“they had drunk English wine sold at Jacatra” : The Cultivation of the Vine in England and the East India Company’s Concern for Wine 1600-1630
This post is part of Wine and the Sea which is an online symposium where several wine and food bloggers wrote coordinated posts about the history of wine. In this post I look at the seventeenth (17th) century history of English wine. A list of other participants appears at the end of this post.
Hugh Barty-King wrote that the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 removed an element of viticulture “which placed the activity in the centre of English life.” The view of Ambassador Giacomo Soranzo, writing in 1554, suggests that wine was no longer being produced less than two decades later. Ambassador Soranzo spent 41 months in England and upon leaving he commented, “Although they have vines they do not make wine of any sort, the plant serving as an ornament for their gardens rather than anything else, as the grapes do not ripen save in very small quantity, partly because the sun has not much power, and partly because precisely at the ripening season cold winds generally prevail, so that the grapes wither, but in lieu of wine they make beer…they also consume a great quantity of wine, which is brought from Candia, Spain, the Rhine, and from France, this last being prized more than the rest”.
We do know that vineyards and winemaking did survive the dissolution. One curious example of such winemaking appears in the Court Minutes of the East India Company for November 27-29, 1626. Both Captain John Bickley of the Hart and Captain Richard Swann of the Charles “acknowledged they had drunk English wine sold at Jacatra, but who carried it there they knew not”. During the early 17th century the modern day city of Jakarta was known as Jacatra followed by Batavia. To reduce confusion this post will use Jacatra. Captain Swann clearly enjoyed wine for he was also questioned about the “extraordinary expense of wine” for his recent journey. Captain Swann felt it was due to the “badness of his beer” because “he thought it was brewed at an unseasonable time, the weather in August being too hot to brew for so long a voyage.” The English wine consumed might have been transported surreptitiously. During the same set of minutes the pursers of the Mary, Star, and Speedwell were charged to provide locks and keys for the hold “to prevent the great abuse continually practiced by private men of carrying extra ordinary quantities of wine and beer to sell in the Indies.”
In the span of 72 years we move from Ambassador Soranzo’s claim that no English wine was produced to English wine, vintage early 1620s, surviving the voyage to Jacatra, beings sold, and then made available for purchase. That the Court of Directors knew that the wine was drunk by at least two Englishmen and specifically questioned them about it, adds intrigue. The first time Hart and the Charles were both in Jacatra prior to the meeting was the winter of 1623 and 1624. The Charles set sail on November 7, 1623 and reached Jacatra by August 16, 1624, for Captain Swann was directed to survey the island of Pulo-Bessee. The Charles was still in the area as late as November 2, 1624. Captain John Bickley wrote that he arrived at Jacatra on August 3, 1623, after five months and six days from passage of Lizard thus departing England at the end of February 1623. The Hart was still in Jacatra as late as May 4, 1624, for it was included in a list of serviceable ships still present. It returned to England in October 1624. The Hart was in Jacatra a second, difficult time. Having survived “great mortality from scurvy” the Charles and Hart were reported back at Gravesend, England on October 23, 1626. Four days later Mr. Governor and other committee members dined with the captains and masters of the two ships.
The East India Company required journals or log books to be kept during a voyage then returned to the Court for examination. Captain Bickley’s trip is detailed in his own Journal of a voyage to the East Indies and back, covering February 6, 1623, through October 17, 1626. It is also detailed in the similarly named journal of Andrew Symms from February 25, 1623, through September 17, 1626. In his Court meeting, Captain Bickley stated he had taken five months during his previous trip to sail to Jacatra in the Hart. It was claimed the Hart was a “slug” but while Captain Bickley acknowledged the Charles was better before the wind, the Hart was better otherwise. For the ship Charles with Captain Swann, Henry Crosby kept the Journal of a voyage from England to Surat, Jask, &c., and back to England from March 21, 1619, through June 16, 1624. It is possible that the Court learned about the English wine either from dining with the captains at Gravesend or reading the three journals.
The English wine may have been transported aboard the Hart or the Charles. However, there were other English ships in the region with them. A letter dated the first week of November, 1623, states “[f]ound here the Exchange, Hart, Roebuck, Diamond, Unity, and Rose.” A letter from Jacatra to the East India Company dated December 14, 1623, states that the “Hart, Roebuck, Charles, Star, and Eagle arrived safely.” To this list may be added the Moon along with the Elizabeth and Ruby from the Sumatra coast. It is reasonable to assume that the English wine was not transported to Jacatra aboard a Dutch ship. Thus the wine could have been carried on any one of several English ships and still give Captains Bickley and Swann an opportunity for a drink.
It seems a curious choice to send English wine to Jacatra. It is reasonable to assume that 1624 was the latest vintage the English wine could have been from. The English war with Spain began in 1625 and French wine imports were not prohibited until 1626. So if wine imports as a whole did not reduce the availability of wine in London, leaving only local English wine, there must be some other reason for the choice. It was known both to the Court and amongst the ships that wine could be sold in the Indies for a profit. In December 1624, the Court heard a report from Thomas Thornborough, purser of the London, about the goods stowed aboard the ship. “[T]he Court grew into a jealously least their ships outward bound were too much filled with matter of private trade…for that the taverns in the Indies could not be furnished with wines from hence but by that means.” In a letter from President Henry Hawley dated December 29-30, 1625, he advised sending a “good store of good strong wine” to the Indies “which would yield very great profit” for the “natives being more affected therewith” than the common “racke” drink. On November 19, 1627, the Court became aware that President Hawley and his nephew Gabriel Hawley had made it a “very common custom to sell the Company’s stores, goods, and ammunition to the Dutch”. Randall Jesson, master of Expedition traded goods not only in the East Indies but also upon return to England.
The report of Alexander Lord, surgeon of the Expedition, dated November 27, 1627, gives a sense of the tensions surrounding such private trade. “John Samuel, purser, who had written in his table book against Randall Jesson, master. The master told Willoughby he was false hearted, whereupon Willoughby answered that he lied like a rascally knave, upon which the master boxed his ears, and Willoughby flew at him with a great china platter, struck him in the face and pulled off some of his beard. Being parted, he again struck Jesson with a candlestick, and took a knife to have stabbed him, and afterward seized a carpenter’s axe and struck at him; finally, Willoughby was condemned to be put into the bilboes till released by the master’s clemency.”
