.

In this post I present an image of Cote-Rotie in 1914.  This image captures the begining of the decades long decline of the region.  In viewing the highest resolution image at the Bibliothèque nationale de France most of the slopes are still planted with vines but trees are starting to spread amongst the terraces.


[1] Deville, J.  Les vins du Rhône : crus principaux du Beaujolais et du Lyonnais. 1914. Bibliothèque nationale de France. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb320267055

Another Historic Auction of President Jefferson’s Madeira in 1841

September 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Advertisement from Commercial Adviser, November 30, 1841. [1]

Advertisement from Commercial Adviser, November 30, 1841. [1]

Last year I wrote about Historic Auctions of Thomas Jefferson’s Madeira.  In this series of posts I describe four auctions containing Madeira attributed to Thomas Jefferson.  They are the 1997 Sotheby’s auction of Thomas Jefferson’s three bottles of Madeira, the 1890 Wethered estate sale, the 1852 auction of Josiah Lee’s wine cellar, and the 1839 auction of John Gadsby’s extensive wine collection.  I have just found a fifth auction containing a parcel of Thomas Jefferson’s Madeira.

It is largely known that bottles of wine claimed to have been owned by Thomas Jefferson’s were auctioned off in 1987.  We now know that these bottles were faked by Hardy Rodenstock.  In 1997, three bottles of Thomas Jefferson Madeira were auctioned off without much scrutiny because the labels matched the published description of bottles served by Douglas H. Thomas in the early 20th century.  Thus there is no reason to doubt that these three bottles of Madeira came from the parcel owned by Douglas H. Thomas.  There is, however, no documentary evidence that Thomas Jefferson ever owned the bottles Douglas H. Thomas so carefully served.

John Gadsby’s wine was first auctioned off during his retirement in 1839.  As the proprietor of Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, Virginia, and the National Hotel, in Washington, DC, John Gadsby acquired a massive 10,000 bottle collection.  His death in 1844 prompted a final series of wine auctions.   The wine cellar of Josiah Lee, the notable Madeira collector, was auctioned off in 1852.  Finally, Douglas H. Thomas purchased his bottles in 1890 at the sale of the Wethered family estate.

Heretofore unknown to me, on December 17, 1841, wine belonging to “a gentleman going to Europe” were put up for auction.  This auction consisted of a significant volume of Madeira in bottles both imported privately from Madeira and purchased in America.  Of the later bottles, they were “purchased at different times from private stocks in this city [New York City]”.  This included the oldest parcel which was a dozen bottles of wine that was “procured in Madeira, imported in 1822, and must then have been 80 years in bottle”.  With a century of age that would make the Madeira from 1740 or earlier.

Included in the private stocks is the “do 1811, imported by President Jefferson”.  This lot could have been purchased at the John Gadsby auction in 1839 which was held at the City Hotel in New York City.  Now there are no vintage, imported, or bottling dates of 1811 amongst the Jefferson Madeira advertised in the 1839 auction.  However, when John Gadsby’s cellar was auctioned off in 1844, the advertised lots were more specific and include “Mark on Cork, O. M. Y. W. – Superior old Madeira, from Newton, Gordon, Murdock & Co., imported expressly for President Jefferson, in 1807, and bottled in 1811; bought by J. Gadsby in 1819.”

Thus the Europe bound gentleman could have owned the 1807 “O.M.Y.W.” bottled in 1811.  Newspaper accounts of the auction results passed over the Thomas Jefferson bottles.[2]  Instead they focused in on the parcel of “Cole’s Madeira”, which was recorked in 1800.  This 18th century wine sold for $117 per dozen.  As the most expensive Madeira sold, it was calculated that 14,000 bottles could buy the entire United States Bank stock valued at $35,000,000.

What happened to the gentleman’s dozen bottles of Jefferson Madeira remains a mystery.


[1] Advertisement. Date: Tuesday, November 30, 1841 Paper: Commercial Advertiser (New York, New York) Volume: XLIV Page: 3

[2]Unparalleled Distress in New-York. Date: Monday, December 27, 1841 Paper: Boston Courier (Boston, Massachusetts) Volume: XV Issue: 1844 Page: 1

A new house wine: 2014 Aphillanthes, Cuvee des Galets

September 19, 2016 Leave a comment

The one wine which I have been recently drinking with some frequency is the 2014 Domaine Les Aphillanthes, Cuvee des Galets, Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan De Dieu.  Well, not just myself but my wife and brother-in-law as well.  I first started drinking the Cuvee des Galets with the 2000 vintage when it was still a regular Cotes du Rhone Villages.  This latest vintage bears the Plan de Dieu designation which was granted back in 2005.  If this designation is an indication of the quality of the village than this particular bottle is one example of it.  This wine is everything you could want in a young Cote du Rhone: fruit, acidity, and strength.  As a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvede fermented and raised in cement you have youthful complexity with supportive structure.  In short, you will want to see every bottle to the end so buy it by the case!

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2014 Domaine Les Aphillanthes, Cuvee des Galets, Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan De Dieu – $20
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is a blend of mostly Grenache with Syrah and Mourvedre which is both fermented and aged in concrete.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose is rich with aromas of young berries.  In the mouth this grapey wine is almost driven by acidity but there is flavor and weight to back it up.  Puckering hints soon make way to a good depth of flavor which packs in plenty of blue and black fruit.  *** Now – 2019.

