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The Varieties of Wine Available in Colonial Williamsburg

This post is just a casual look into the varieties of wine available in Colonial Williamsburg.  If I have the time I will analyze the relative valuation of the different wines and when particular wines were imported and perhaps, favorable.  I will certainly publish a follow-up post defining the types of wine mentioned in this post.

In looking through the estate inventories and advertisements in the Virginia Gazette, I cannot ignore the frequent references to slave. Amongst the valuations of wine and other household properties in the estate inventories are the names and valuations of slaves. Mixed amongst the store advertisements in the Virginia Gazette are advertisements detailing the names and descriptions of slaves that are for sale. In time I shall attempt to post on slavery and wine in Colonial Williamsburg. Did slaves tend the Virginian vineyards, did they help produce the wine, did they unload the pipes of Madeira, or draw off wine from a hogshead into a bottle?

The Governor's Palace in Ruins, Image from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

The Governor’s Palace was the official residence of the royal governor of the Virginia Colony.  It was completed in 1722 and was home to seven governors, ending with Thomas Jefferson.  The palace was home to many balls and large dinners.  The tables were set with the finest linens, silver, foods, and a large variety of wines from the extensive cellar.  In 1780 Thomas Jefferson moved the capital to Richmond and the palace served as a hospital.  In December of 1781 the palace burnt down.

The Reconstructed Governor's Palace, Image by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1935, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

The site was purchased by Colonial Williamsburg in 1928 then passed on to William & Mary.  After two years of archaeological excavations the reconstruction of palace was started.  The new palace opened in 1934 including the meticulously reconstructed cellar for wine, beer, cider, and liquor.

A Wide Variety of Wine

The Governor’s Palace wine cellar is quite spacious and made me curious as to the selections of wines available in Colonial Williamsburg.  Wine was not only served at the Governor’s Palace but also at the taverns and private homes.  I set about some research using the Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library. I extracted the alcoholic inventories taken upon the deaths of John Marot (1717/18), Henry Bowcock (1729/1730), Henry Wetherburn (1760), and Francis Facquier(1771).  From these inventories I find 17 different classifications of wine: Wine, Old Wine, Malmsey, Champaign, Claret, Tokay, Hock, Old Hock, Madeira, Port, Red Port, Rennish, French White Wine, Sower Wine, Canary, White Lisbon, and Lisbon.  These wines were stored in pints, quarts, gallons, bottles, and pipes.  It is noted wether wine and Hock is old or not.

John Marot was a Heugonet refugee who settled in Williamsburg.  He received license to operate a tavern and purchased his property with an existing building in 1708.  He added to the building that more than doubled the size of the tavern.  In 1738 James Shields married one of the Marot daughters and took over control of the tavern.

Recorded York County Court, March 17, 1717/18
“INVENTORY of the Estate of John Marott decd as followeth Vizt

1 pipe of Sower Wine 5. -. –
52 Gallons of Madera Wine 7. -. –
22 bottles of Canary 3. 2. –
3 hhds of Cyder 3. -. –
4 ½ doz of Red Port 4.10. –
3 Dox & 10 bottles of Sower Wine 1. -. –
13 qts of Rennish 1.19. –
2 ½ Doz 7 1 pt Do [Rennish] 4.16. 6
6 Dox & 4 bottles Rennish 5.14. –
3 Doz & 9 bottles of Red Port 3.15. –
1 Doz & 8 Do 1.13. 4
4 Doz & 2 Do 4. 3. 4
4 Doz & 4 Do 4. 6. 8
3 Doz & 2 bottles of White Lisbon 3. 2. 4
8 Doz of Red Port 8. -. –
4 Doz of Bristoll Beer 1.17. 6
12 Pottle Bottles of french Do 3. -. –
To Capt Posfords Accot 11. 8. 4*
6 ½ Doz Madera Wine 4. -. –
3 Doz of White Lisbon 3. -. –
15 Gallons of French Brandy 10. -. –
6 Doz & 3 bottles of English Beer 2.15. –
4 Doz of Bristoll Beer -.12. –
3 Gallons of Anniseed Water 1. -. –
To Sundry Liquors & bottles -.19. –
1 box & 2 funnells -. 3. 6
Casks & Molasses 2.18. –
Sugar & pipes 3. 5. –
1 pott of Tammarins & 1 hammer -.2 . 6
2 Casks -. 4. –
Pipes -. 5. –
8 Doz of Wine 3. -. –
11 Bottles of Lisbon -.18. –

Henry Bowcock was an innkeeper who first secured a license in 1716.  He leased land from John Holloway where he kept another inn/tavern beginning in 1724.  He left all of his property to his “loving wife Mary Bowcock”.  Mary Bowcock applied for a license and continued to keep an inn.  In 1731 she married Henry Wetherburn.