President Hawley eventually sent a cargo of wine for sale in the Indies without the Court’s approval. During 25-27, February, 1628, it was reported that President Hawley had Randall Jesson, master of the Expedition, carry out and sell four pipes of white wine. The wine yielded a profit of 250 ryals per pipe. If we take the ryal to be worth 15s. and not the 16s. 6d. of the spur ryal, there was a profit of 187l. 10s. per pipe. This is a staggering amount given that the provisions for the fleet cost 18l. to 20l. per pipe. Later that month, Mr. Bell offered to send 20 pipes of white wine, which he affirmed would yield the same profit. The Court instead offered Mr. Bell to transport the wine on his own “but the distance between the freight demanded and offered was so great” that both parties refused the terms.
The English wine appears to have been secretly transported rather than sold from the Company’s provisions. Wine as a provision for the ships was an increasing concern of the Court during this period. The Court meetings document how white wine, Canary, and Muscadine were selected for the fleet because they were wholesome and an antiscorbutic. Canary wine was considered at 15l. a pipe for the next voyage after April 10, 1618. Fifteen tuns of white wine were provided for the fleet in 1619 “to be drunk at the Line and the Cape, which is used by the Dutch to preserve men from the scurvy”. On December 29, 1623, it was requested that as for wine and cider, half the quantity of cider be sent for it was only for the sick. When the cider went stale, the men preferred water, for the cider “doth extraordinarily wring the belly.” In February, 1624, Captain Hall requested six pipes of “Canara [Canary] wine” and 10 pipes of cider instead of 6 pipes of white wine. It was ordered on August 18-22, 1624, that “Cannara” wine was to be provided for the Swallow. Five pipes of Canary wine and three pipes of white wine, part of which was to be wormwooded, were ordered to be provided on September 3, 1624, presumably for Jacatra. On January 24, 1625, Captain Blythe wanted to take in less white wine and more Canary, despite the white wine being “good against the scurvy.” Captain John Weddell aboard the Royal James wrote on April 26, 1625, that his white wine “continues good to the last drop.” The wines available in Surat were ‘a great deal better” than what was sent in the Star. This, perhaps, illustrates how bad the wine was given that the wines of Surat were made from raisins. Captain Moreton believed that “excess in drinking sack” was one of the main causes that “their servants untimely perish in the Indies” and requested white wine instead.
Wine is included in the list of provisions and stores to be bought for the warehouses provided July 17-20, 1626. On August 15, 1626, the company was offered 20 butts of Canary wine at 19l. each. The price was deemed too expensive and that they should wait a few months when “the city is likely to be better stored with it.” On September 13, 1626, not enough cider had been purchased for that year’s fleet for it was not yet a year old. There was a continued lack of Canary wine so the Court considered Muscadine and white wine. However, a ship or two with Sack was shortly expected from Hamburg. By October 18-31, 1626, the price of Canary wine had dropped from 20l. to 18l. per pipe. Mr. Bell thought they could hold off longer on the purchase. Muscadine was still thought to “serve the turn”, strong beer “was as wholesome as Canary wine”, white wine was suggested again, and others “Rebola, which it was answered would turn to vinegar.” In the end, “nothing was concluded.” Also, the boatswain and purser’s mate of the Speedwell were requested to attend the next court “not to allow beer and other commodities to be stored in their ship.” By November 15, 1626, Mr. Bell wanted to speed up the provisioning of wine. On November 22, 1626, a cellar of Canary wine became available with 40 pipes at 18l. per pipe. It turned out that the wine was “not so good as expected.” Fortunately the cellar of Mr. Bernardo contained Canary wine and was ordered to be purchased. It was noted that the Dutch used “much Muscadine” but it was again suggested that “extra ordinarily strong beer” would meet. On January 31, 1627, it was ordered that the white wine be furnished in town in case Mr. Bell’s ship did not arrive “before that day sennight” On February 5, 1627, white wine was ordered for the Mary and the Star. Ralph Harris, surgeon of the Mary, believed that “red wine was very useful and ‘physical’” for men sick with the flux. Thus it was ordered that three hogsheads be bought sent to the Downs. At the same Court a gratuity of 20s. was paid out of the poor box to John Hebbs of the Mary who was injured by a falling butt of wine.
On October 10, 1627, wine amongst other items was ordered for the warehouses. The apple harvest had good yield and wine was provisioned for the Dove. A proportion of both beer and wine was chosen for the Jonas and Dove. A week later Swanley, master of the Jonas, requested that the quantity of wine supplied be Canary, “in regard that white wine soon grows tart and the mariners utterly dislike it.” The Court passed a resolution on November 16, 1627, that the ships be supplied with one-third white wine, “notwithstanding” Mr. Swanley’s desire to have one-quarter white wine and three-quarters Canary wine. On December 12, 1627, it was requested that no more white wine than is necessary be provided for the Dove. On December 3, 1628, three or four butts of Muscadine were to be sent as a trial instead of Canary wine. Captain Weddell believed it would be very good for the ships company as the Dutch always sent Muscadine. On December 12, 1628, 48 pipes of Canary and 8 pipes of Muscadine were purchased. Thus over the period of interest the ships were provisioned with a combination of white wine, Canary, Muscadine, and perhaps a little Sack.
The journals of the East India Company reveal other types of wine consumed on the journeys, most likely privately stored or purchased at other ports. Captain Saris wrote in the fall of 1613 of “five jars of European sweet wine” the Spanish Ambassador from the Philippine Islands had as a gift for the emperor. Richard Cockes wrote of “a great bottle of our general’s sweet wine” during the absence of Captain Saris. Spanish wine was drunk as well including Alicante wine drunk with the “Mogul”. Though there were grapes in Surat, wine was only made from raisins. On October 1616, the Persian ambassador received a gift of 21 “camel loads of wine made of grapes.”