Lost Friday Lunch

September 15, 2016 Leave a comment

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For several years David Ehrlich has been organizing a series of weekday wine lunches.  Known as the Lost Lunch his idea is for a small group to enjoy a fine meal and an array of fine wines over the course of an entire afternoon.  Six of us recently gathered in the backroom of Black Salt where we kicked off the lunch with a bottle of 1996 Dom Perignon, Oenotheque Champagne.  This is an excellent Champagne which, with air and warmth, revealed an attractive amount of maturity.  It is simply a flat out treat to drink which was not only an outstanding way to start the afternoon but it was one of my top three favorites wines of the meal.  Rather than go through all of the wines I will jump straight to the 1971 Cav. L. Brero & C., Barolo Monvigliero Riserva.  The color of the wine is still deep with mouth filling flavors of vigorous fruit which take you by surprise.  The concentration builds with air, adding berries and baking spices, but never buries its great acidity.  The Monvigliero vineyard is located in Verduno which is on the northern edge of the Barolo region.  The vineyard itself is located on a high hill and is the only vineyard completely facing south.  It may be a romantic notion but you can taste that combination of ripe fruit from the sun and crispness from the altitude.  Regardless, it is an undeniably good wine.  For dessert we drank a lovely half-bottle of 1988 Chateau Climens, 1er Cru Sauternes-Barsac.  This Climens not only feels luxurious in the mouth but the complex flavors make you want to take another sip.  I see no reason to hold back on drinking small formats.

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1996 Dom Perignon, Oenotheque Champagne
Imported by Moet Hennessy USA. Disgorged 2008. The light, toasted gold color leads you to a sweet, floral and fruity nose. The fine and robust bubbles first bring toast and yeast notes before a core of sweet fruit slowly expands in the mouth. Complexity is gained from old wood notes and a steely, chalk finish. With air and warmth this lovely Champagne shows more citrus, spices, and maturity. ****(*) Now – 2026.

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1971 Domaine Gustave Gros, Richebourg Grand Cru
Shipped by Remoissenet Pere et Fils. Imported by Excelsior Wine & Spirits Corp. Acquired from The Don Stott Cellar, Sotheby’s Wine. The color is relatively deep but the nose offers old leather and generally older aromas. In the mouth the wine is a little tired, though it is round and gentle, there is still some apparent structure in the finish. With moderate air it takes on a little fat and old spices but the finish becomes shorter. Overall it lacks some definition. *** Drink up.

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1991 Jean Gros, Richebourg Grand Cru
Imported by Chambers & Chambers. Alcohol 13%. The nose improved significantly with air eventually revealing some maturity. In the mouth are focused flavors of black cherry which never shook off firmness. The wine has a tangy grip that matched flavors of red fruit complemented by smoke. The flavors persist through the aftertaste. This wine will continue to develop. **** Now – 2026.

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2007 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux
Alcohol 13%. Acquired from Acker Merrall & Condit. Of the pair of Raveneau this has more acidity and tang which matches the white and chalky fruit. This is very precise, more citric, focused, and acidic. **** Now – 2021.

2008 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. The rounded start brings mango flavors. Despite the generous feeling this wine has grip and control. There is an attractive, weighty lemon flavor which is not tart. The finish brings chalk and a touch of tightness indicating a bit more aging potential. This was my favorite of the pair.  **** Now – 2021.

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2010 Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Meursault Clos de la Barre
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by Wines Unlimited. Alcohol 13%. This is an electric wine from the berry fruit to the chalky, grippy tang which coats the bottom of the gums. The structure is still there too but this is drinking great right now. **** Now – 2018.

2011 Lucien Le Moine, Meursault 1er Cru Genevrieres
The flavors are forward with good fruit but the oak is immediately noticeable. There is chalk and acidity in the finish but the fruit is reduced and the oak returns as butterscotch. Perhaps it will integrate with time. ***(*) Now – 2019.

2011 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrieres
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. The lightest of the three Meursault. Compared to the others it had a berry fruit core but showed less concentration, less fruit, and watering acidity. That said it was cool in aspect with clean fruit and moderate minerality. I would drink this up. ***(*) Now.

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2001 Domaine A.-F. Gros, Richebourg
Imported by Pelton Imports. Alcohol 13%. This is a young, grapey wine with concentrated flavors of berries. It remained firm with primary, clean fruit yet shows strong promise. I would age this several more years before trying again. ***(*) 2020-2030.

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1952 Giacomo Borgogne, Barolo Riserva (red capsule original release)
Imported by T Elenteny. The pale amber color will be shocking to some. In the mouth the flavors are rounder than the color indicates. There is certainly vigor to this wine as the flavor fill the mouth, albeit they are simple in nature with watering acidity. The palate is more engaging than the nose. Very much alive and drinkable but this was never a strong wine. *** Now.

1971 Cav. L. Brero & C., Barolo Monvigliero Riserva
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. This is quite deep in color. In the mouth are concentrated fruit flavors, berries, and cinnamon spices which persist on the tongue. This wine is full of vigor, still has weight to the fruit yet is crisp from the acidity. It builds concentration with air leaving baking spices in the aftertaste. An impressive wine. ****(*) Now – 2026.

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1988 Chateau Climens, 1er Cru Sauternes-Barsac
Imported by Pearson’s Wine Imp. Co. The golden amber color makes was to luscious and seductive flavors. This is an unctuous wine with noticeable residual sugar. It is not just the mouthfeel that is attractive but the flavors of apricot and ripe, Christmas spices. Drinking great right now. **** Now but will last.

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2001 Selbach-Oster, Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Auslese *, Mosel Saar Ruwer
A Terry Theise Selection imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. A little asparagus stink on the nose. There is a zippy start with tart, white berry fruit, and rather dry body.  It remained acidic.  *** Now

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