Inventory and Appraisgment of the Estate of Henry Bowcock, late of York County decd.
York County Records
Book 17-Orders, Wills. (1729-1732), pp. 53-57 [March 16, 1729/30]

10 Dozn bottles Claret £ 7:10:-
46 bottles red Wine 1:18:4
70 qt bottles Renish 7:-:-
57 pints Do 2:17:-
42 qt bottles old Hock 4:4:-
10 qt bottles French White wine -:12:6
1 pipe Madeira Wine 20:-:-
71 qt bottles Welch ale 2:19:2
32 bottles Bristol Beer 1:1:4
79 bottles of Cask Beer 1:6:4
17 pts Shrubb 2:2:6
2 ½ Gallons Arrack 2:10:-
12 Gallons Brandy 3:12:-
4 Galls Cherry & Raspberry Do 1:8:-
4 Gallons Citron water 7:-:-
15 Galls Rum 1:17:6
2 ½ Galls Cherry Rum -:7:6
A large quanty of damaged Liquors of sevl. sorts in bottles 4:-:-

Henry Wetherburn was the most prosperous tavern keepers in Williamsburg.  He was first noted in local records in 1731 when he married Mary Bowcock.  His tavern is one of the original buildings of Williamsburg and has been in continuous use for more than 250 years.

[Wetherburn, Henry-Tavern Keeper Williamsburg, Va.]
[December 19, 1760]

4 Gallons Arrack £ 4.. 0.. 0
17 Doz & 4 Bottles of Beer a 9/ Doz. 7..16.. 0
18 Bottles Port 2.. 5.. 0
Part of Pipe Madeira Wine 20.. 0..0
1 [torn] Claret 4..10.. 0
[torn] Doz. and 4 Bottled Do a 21 Bottle 17.. 4.. 0
9 Doz and 10 Porter a ¾ Doz. 1..12.. 9
3 Doz and 8 Beer a 6/. Doz 1.. 2.. 0
43 1/2 Gallon[s] Rum a 4/6 9..15.. 9
3 Gallons Cordial 1..10.. 0

Portrait of Francis Faquier, Image from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Francis Faquier was the son of Dr. John Francis Faquier, who was a director at The Bank of England.  He was a prominent figure in London, served as deputy to two Governor’s in Virginia before becoming lieutenant Governor for ten years.

From the Inventory of the estate of Francis Fauquier 1771, July 20

10 Pipes of Wine £50 500..0..0
76 Gallons Run @ 3/ 11..8..0
10 Do Peach Brandy @ 3/ 1..10..0
3 doz and 10 Bottles old Wine @ 40/ 7 ..13..4
7 doz and 4 Bottles Draft Do @ 24/ 8..16..0
5 Bottles of Arrack @ 5/ 1..5..0
210 Pint Bottles of Malmsey Wine a 20/ doz 17..10..0
2 Casks Porter 6..0..0
1 Jug Sallad Oyl 2..0..0
36 doz Bottles of old Syder a 3n per Bottle 5..8..0
3 doz Porter 1..0..0
26 Bottles Clarrett @ 3/ per Bottle 3..18..0
3 Do of Champaign 6/ 0..18..0
20 Bottles Tokay 3..0..0
112 Bottles @ 1/3 7..0..0
6 Casks Cyder 6..0..0
13 ½ doz old Hock 6/ 42..6..0
2 Pipes Madeira Wine recvd since the Death of the Honble Francis Fauquier Esq. 100

Goods Received by the Executor since the decease of the late Francis Fauquier deceased Shipped by John Norton

2 pipes Madeira Wine a £50 each 100..0..0
36 dozen Sweet cyder 5..8..0
1 small 1 round table 1..10..0
2 Barrels Cyder 2..0..0
5 Bottles Arrack 1..5..0
2 Hosghead porter 6..0..0
1 Half Jarr Sallad Oyl 1..0..0
9 Bottles Peach Brandy 0..6..0
3 Doz and 10 Bottles Madeira per Doz 40/ 7..13..4
7 Dozen & 4 Do 24/ 8..10..0
9 Dozen Arrack 7..0..0
33 Bottles Porter 0..18..6
9 Bottles Claret 1..7..0
76 Gallons Rum 3/ 11..8..0
10 Gallons Peach Brandy 1..10..0

Purchasing Wine

It appears that some wines were directly imported and others were purchased at auction or from merchants.