Since the source of the English wine sold in Jacatra is not yet known it is useful to detail the cultivation of the vine in England between 1600 and 1630. There is documentation of English gardens with vines, vines trained against walls, and vineyards throughout the 17th century. There are numerous incidences of a smaller number of vines being used for the production of table grapes but there were also explicitly named vineyards which may have produced wine. In many cases the number of vines, the varieties, and whether wine was actually produced is not yet known.
In 1617 Fynes Moryson published an account of his travels during the years 1591-1601. Of Gloucestershire, he notes that William Camden wrote there were vineyards which produced wine in the past. However whether “it rather to the Inhabitants slothfulnesse, then to the fault of the Ayre or soyle, that it yeeldes not wine at this day.” There were grapes grown in “Gardens and Orchards” which “especially towards the South and Westare of a pleasant taste”. He continues that “no doubt many parts would yield [wine] at this day” but “because they are serued plentifully, and at a good rate with French wines” the hills which could be planted with vines instead feed sheep and cattle. William Camden wrote in Britain (1610) “There is no countrie in all England so thicke set as this Province with Vine-yards, so plentifull in encrease, and so pleasant in taste. The verie wines made thereof, affect not their mouthes that drinke of them with any unpleasing tartnesse, as being little inferiour in sweete verdoure to the French Wines.” Michael Drayton wrote in Poly-Olbion (1612) of Gloucestershire “where to this day many places are stiled Vine yards”. With regards to the wines themselves which “[n]ow in many parts of this Realme we haue some: but what comes of them in the Presse is scarce worth respect.”
It is possible to move from general to specific descriptions of vines. A vine planted in 1530-31 at Clothworker’s Hall was regularly pruned and had covered one wall by 1611. There were two vines at Lincoln College, one having been trained since 1474. The vineyard at Tilty Abbey in Essex appears on a map dated 1593. Of Ely which had “A vine-yard yielding wine, yeerely” it had decayed as of 1610 such that by the Saint Mary’s Chapel was “a Vine bearing fruit in great plenty, which now is withered and gone.” Sir Michael Hickes commented on the garden of Sir Edward Sulyard on October 2, 1609. Whether this refers to Wetherden Hall or Haughley Park Farm is not specified. Sir Michael Hickes found that “his grapes as good as ever I tasted for the relish and sweetness.” Sir Edward Sulyard sent on a basket of his grapes and was willing to provide cuttings for Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury. Several years later Sir Edward Sulyard sent vines to Robert Cecil’s Hatfield House. In December 1614, Sir Henry Slingsby of Red House bought a large order of fruit trees including grapes from the Tothill Street nursery. At the time grapevines cost 1s 6d.
In a letter from John Porty in Virginia to Sir Edwin Sandys dated January 16, 1619/20, he wrote that Sir George Yeardley “brought hither some plants wch doe prosper passing well.” Presumably these vines were sourced from England for he wished the “general Company would send greate store of Vignerons, and Vine plants of a good race though growing in England.” It was also noted that Mr. Nicholas Leate, merchant, had “a lardge vine of Corynth grapes at ye house he formerly dwelt in.”
Secretary Dudley Carleton, Viscount Dorchester received grapes from Sir Thomas Gardyner on September 13, 1629, in response for helping his son. Three days later on September 16, 1629, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, wrote to Secretary Dorchester of “walking under the vine wall at Sion, to have said he was drunk with eating of grapes.” He prayed him to “be drunk again” and that he “may take what he will of any fruits there.” Sir Robert Karr wrote from Kew to Secretary Dorchester on October 12, 1631, that he sent “him the gleanings of his grapes (the best being all gathered long ago to his great vintage)” On September 28, 1631, Richard Brown wrote to Secretary Dorchester from Paris that he had purchased fruit trees which would be forwarded by fishing-boat to Dieppe then passage boat to Rye. The letter includes the list of trees being “principally pears, nectarines, and grapes”.
John Smythson’s plan of Wimbledon Gardens from 1609 includes a large vineyard which is described in the Parliamentary Survey of 1649. The Upper or Great Garden adjoined the south side of the house. The Upper Garden contained 13 Muscadine vines “well ordered and planted, bearing very sweet grapes, and those in abundance at the season of the year.” At the south end of the garden was a long brick wall, ten feet tall, which separated it from the “Vineyard Garden”. Within this wall were “betwixt two pillars of brick, there are set fair and large pair of railed gates, of good ornament to both the said gardens.” The other three sides of the Vineyard Garden were bordered by nine to ten foot brick walls The garden itself encompassed ten acres, one rood, and 23 perches. The Vineyard Garden was divided into 12 triangles which were planted with 507 “fruit trees of divers sorts and kinds of fruits, pleasant and profitable.” There were 106 “divers kinds of wall fruit”, raspberries, pears, cherries, apricots, pear plums, may cherries, “boone critians”, and others.
King James I traded Hatfield House for Theobalds, the estate of Sir Robert Cecil , Lord Salisbury in 1607. Sir Robert Cecil immediately razed Hatfield rebuilding the mansion and built extensive gardens. In 1610 he sent John Tradescant Senior to purchase vines. Marie de Medicie, the wife of the French ambassador, sent some 20,000 vines apparently followed by 10,000 more. These were reported in a letter from Thomas Wilson to Lord Salisbury on February 5, 1611, where the value of the first shipment was noted at “50l. sterling.” On September 19, 1611, Sir Roger Aston wrote from Theobalds to Sir Robert Cecil that “[t]he grapes were welcome.” The Hatfield vineyard was in existence until at least 1650. In 1650 the Parliamentary Survey described the Pheasant Garden with two vines. Amongst the brick walls of the “Laundrie garden” were 28 vines amongst apricot, preach, and cherry trees. On the walls of the “Capitall house side” “14 Muscadine Vines well ordered and planted.” Amongst the graveled walks were “Vine trees.”
William Hogan was paid for planting the walls of the Hampton Court garden with “apricot trees, peach trees, plum trees, and vines of choice fruits” on December 17, 1611. On September 18, 1617, James Bowey, was “serjeant of his Majesty’s cellar” and was paid 400l. to go to France “to make provisions of several sorts of wine, grapes, and other fruits…as in former years he hath been accustomed”. He was paid the following year on July 17, 1618. While this involves the grape and not the vine, it is a connection worth mentioning.
In 1602 Henry Fanshaw inherited Ware Park from his father. It was located near Theobalds and Hatfield House. The gardens contained grape vines as early as the summer of 1609 when Henry Fanshaw wrote to John Chamberlain “There is a reasonable quantity of peaches and grapes”. In 1614 it included “some plants of muscadine grapes from her [Lady Windwood] that were sent out of the Low Countries for excellent good.” On June 30, 1614, John Chamberlain wrote “We have set the vine plants that came from Master [Isaac] Wake as carefully as we could, and I am not out of hope but they may prove, though they be very dry and promise little by their looks”. Isaac Wake was the secretary in Venice for Sir Dudley Carleton during his ambassadorship. The following September 15, 1615, John Chamberlain wrote “We have had a long, dry summer, and the best and fairest melons and grapes that I ever knew in England.” The Earl of Arundel and Inigo Jones visited Ware Park where they were “so pleased with the grapes and peaches” that King James I sent for them twice per week as late as October 14, 1618.
The royal gardens at Westminster and Windsor were still cultivated in 1618. The vineyard at Westminster was well established since for in the Lady Day and Easter rents of Henry VIII appear the entry, “for half year’s rent of the vine garden at Westminster, 53s. 4d”. On August 31, 1618, Robert Wood, the keeper of “cormorants, ospreys, and otters” was commissioned to make nine fish ponds in “a parcel of ground within the Vine-garden, at Westminster.” By October 10, 1618, Robert Wood “hath already finished a great part.” The vineyard was no longer in existence by 1735 when John Stow wrote, “was a Garden, they called the Vine garden; because perhaps Vines antiently were there nourished and Wine made.”
There was a payment on July 21, 1619, to ”John Bonnall…for dressing and keeping the vines” at the royal gardens of Oatlands. This is the same John Bonoeil who published Obseruations to be followed, for the making of fit roomes, to keepe silk-wormes in 1620 and His Majesties Gracious Letter to the Earle of South-Hampton in 1622. This book contained instructions on “how to plant and dresse Vines, and to make Wine” in Virginia.
The vineyard at Windsor was still intact for Secretary Edward Conway wrote to the Surveyor and Receiver at Windsor on September 29, 1624, “[t]o shut up the passages through the vineyard there.” Secretary Conway was himself cultivating the vine. On June 15, 1628, he received a letter from Foulke Reed accounting the efforts of a Dutchman to plant vines on Conway’s estate Ragley Hall in Warwick County. The vines were already planted at Luddington where at the time “they already bud and shoot forth.” These vines could have been planted in 1625 for the Earl of Middlesex was “ready to sign the writings for the manor of Luddington” on February 11, 1625.
Hugh Barty-King writes that “in the sixteen-twenties Sir Peter Ricard was also having a notable success with a vineyard and winepress” at Great Chart in the Weald of Kent. In looking at his source, apparently in the form of Samuel Hartlib’s The Compleate Husband-man (1659) I find of Sir Peter Ricard that he “yearly maketh 6 or 8 hogs-heads, which is very much commended by divers who have tasted it, and he hath kept some of it two years, as he himself told me, and it hath been very good.” This very same passage appears in Samuel Hartlib His Legacy of Husbandry (1652). In searching through The Hartlib Papers I have not yet come across a reference to wine being produced in the 1620s. The closest dated reference to English wine appears to be, “At my Lord Warwick’s Lady Ranelagh heard a Relation of 20. or 3. tonnes of wine made last year 1652. of English Grapes by one in Kent whose name she can easily learne.”
The English wine may have been made from any of several different grape varieties. From the above accounts of vines and vineyards we learn that the Corinthian and Muscadine vines were cultivated. Despite the presence of nurseries in London, John Harvey wrote that there appear to be no surviving strict nursery catalogs of the first half of the 17th century. A few English gardening and herbals detail the diversity of the vine. Gervase Markham’s The English Husbandman (1613) references the Bordeaux “Gascoyne”, Greek, Muscadine, Orleans, “Rochell”, and the “Spanish or Iland” grape. He wrote that “if that which is most strange, rare, great and pleasant be the best, then…[it is] the Muskadine, or Sacke grape” sourced from Spain or the Canary Islands. This was followed by French grapes, in order of preference, “Gascoynie” and Bordeaux with the worst the Rochell. In John Bonoeil ‘s His Majesties Gracious Letter to the Earle of South-Hampton (1622) there are instructions for cultivating the vine in Virginia with the only varieties mentioned being indigenous. John Parkinson’s Paradisi in Sole (1629) lists 23 different vines and grapes. John Parkinson also notes that John Tradescant had 20 different varieties growing.
It is not possible to determine which vineyard or set of vines were the source for the English wine drunk in Jacatra. The large vineyard of Hatfield seems a likely choice. There are also the various royal vines and vineyards of King James I. Committee members of the East India Company did visit Theobalds where they might have learned about these vines or those nearby at Hatfield House. On September 21, 1621, it was noted that King James I was to be made aware of the arrival of the Royal James thus a committee was sent to Theobalds House. On December 15, 1623, a committee was appointed to “render the Company’s thanks to the King at Theobalds.” On July 16, 1624, Mr. Governor and several committees had gone to Theobalds.
It is not known if Captain Bickley and Captain Swann drank the English wine together. They certainly were different personalities. Captain Bickley was so well regarded by the Court for “his sufficiency and civil carriage” that they gave “him entertainment” for continued service Despite having sufficient money for the rest of his life he would be “willing to end his days in their service.” The Court commended Captain Bickley for “his love and grateful acknowledgement” and made him Vice-Admiral at his former allowance of 20 marks per month. Captain Bickley’s wife became a “sickly old woman” in December 1626, so the captain passed on his next commission. Later in July 1628, the “ancient servant” resumed his career and was appointed Captain of the Reformation. He became viewed as “a man of approved valour and experience”
Captain Swann was regarded in a different light. Upon being considered for the master of the Charles in July 1623, Captain Swann demanded 200l. per annum and a 50l. gratuity. The court found it “would follow no man in his unreasonable demands.” However, the Charles was to depart on a solo journey so the Court was “extraordinary carefull” to choose a master. Captain Swann was picked as master of the Charles in August 1623 but he continued his demands. The great cabin of the Charles was appointed to the factors but Captain Swann was granted liberty to sit with them. On March 9, 1627, Captain Swann was examined and charged with “waste expense of wine in his cabin.” He rebutted that while Cockram was alive, he had command of the ship, and after his death Captain Gerrard Fowkes “kept the keys of the case of bottles.” He also denied that he knew of any wine, beer, or other commodities carried in his ship then sold in Jacatra. The investigation continued for on March 21-30, 1627, Captain Swann assented that he tried to lay fault on Mr. Cockram, in whose cabin most of the wine was drunk. He was ordered to pay 40l. to “the poor box for his wasteful expense of powder and wine.” On March 24, 1627, the 40l. fine, presumably received, was ordered put into the poor box belonging to the Court. The Court minutes of August 9-15, 1626, list Captain Swann’s allowance at 15l. per month so the fine represented over two month’s wages.