From the WILLIAM NELSON LETTERBOK 1766-1775 we find that the Governor directly imported six pipes of Madeira.
p. 52 [William Nelson to “Edwd Athawes Esqr & Son” of London]

Virginia Nover 24th 1767


There is an Affair happen’d, which gives me great uneasiness & Chagrine. The Governour imported this Year in the M[aderia] Packet 6 pipes of Wine 5 of which were delivered to him: the other marked F4F different from the others, was Intended, I believe, for his brother & was therefore not sent to Wmsburg by his order, but was Supposed to be landed in my Store or the Collector’s till the Ship should be ready to take it on again; but when Capt Innis came to receive those Wines, this Pipe was not among them nor was it inquired for as I was not at home. The Truth is, it was not landed at either Store, the Consequence must be, that it was Sent away with some other Wines by Mistake to Rappa or some where else… WN

In looking through the Virginia Gazette there is a wide variety of wine for sale, some through auction and most at stores.  Not found in the inventories above are Mountain Wine, Florence Wine, Tent, and French Coniack.

Virginia Gazette, Hunter, June 12, 1752, Page 1, Image from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

“To be SOLD by the Subscriber, at his store in Williamsburg,…Red Port, Mountain Wine, and White Wine Vinegar… “,Publisher: Hunter , Page: 3, Column: 2, 1751-04-18

“To be SOLD, very reasonably, by the Subscriber, in Williamsburg…French Brandy, Arrack, fine Florence Wine, Red Port, Sherry, Tent, and best Vineger of different Wines. Joseph Scrivener.”, Publisher: Hunter, Page: 4, Column: 1, 1751-10-03.

“To be SOLD, by the Subscriber, near the Capitol, in Williamsburg, GENUINE French Claret, at 40 s. per Dozen, Samples whereof may be had at 4 s. a Bottle, net Barbados Rum at 5 s. per Gallon; also fine Madeira Wine…Daniel Fisher.” Publisher: Hunter, Page: 3, Column: 1, 1752-03-12.

“To be SOLD at JOHN GREENHOW’s store, Williamsburg,…ringworm earth… green, blue, and crystal convex and concave spectakles…wine by the gallon, cask, or pipe”, Publishser: Purdie & Dixon, Page: 4, Column: 1, 1766-04-11.

“To be SOLD at PUBLIC AUCTION to the HIGHEST BIDDER, on Monday the 8th day of August, at the DWELLING-HOUSE of the late Mr. WILLIAM PRENTIS, in the city of Williamsburg, and pursuant to his will…a pipe of fine old Madeira wine, and several dozens of bottles wine;…”, Publisher: Rind Page: 3, Column: 1, 1768-07-28.

 “To be SOLD at John Greenhow’s Store, near the Church, in Williamsburg, for ready Money, on reasonable Terms,…Old Spirits, best and common Arrack, Madeira, Lisbon, red port, Claret, Canary, and Renish Wines…”, Publisher: Purdie & dixon, Page: 3, Column: 2, 1771-12-12.

“The subscriber hath on hand, in the city of Williamsburg, a few hhds. of old Barbados RUM, a few hhds. of excellent CLARET, several cases of CHAMPAIGNE in bottles, a quantity of delicious French CORDIALS, best French COFFEE in barrels, best Coniack BRANDY, in baskets of two bottles each…to be sold at the publick store, on publick account, by    W. Aylett.”, Publisher: Purdie Page: 4, Column: 1, 1777-01-10

Exporting Wine

There was even small amounts of wine exported back to Europe.  From the Virginia Gazette:

Virginia Gazette, Publisher Parks, November 02,1739, Page 2, Image from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

  • 1739, August 6, the ship Mary, Master Wil. Robertson, bound for London, contained 46 Gallons of Rum in General Cargo.
  • 1739, August 9, the ship Black Prince, Master John Sibson, bound for London, contained 1 Hogshead of Wine in General Cargo.
  • 1739, August 15, the ship Gooch, Master Charles Friend, bound for London, contained 1 Hogshead of Wine in General Cargo.
  • 1939, September 8, the ship Crofs-Galley, Master Jos. Pitman, bound for Bristol contained 125 Gallons of Rum, and 1 Pipe of Wine in General Cargo.

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