Captain Swann was not the only one who served a lot of wine. The extraordinary expense of wine and powder about the Lion was brought to attention on August 29, 1623. On January 30, 1624, the Court discussed the “excessive expence” of wine and powder which they “utterly misliked.” Captain Hall, on December 14, 1626, “was charged with the unreasonable proportion of powder he spent” and “unnecessarily wasted in drinking of healths.” These “vain courses” led his expenses to be almost double of any other commanders. Captain Hall, having returned from sea, was admonished on December 8, 1626, “not to use any more private trade or wastefully to expend wine and powder in unnecessary drinking of healths.” During March 21-31, 1627, Captain Hall was again admonished for “feasting and superfluous spending of wine and other provisions” It appears this was the result of Sir Dodmore and Sir Robert for leaving their ship the Star and spending days aboard the Admiral. It was admitted that Captain Hall could not deny them on board his ship but he had “no means to suffer them to lie aboard at night.”
Throughout this period there was a constant demand for wine aboard ships and at land. In a letter from Jacatra to the East India Company on February 9, 1623, it was concluded that the “victualing” of ships must be remedied at home for “the commanders must be stinted as well, for in beer, wine, &c. they will not be controlled.”  Six years later they were still not under control for on January 9, 1629, the Court advised that they should restrain the excess of commanders for “wine spent in their cabins.” Likewise, there was a request on January 12, 1622, for “some choice pieces of canary wine for their table, for which to return the courtesies of the Dutch.” Beer, wine, and cider were wanted amongst other supplies like butter, capers, and quills for the factory in Jacatra on August 20, 1622. Amongst the letters at Bantam from Armagon on June 25, 1629, it was reported that relationships with the Dutch were so good that “more cannot be expected between friends.” Much wine must have been drunk for they needed “some wine to countervail the Dutch courtesies often received.”
John Peterson Coen, General of the Dutch East India Company, left instructions at Jacatra on January 21, 1623. In them he suggested orchards and gardens be planted on the “void ground” of Jacatra for “it will be good that henceforth no provisions except wine be sent thither.” This lack of vineyards for the local production of wine coupled with the demand of wine both for consumption and to sell for large profit, provided motivation to secretly trade wine in the East Indies. This motivation ultimately led to the documentation of one example of early 17th century English winemaking. While we do not yet know who produced or transported the English wine which Captains Bickley and Swann tasted, there are further avenues to pursue. The minutes from the Court meeting [Ct. Min. Bk. IX. 205–215.] may be investigated in case there were details left out when Noel Sainsbury calendared them. Additionally the three journals of the Hart and Charles may be read for details from Jacatra.
Wine and the Sea posts from other symposium participants:
Doris Handrus – Wine and the Sea
Graham Harding (Wine As Was) – On the scale from Riches to ruin: the cargo of champagne in R.L. Stevenson’s Ebb-Tide
Frank Morgan (Drink what YOU like) – Wine and the Sea — Consider the Oyster
Erin Scala (Thinking Drinking) – Wine and the Sea: Aphrodite Rising
Adam Zolkover (Twice Cooked) – Madeira, Wine, and The Sea
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2011 Masseria Li Veli, Askos Verdeca, Valle d’Itria – $18
Imported by Liveli. This wine is a blend of 90% Verdeca and 10% Fiano Minutolo sourced from 32 year old vines on calcareous soils. It was raised in stainless steel. Alcohol 13%. The color was yellow with a golden hint. The wine was aromatic, smelling like skin contact. In the mouth were generous yet controlled flavors. There was a glycerine-like feel, flavors evocative of skin contact, minerals, tropical fruit, and more minerals in the finish. *** Now-2014.
There is not much information out there about the Incognito line of wines from Paul Jaboulet Aine. What is known is that they are a range of declassified wines sold as Cotes du Rhone. One could take guesses as to where the fruit came from. For example there was no Hermitage La Chapelle produced in 2008 and there is conveniently a 2008 Incognito H Rouge from Hermitage. As for the wines themselves, both white wines had very clean fruit and while distinctive, they each came across as rather young. My notes are based on rather subtle flavors s I would reevaluate in a few years. I thought the pair of red wines were a step up in quality. The “C” was attractively meaty and despite the strong structure, the flavors might mature faster. The “H” was about pepper, fruit, and texture. Both of the red wines are a pleasure to taste after decanting but should develop quite well in the cellar. It is the red wines which I recommend purchasing. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2011 Paul Jaboulet Aine, C (Condrieu) Blanc, Incognito, Cotes du Rhone – $49
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons. This wine is 100% Viognier. Alcohol 12.5%. The nose was of white fruit and flint, eventually developing a floral hint. In the mouth were tight, young flavors, firm white fruit, stones, and even more stones in the finish. There was acidity and a short, tart bit on the tongue. It had a little grip, weight, and a long aftertaste. *** 2016-2022.
2011 Paul Jaboulet Aine, H (Hermitage) Blanc, Incognito, Cotes du Rhone – $49
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons. This wine is a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne sourced from a small parcel on Les Murets. Alcohol 13%. The nose bore subtle white fruit and mineral aromas. In the mouth were pure, focused flavors of white fruit which had weight and a touch of glycerine. There was good presence in the mouth with a long, persistent aftertaste of subtle spices and stones. It was almost tingly on the tongue. ***(*) 2016-2024.
2009 Paul Jaboulet Aine, C (Cote Rotie) Rouge, Incognito, Cotes du Rhone – $49
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons. This wine is 100% Syrah. Alcohol 13%. There was an attractive, meaty note. In the mouth were flavors of meaty, red fruit, and a softer expansion. It left the impression it will drink sooner. The finish revealed graphite with hints of fine, strong structure. An earthy note developed but there was a bit less flavor towards the end. ***(*) Now-2028.
2008 Paul Jaboulet Aine, H (Hermitage) Rouge, Incognito, Cotes du Rhone – $49
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons. This wine is 100% Syrah. Alcohol 13.5%. There was clean fruit on the nose with a little pepper aroma. In the mouth the initial red fruit turned into black fruit which gently and slowly built depth and finely articulated grip. There was a pleasing aftertaste. The wine developed a gentle concentration, a little hint of sweet tarts, and some attractive floral violet flavors. ***(*) Now-2028.
“Planted Among the Rocks” : Thomas Nichols 16th Century Descriptions of the Wines of the Canary Islands
Perhaps I am naïve but I continue to be amazed by the vinous materials available through online archives. Even well-known primary sources reveal additional details rarely or not at all discussed. In searching for additional sources to add to my upcoming Wine and the Sea post I came across some fascinating descriptions related to the wines of the Canary Islands. The English trade with the Canary Islands clearly existed in the 16th century when the sweet white Malvasia grew became popular in Europe. As I noted in A Brief History of Wine from the Canary Islands there were vineyards in in Tenerife, Gran Canaria, and Las Palmas. In Richard Hakluyt’s The principal nauigations, voyages, traffiques and discoueries of the English nation made by sea or ouer-land, to the remote and farthest distant quarters of the earth, at any time within the compasse of these 1600. Yeres (1599-1600) there is a description of the Canary Islands written by the Englishman Thomas Nichols.
Thomas Nichols was born in the city of Gloucester in 1532. In 1557 he moved to Tenerife where he was a commercial representative for three London merchants for seven years. In 1583 he published A Pleasant Description of the Fortunate Ilandes, Called the Islands of Canaria, with Their Straunge Fruits and Commodities. Of Gran Canaria, Thomas Nichols writes that it had “singular good wine, especially in the towne of Telde.” Of Tenerife were there was “very good wines in abundance…Out of this Iland is laden great quantity of wines for the West India, and other countreys. The best growth on a hill side called the Ramble.” The Island of La Gomera had “great plenty of wine.” The Island of La Palma was “fruitfull of wine” with the city of Palma showing a “great concentration for wines, which are laden for the West India & other places.” The best location for vines “grow in a soile called the Brenia, where yerely is gathered twelue thousand buts of wine like vnto Malmsies.” Of the islands of Lanzarota and Forteuentura where there was “very little wine of the growth of those Ilands.”
A particularly interesting entry appears for El Hierro or “The Iland of Yron” where “There is no wine in all that Island, but onely one vineyard that an English man of Taunton in the West country planted among rocks, his name was John Hill.” Perhaps this is the John Hill (1529-1611) who was born in Houndstone, Somerset and married Jane Rodney in 1569. What is fascinating is that we know an Englishman was cultivating a vineyard in the Canary Islands sometime between 1557 and 1564. These facts are not entirely new but the Google entry for the El Hierro (DO), as well as a few others, incorrectly dates John Hill’s vineyard to the 17th century.
I heard from Jeffrey of his excitement for Sherry during a recent dinner at the Little Saigon. Earlier in the year he had traveled to Spain where he visited five different properties. He was quite effusive about the older bottlings and with everyone game, he organized a Sherry dinner at his place. Jeffrey kindly sent me some images from his trip and told me a little more about his introduction to Sherry.
The first time I ever tried Sherry I was appalled and thought it was gross. After hanging with Spaniards for a while, it slowly grew on me. Thanks to Demaison who has a tremendous Sherry book and because we sell their wines, I became intrigued. I first tasted the old Maestro wines at a portfolio show and was instantly hooked. Besides being blown away by the PX, I was also amazed by the Amontillado and Oloroso. Sherry grew on me more and more and I was tasting more and more.
My Dad asked me to join him in Sevilla in January, as he was there for a work conference. Only an hour or so away, we set some appointments and drove down 2 days in a row. Luckily I speak Spanish very well as little English is spoken in Andalucia. It was amazing to be able to visit all of Demaison’s properties; Bodegas Grant, Cesar Florido, Maestro Sierra, J.C. Gutierrez and La Cigarrera.
The inspiration for the dinner was to enjoy some great wines! I met everyone at the dinner through Phil, except for Darryl, and those guys have turned me on to great wine and shared their great wine with me. I wanted to repay the favor and these guys know more about wine than I do. I wanted to do something unique. After a quick survey at Phil’s party, it became aware that some people had not experienced top notch Sherry. I was sold on the idea on tasting some of the best Sherry’s with great people.
We first sat down to a few glasses of NV Ameztoi, Hijos de Rubentis, Sparkling Rose from magnum and Spanish tortilla. I intermittently drink Sherry so not knowing exactly what to expect in my glass nor being versed in the family of aromas and flavors challenged my note taking. There were other challenges to. The older bottles were very interesting with their complexity but the flavor profile and higher alcohol levels created a natural limit to imbibing large quantities. I find that personally interesting as I could easily consume a few glasses of Vintage Port. Still, the eight different Sherries were thoughtfully chosen, and perhaps from some being opened days ahead of time, they showed well.
NV Ameztoi, Hijos de Rubentis, Sparkling Rose – Magnum
Imported by De Maison Selections. Alcohol 12%. This was a salmon rose color. In the mouth the flavors slowly built to fresh, riper fruit which tingled on the tongue tip. There was bright acidity followed by a good initial burst of bubbles. The flavors slow faded towards a drier finish with ripe spices. Nice.
The first flight showed the differences between the Fino and Manzanilla but more importantly, it showed just how alive the 2012 Barbadillo, en Rama Manzanilla, Saca de Invierno was. Barbadillo is located near the sea and that truly shows in the flavor. The yeast flavors also show up as well, which points to its unfiltered nature. The yeast which lives on top of the wine, known as the flor, are seasonal in activity. The flor thrives during the late spring and fall and declines during the summer and winter. Barbadillo produces four en rama Sherries each year. Our particular bottling occurred during the winter. It is a particular taste but one certainly worthy trying against another Manzanilla.
Gutierrez Colosia, Fino Elcano, El Puerto de Santa Maria- SRP $13 (375 mL)
Imported by De Maison Selections. This wine is 100% Palomino which underwent 4 years of solera aging. Alcohol 15%. This was a little dusty on the nose with hints of earth. In the mouth the flavors were a little ripe with some weight which became fatter in the good aftertaste.
La Cigarrera, Manzanilla, Sanlucar de Barrameda- SRP $13 (375 mL)
Imported by De Maison Selections. This wine is 100% Palomino which underwent 4 years of solera aging. Alcohol 15%. The nose was very aromatic with finely textured, fruity aromas that stood out of the glass. In the mouth were complex flavors and some yeast which continued to build through the finish. It then became delicate and saline.
2012 Barbadillo, en Rama Manzanilla, Saca de Invierno, Jerez –
From a solera averaging 8 years of age. Alcohol 15%. The nose was intensely aromatic with fresh aromas, wetness, and nuts. There was a tight introduction in the mouth followed by flavors of smoky leather, yeast, and the sea. It had low acidity.
The Oloroso flight was quite interesting. This pair of wines was matched with a Cast Iron Dry Aged Roseda NY Strip and Caramelized Onions with Mushrooms. The young El Maestro Sierra, Oloroso was fresh and ripe, drinking very well on its on. However, when drunk with the steak the flavors softened and faded. The old El Maestro Sierra, Oloroso 1/14 (VORS) was a standout on its own but with the steak I experienced a chemical reaction which brought forth the incredible complexity of the wine. VORS stands for Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum or Very Old Rare Sherry and indicates a wine over 30 years of age. This wine is sourced from a 14 butt solera of unknown age. What is known, is that the youngest wine added each year is over 50 years of age. There was no going back to the young Oloroso after this one. Demonstrating restraint and wisdom, Jeffrey did not open the El Maestro Sierra, Oloroso 1/7 (VORS).
El Maestro Sierra, Oloroso, Jerez de la Frontera – SRP $16 (375 mL)
Imported by De Maison Selections. This wine is 100% Palomino sourced from 10-60 year old vines which underwent 15 years of solera aging. Alcohol 19%. Lot 02-2013. The nose was fresh with berries. In the mouth were gently ripe, round flavors with a little spice. It stands up well.
El Maestro Sierra, Oloroso 1/14 (VORS), Jerez de la Frontera – SRP $110 (375 mL)
Imported by De Maison Selections. This wine is 100% Palomino sourced from 10-60 year old vines which underwent over 50 years of solera aging. Alcohol 22%. Lot 09-2011. The nose was very aromatic with fresh aromas of nuts. In the mouth the wine was salty and savory with mouth filling flavors of nuts. It remained saline with a ripe and sweet expansive finish. It had a little more acidity along with some heat and grip. A really nice wine.
The final set of Sherries and Brandy accompanied Shitake and Portobello Mushrooms, cooked en papillote, with Manchego cheese and finally an Apple Tart with Ice Cream. Each drink continued the high-quality set by the Oloroso 1/14. The El Maestro Sierra, Amontillado 1830 is sourced from a solera of two 2,000 liter butts started in 1830. The exact age is not known but guessed to be of 70 years, think early 1940s. I thought it interesting then that it seemed capable of further development and that the Cesar Florido, Pena del Aguila Palo Cortado at 38 years of age seemed young. Jeffrey encouraged us to pour some of the El Maestro Sierra, Pedro Ximenez Viejisimo on our Apple Tart. These older Sherries were all higher in alcohol so the move to the lower alcohol PX allowed one to drink more, which was a good thing! We wrapped up the evening with the 25 year old El Maestro Sierra, Solera Gran Reserva, Brandy de Jerez 1830. My best description is a hypothetical blend of a smooth Brandy and Oloroso. Many thanks to Jeffrey for hosting his own Sherry Fest in Maryland!
El Maestro Sierra, Amontillado 1830 (VORS), Jerez de la Frontera – SRP $110 (375 mL)
Imported by De Maison Selections. This wine is 100% Palomino sourced from 10-60 year old vines which underwent over 50 years of solera aging. Estimated age is 70+. Alcohol 19%. Lot 09-2011. The nose was a touch sweaty with a little sweetness and complexity from age. In the mouth were sweaty leather flavors along with evocations of the seaside and brine. Seems capable of development.
Cesar Florido, Pena del Aguila Palo Cortado, Chipiona- SRP $73 (375 mL)
Imported by De Maison Selections. This wine is 100% Palomino sourced from 15-50 year old vines which underwent 38 years of solera aging. Alcohol 21.5%. The nose was ripe, sweet, aromatic before becoming pungent. In the mouth the flavors were athletic with a super expansive nature. It was forward on the tongue with briney and complex floral notes. This tastes young!
El Maestro Sierra, Pedro Ximenez Viejisimo, Jerez de la Frontera – SRP $110 (375 mL)
Imported by De Maison Selections. This wine is 100% Pedro Ximenez sourced from 10-60 year old vines which underwent more than 50 years of solera aging. Alcohol 10.5%. Lot 01-12. The nose revealed figs but remained fresh with a hint of macerated berries and apricot. In the mouth were sweet figgy flavors with glycerine. It was super dense almost like syrup with lots of residual sugar. There were hints of spices and understated acidity.
El Maestro Sierra, Solera Gran Reserva, Brandy de Jerez 1830 –
This brandy was aged 25 years in old oak which raised Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez. Alcohol 37.5%. Lot 036/12. The nose was sweet with a lot going on. In the mouth were tobacco and a certain, berry-like ripeness. There was a sweet start with pleasing notes of old leather before the flavors expanded to leave a caramel sweetness.
A Wine Tasting & Reception with Philippe Casteja, President of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855
I recently attended the Cultural Icons Wine Tasting & Reception in honor of The French-American Cultural Foundation’s 15th Anniversary. In attendance was Philippe Castéja, President of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855. The theme was “Jefferson and Bordeaux” so the tasting was appropriately held at The Jefferson Hotel in Washington, DC. There were a several familiar faces including Mark Wessels (MacArthur Beverages), Christian Schiller (Schiller Wine), Michael Besche (Commanderie de Bordeaux), and Heidi Arnold (Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction). Also present was Bette Alberts (Madame Le Maitre of Commanderie de Bordeaux). I attended the event due to the graciously invitation of Karen Taylor, the editor of France Magazine, whom I met earlier in the year at A Dinner with Henri Lurton of Chateau Brane-Cantenac. It was only a matter of coincidence, then, that at this event I met Bérénice Lurton-Thomas of Chateau Climens.
President Thomas Jefferson never planted vines in Washington, DC. However, he much admired the local nurserymen Alexander Hepburn and Thomas Main. Both of these men propagated vines for sale. President Jefferson had Alexander Hepburn propagate the foreign vines he received from Thomas Appleton and Philip Mazzei. These vines, along with some from Thomas Main, were eventually planted at Monticello in 1807.
Though President Jefferson was specific in terms of the wines he ordered, he could have journeyed to Georgetown or walked from the President’s House to purchase wine. Some stores relocated from Georgetown to Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC as early as 1801. At these initial stores President Jefferson could have purchased Claret or “Bordeaux Claret”. Early in 1814, there was Claret, St. Julien Red, and Vin de Grave available at the Wine Cellar of Andrew Ross. That summer Boone & Company of Georgetown sold “St. Julien Chatau, Margau, Monton, Montferrand, Medoc and Lafitte.” These wines were available in hampers of two dozen bottles or boxes of one dozen bottles. David Ott sold “Barsac, and Saturine” wines at his Pennsylvania Avenue store. In 1817 “Old Bottled Grauaud la Rose Claret” was locally available.
The location of the tasting has further ties to the vine and wine. Not far away from the hotel Thomas W. Pairo had a three-story brick house at F Street and 12th Street. He advertised it for rent on February 25, 1825. Attached to the house was a garden with “upwards of 200 of the best European Grape Vines, all in a bearing state.” For a further exploration into the history of this and other local vineyards I suggest you read my Vineyards of Washington, DC series.
Please find my brief tasting notes arranged in the order presented by the tasting sheet. The wines classified by Jefferson in 1787 are marked with a star. The stemware was provided by Baccarat who exhibited a brand new Claret glass. This glass has a wide bowl to let the wine breathe and a short chimney for directing the aromas to the nose. I was particularly taken by the 2009 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, 2000 Chateau Montrose, 1990 Chateau Boyd Cantenac, and 2005 Chateau Climens.
1990 Chateau Boyd Cantenac, Margaux
The nose bore mature aromas and wood box. In the mouth were mature but surprisingly ripe berries which expanded in the mouth. There was lots of berry grip towards the finish which was followed by a good aftertaste. The juicy acidity mixed well with black minerals in the finish and an earthy note. Drinking well now with plenty of life ahead.
2010 Chateau Boyd Cantenac, Margaux
In the mouth the flavors began with a vanilla note, toast, and a round personality. It maintained concentration with smokey graphite, flavors, and strong, drying, citric, tannins in the finish.
2007 Chateau Branaire Ducru, Saint-Julien
There was a good, rich nose of cherries, red berries. In the mouth was round red fruit, minerally acidity, then black fruit with some weight. There were some greenhouse tannins, integrated acidity, and blacker fruit in the finish. The wine left some tannins on the teeth which were a little spicy. Drinking well.
* 2006 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien
There was an earthy, berry nose with hints of maturity. There was bright acidity, vigor, and a wood note. Will age.
* 2007 Chateau Leoville Barton, Saint-Julien
This wine played it close at first with a hint of salivating acidity. It showed more structure, drying flavors, and will clearly last for some time.
* 2007 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Saint-Julien
There was a grapey nose which finished with earthy aromas. In the mouth was concentrated red fruit followed by black fruit and drying tannins. The finish was firmer.
2009 Chateau Saint-Pierre, Saint-Julien
There was a slightly earthy nose with aromas of blue berries. In the mouth were red and black fruit with the acidity and tannins building into a firm structure of ripe tannins.
2005 Chateau Batailley, Pauillac
The nose had hints of maturity. In the mouth the wine was more austere before building in flavor to reveal hard red fruit.
2009 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
The round nose was perfumed and young. There was young red fruit in the mouth, tart acidity, and gentle integration with the very fine, ripe tannins persisting through the perfumed aftertaste. Built for long development.
* 2006 Chateau Pontet Canet, Pauillac
There was cassis on the nose followed by tart, red fruit in the mouth. The drying structure and acidity was present but the wine is very young with graphite and black fruit in the finish. It was a little spicy.
2000 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
There was a classic nose with a mature aspect. In the mouth there were fresh flavors, ripeness, expansion, and a controlled, classic structure for further development. Nice but will continue development.
* 2009 Chateau Filhot, Sauternes
There was higher toned flavors followed by honied, yellow fruit which builds to add moderate spice. There was a rich, creamy, apricot aftertaste. The wine has underlying acidity.
2005 Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes
The nose was nutty with the flavors in the mouth evocative of a mature Bordeaux. There were spices, creme brulee, and a cola hint. The acidity was noticeable on the sides of the tongue. The aftertaste was spicy.
2005 Chateau Climens, Barsac
There was a good, complex nose. The mouth followed the nose with balance, a glycerine mouth feel, acidity, and complex spices. The yellow fruit mixed with frangipane. The flavors were big and mouthfilling. Hard to resist now but it has a long future ahead.
* 2007 Chateau Coutet, Barsac
The nose revealed marmalade and peach aromas. In the mouth there was rich weight to the yellow fruit. There was a hint of spices, underlying acidity, and a honied, sticky aftertaste. Tastes like a lot of residual sugar.
2010 Chateau Nairac, Barsac
The nose was light with more white than yellow fruit aromas. In the mouth the wine was heavier and much thicker than the nose suggested. There were yellow fruit flavors, brighter acidity towards the end, and a little salivating aspect in the aftertaste.